Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thoughts On Leadership From The Tao Te Ching

A curious phenomenon of my generation is that our children are often more conservative than we are. I admit that I am an unapologetic Sixties liberal. I was a hippie in my youth and I still have the same rebellious spirit that dislikes conformity and still has a distrust of most authority. Admittedly as I have aged I have learned to compromise and adjust, maintaining my personal integrity while not caving in to everyone else's values. I am not a political person and never have been. I do, however, listen to all points of view but my life is guided more by spiritual values than political ideology's. The realities of life have demanded some conformity but I still consider myself a free spirit. Imagine my surprise when I saw my youngest son reading a Sean Hannity book and having a link to Ann Coulter's website on his blog. O my God! My son's a Republican! Where have I gone wrong???? (smile)

I think it was last Friday when I shared Verse 17 of the Tao Te Ching. It had to do with leadership. Here are a few thoughts from the commentary.

Enlightened leaders are those that don't actually lead anyone.
Enlightened leaders create an environment where everyone feels that they have a personal responsibility.
Effective leaders make themselves as invisible as possible.
The staffs of effective leaders think "We fixed it ourselves without the need for interference from anyone. We really don't need a supervisor".
Truly inspiring leaders get results from their own example. They encourage others to be responsible and to do the right thing, but not by proclaiming and bragging about their unimpeachable management.
Truly inspiring leaders create space for others to be inspired and to achieve their own greatness.
Truly inspiring leaders make a difference in the lives of others, resolving conflicts through love.
Fear is completely ineffective.
The least effective means for managing others is to use tactics that will encourage them to despise you.
The enlightened leader trusts those whom he or she is in a position to govern.
Enlightened leaders take pride in refusing to take credit for the achievements of others.

Verse 17 of the Tao Te Ching closes with the following lines.

Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, "You owe me".Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.

I try to live this as much as possible in my work environment. I've often told people that I have a Zen management style. I manage by not managing. This is not the same thing as doing nothing. I think in most work environments, including my own, we tend to over manage. I have to be careful of this myself because I tend to be a perfectionist and that sometimes makes me want to be a control freak. What I believe, and what the Tao Te Ching teaches, is not always easy. Sometimes it is harder to leave things and people alone...trusting the process and the people...than it is to change the process and tell all the people what to do every step of the way.

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