The Art of Leadership From the Tao Te Ching To Other Contemporary Observation

Lead with humility. Is that a dying practice?

Leadership insights have been handed down from the wisdom of the ages. The leadership teaching below, from the Tao Te Ching, dates back to the 6th Century BC. That makes its wisdom 2600 hundred years old. How are we as humans doing today to heed from what our ancestors learned and left word for us to know without having to make the same mistakes? Have we taken the many teachings to heart and put them into our daily living practices?  Can what we know about leadership create a world that is humane, equitable, and gets results people want?

How are you leading in your life and with those around you?

The Tao Te Ching points us to what we would now call the making of a wise person and leader.
Here is an important specific verse from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:
“All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.
If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them.”
― Stephen Mitchell, Tao Te Ching: A New English Version

Know Your Leadership Style

Before you embark on a leadership style ask yourself what is leadership?

Dictionaries say leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal.

Dwight D. Eisenhower characterized leadership this way: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Stephen Covey: “Leadership is a choice that lies in the space between stimulus and response.”

Chris Hadfield: “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”

Lisa Cash Hanson: “Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished.”

Sheryl Sandberg: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

Riane Eisler, founder of the Center for Partnership Systems speaks of an evolutionary paradigm called Partnership Leadership.

Partnership leaders do not use power over (the power to dominate), but power with and power to (exercising our great human capacities to care and to create, and helping others do the same).

Riane Eisler’s approach brings to the forefront of leadership the notion of nurturing our humanity (see her book). Her Center offers a context for partnership leadership in which one can cultivate a partnership system. One where people organize every aspect of society around life-supporting values of mutual respect and mutual responsibility, non-violence, equality, empowerment, and caring. Download overview.

Francis Collins extends leadership out into the practice of facilitation. She says,

For my part, I use and practice facilitation instead of leadership, which means I endeavor to create a safe environment in which people know their unique contributions are valued, so that we all can benefit from the richness of diverse ideas.

The word and idea of leadership is laden with centuries of ideas and practices of exercising power over, with one person’s (usually a man) word or command being followed by others. One idea and one command for the rest to follow, has the unfortunate result of leaving no room for the multitude of ideas needed for innovation and to serve the immense diversity in humanity and the Earth. Leadership is much easier to do than facilitation, but time and again I’ve seen that the results are worth it.

With enough experience of being facilitated, people can learn to facilitate. On the other hand, lots of leadership experiences makes people either followers or people who resent the leader and want to take over leadership.

How do you define leadership? What will your style look like? What principles and values and qualities will make up your style and drive your success?

Here are some leadership skills you’ll want to consider in cultivating and building a leadership or facilitator style:

  • Humility
  • Perspective
  • Deep confidence in self
  • Empathy and true connection building with others
  • Ability to stand-in in the unknown and manage through uncertainty
  • Vision
  • Magnetic Commitment to the purpose (your passion is inspirational)
  • Responsibility
  • Emotional Courage, Resiliency and Fluency
  • Creating a Safe Environment for collaboration and cooperation

Share your thoughts on leadership with Liam Blume or for more help with this topic, contact Liam in the form below.

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