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The Tao of Leadership


There can be no doubt that the ancient author of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tzu, was a man of unique wisdom whose writings continue to influence people of different backgrounds and faiths.

Many leaders then and now get wrapped up in selfish ambition. They would do well to listen to what Lao-Tzu had to say on the subject of leadership.

There are several English translations of the Tao Te Ching available on-line. The following selections are from a translation by C. Ganson.

Leaders Work Humbly

Leaders should not seek power or status; people will not then crave power or status. If scarce goods are not valued highly, people will have no need to steal them. If there is nothing available to arouse passion, people will remain content and satisfied.

The truly wise do lead by instilling humility and open-mindedness, by providing for fair livelihoods, by discouraging personal ambition, by strengthening the bone-structure of the people.

The wise avoid evil and radical reform; thus the foolish do not obstruct them. They work serenely, with inner quiet.

In my involvement in scouting, I have certainly observed humble leadership. Although some of us enjoy getting up in front of people and receiving occasional recognition for our efforts, there are many more people who prefer simply to stay in the background. Without such people, most scout units would not survive.

Unfortunately, humbleness is perhaps a little less common in the business world. Corporate managers should definitely take notice.

Also, I think it is good advice for leaders to avoid radical reform. This is especially true in an organization where the leadership tends to change fairly quickly. This is certainly true in Cub Scouts where the leadership tends to change whenever a new set of boys graduate into Boy Scouts and their parents move on too.

When new leaders take over, it is tempting to want to make radical changes to try to rectify past problems. However, this may create unexpected tension with other leaders who may not share the vision of the new people.

I have seen this situation in scouting and in my corporate experience as well. A new manager who immediately begins making changes before having established a raport with his/her employees will not garner a lot of respect.

The Best Leader

The best leaders, the people do not notice.The next best, the people honor and praise.The next, the people fear;and the next, the people hate.

If you have no faith,people will have no faith in you,and you must resort to oaths.

When the best leader's work is donethe people say: "We did it ourselves!"

Good leaders don't try to do it all themselves. They delegate. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to get enough people who are willing to take on responsibilities of a leadership position, especially in volunteer organizations.

However, it is much easier to get people to agree to help with small things. There are many people who are willing to help, but just don't want a long term committment. Official leaders should not overlook the contribution that such people can make.

Furthermore, good leaders don't try to take all the credit. Imagine if a scout leader took all the credit for everything their boy scouts or girl scouts did. It would be unthinkable! Although we may guide and assist them along in their activities and achievements, we want them to always proudly proclaim "We did it ourselves!"

So, why do some managers seem to want to take all the credit in the business world? Employees who have a strong sense of accomplishment will certainly be happier and more productive. As a result, the organization will thrive and so will the manager.

The author, Greg Bonney, is the owner of Bonney Information and E-Commerce and founder of Scoutcamping.com (http://www.scoutcamping.com).

Copyright 2005 Bonney Information and E-Commerce.

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