The best leader, exemplifying Tao leadership, is one whose existence is barely known by the people.
You may wonder how. How can a leader lead without his people knowing? This, however, does happen. In Tao leadership, leaders can be invisible!
Think of the restaurant that you visited recently, upon recommendation from a friend. You may not have realized you were at the restaurant was a result of your friend’s leadership!
Of course, this should not be interpreted that one who knows the tao of leadership does not have to work. He has to, and often very hard. The difference is that he focuses on the taoism yin yang, rather than just the exercising of power and authority.
According to Lao Tzu,
“The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised.
If you don't trust the people,
they will become untrustworthy.
The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly.
When she has accomplished her task,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!" (17)
Leaders with such tao leadership style are hard to come by.
In the book Chuang Tzu, there is a fable on horse training. Let's see if this trainer is a good leader.
How do you think a horse should behave?
Horses have hooves to saunter over frost and snow and hair to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass and drink water, and fling up their tails and gallop.
This is the real nature of horses!
One day, there came a horse trainer, Bole, who claimed he was great at handling horses.
But what did he do to the horses! He singed and clipped the horses’ hair. He pared their hooves, and branded them body. He tied them up by their necks, and shackled them by their legs, while numbering them for their stables.
As a result, two or three in every ten horses died!
He made the horses go hungry and thirsty, trotted them and galloped them, and got them to run in formations. He threatened the horses with the tasseled bridle at the front; and whip of terror behind.
More than half of the horses died.
Was Bole a good leader?
Even if he was, his success was at the expense of the horses tortured to death. You would not regard him to be the best of leaders.
The flaws of Pole's leadership in the fable are obvious. There are however many leaders around us behaving just like him. These leaders intervene and control too much. They push and bulldoze. They look innocuous, and often work hard. But they are stifling, rather than leading their people.
The Effective Tao Leader
“I have heard my master say that nurturing life is like keeping a flock of sheep,” says Chuang Tzu in his book. “You lash the last sheep, and the rest will move.”
The leadership style is effective and effortless.
It is so different from bulldozing. It is Tao leadership.
You hold a whip in your hand, but you are kind to the flock. You lash only when it is absolutely necessary, and only on the last sheep – one that makes the whole flock move.
Instead of pushing, you work on the nature of the flock. Although the flock is totally under your control, it follows without knowing that you exist.
The challenge, of course, is on knowing where the last sheep is. To know the last sheep, you’ll need to do the following::
1. Clarity of mind
Effective dao leadership requires clarity of mind. If you are not sure about where you want to go, rather than leading, you are confusing your people.
To read more about clear mind and Tao Leadership, click here.
Clarity of mind begets simplicity. As a Tao leader, you cut off the noises, make a clear decision, and the people follow.
Click here, to read about simplicity and leadership.
3. Balance & Yinyang
As a good leader, you are remarkably resilient. Like water, you are able to regain your balance in no time, even during turmoil.
Click here to read more about the yin-yang in leaders.
4. Stoop Low
Rivers and seas are more powerful than streams, but they would not have been powerful without the water from streams. To receive water from streams, however, rivers and seas stoop low. Leaders with Tao leadership are like rivers and seas. They derive their power from the people, and to do so, they are ready to stoop low.
Click here to read more about the receptive power of leadership.
5. Letting go
When you are sure you have done the necessary or what you can, stand back. Do not interfere. Let the people do their works; and nature takes its course.
Click here, to read more about letting go in leadership.
Tao Leadership BooksThese are some books on the Tao on leadership which I find to be insightful.
The Tao of Leadership by John Heider has been around for quite some time. It has proven to be inspiring and has remained popular. It is not a translation of Tao Te Ching, but does provide the perspective of natural, non-manipulative leadership typical of Tao.
Click the link below to find out more about it.
Another book that I find to be inspiring is The Tao of Personal Leadership by Diane Dreher. It offers practical, sensible, simple advice in being a Tao leader.
Click the link below to find out more about it.
Articles on Tao Leadership
I've tried to reveal the marvel of the Tao of leadership in the articles I write. These are some of them:
One of the biggest reasons people fail to become a good leader is that they cannot make decision.
Are You the Boss?
"I'm the Boss!" If this is what you have to say to get you people to listen to you, it does not augur well for your leadership. It’s as if having to tell your children “I'm your father!” so that they would respect you as a parent. Something is missing in the link. Read about the Tao of leadership that combines timing, space and relationship.
Know the Unknown
Good leaders are clairvoyant. They seem to know the unknown. Can you be as visionary? Find out how Tao of tranquility can help you gaze into the future and be a better leader.