Wise Leadership and the Tao
The secret of the Tao is water. Water is receptive and yielding, and yet in the contest between water and rock, water ultimately wins. Taoist teachings about wise leadership abound in the ancient oracle and book of philosophy the I Ching, and they permeate Zen Buddhism, East Asian religions and cutting edge quantum physics.
The Tao (pronounced DAH-o) is an indefinable process and a state of being comprised of cycles and the ebb and flow of interaction between yin (feminine, receptive, water) and yang (masculine, active, rock) forces. Leaders, according to the Tao, are most effective and successful when they quietly observe and respond in the moment to this ebb and flow.
Doesn’t sound much like today’s leadership zeitgeist, does it? So how can this woo-woo stuff be useful in the corporate world, and in this economy?
Answer—It allows you to access a very powerful secret weapon, your right brain, which is the source of all your creative, imaginative, spontaneous and original abilities – and your happiness!
Do’s & Don’ts
According to the Tao, the wise leader is without preconceptions, calculation or manipulation and is therefore able to respond to what’s really going on.
A so-so leader is all about trying to do what’s right, manipulating things to match a particular theory, model, management style or corporate culture.
The poor leader is focused on winning, directing a group according to his or her morality, imposing should’s and shouldn’ts, and meeting resistance with punishment.
The Secrets of Success
Here are some basic Taoist leadership principles:
1. The universe is about change (water). It’s made up of polarities and cycles, which is why being in the moment is more powerful than spouting theories or taking a fixed position (rock).
2. Creation happens when polarities interact. Because of this, when you’re present with what’s happening right here, right now, when you are open to whatever emerges and can clearly see the interaction, you can be most effective.
3. Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. At birth the smallest intervention has great impact. At the end, interference just creates confusion.
4. People who stress and strain and try to make a great, noisy effort are insecure, and insecurity makes being present impossible. Relax, get comfortable, and observe clearly.
5. A leader’s job is to serve the group’s process and facilitate the success of the group and the individuals within the group. In one of the paradoxes so common to Taoist philosophy, the leader who selflessly serves the group ends up winning.
6. Surrender and letting go are positions of great possibility. It’s only when you let go of who you are that you can become more. Only by surrendering to the cycle or process can you ride it to its highest potential. Too much pushing or manipulation always backfires.
7. Trust the process, let it unfold. In other words, leaders are most effective (wisest) when they serve as facilitators or midwives, observing what’s happening without intruding except to clarify.
8. True innocence, the ability to be evenhanded and unbiased, is the most powerful state of being. Innocence is not about gullibility or naiveté. Rather, it is about seeing beyond theories and assumptions to what’s really going on, observing how it changes moment to moment, and thus not getting invested in outcomes.
9. There is also power in stillness and silence. When you’re still and silent you can feel and see clearly. When the group is silent, it’s easiest to sense and understand its climate, context or mood.
10. In martial arts, being centered means placing yourself physically in a position where you can move in any direction in an instant, and easily maintain your balance. A centered leader can do the same, meeting dramas and difficulties or challenges of the moment from a place of calm stability.
11. This style of leadership is very, very simple… but not necessarily easy. Remember to KISS—Keep It Simple, Stupid!
And here’s another secret, which you may already have figured out. Most of these principles are at the core of how the Law of Attraction works, so the more you understand and flow with the Tao, the more easily and effectively you can manifest your dreams, both professional and personal.
If you want to learn more, spend some time with John Heider’s The Tao of Leadership, Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, and any of the Abraham books by Esther and Jerry Hicks.