"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

True Leadership

True leaders
are hardly known to their followers.
Next after them are the leaders
the people know and admire;
after them those they fear;
after them, those they despise.
To give no trust
is to get no trust.
When the work’s done right,
with no fuss or boasting,
ordinary people say,
“Oh, we did it.”
                 --Lao Tzu

If you don't know anything about Lao Tzu, well…it is my pleasure to briefly introduce you to one of my favorite enlightening people!

Born in the 6th century, BC and a contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu is regarded as a philosopher of ancient China. He is the author of the Tao Te Ching, or “The Way,” which is the basis for the religious practice of Taoism.

If you have not read the Tao Te Ching, you might want to pick it up sometime. It’s short in length - a series of 81 short poems - but long in wisdom and some ineffable quality that is felt rather than understood. I’m no Taoist, but I highly recommend it for the universal truths it contains!

The above thought on true Leadership is one of my favorite verses. I find the four different types of leadership presented extremely thought provoking.

First and most effective are the leaders who help you achieve without inserting themselves into the process at all. These are the leaders who encourage you to find your own way, making you feel like you did it all yourself, and are rarely given credit for leading at all. They most often will not even accept credit, even if it is offered.

The next most effective leaders are those that lead by title. These are the ones that society most often recognizes as good leaders. Their leadership is conspicuous and they are often recognized for their efforts. But while generally effective and admirable, one can not deny that this method of leadership is definitely inferior to the first.

The last two types of leadership described by Lao Tzu are connected in my mind. Those that lead with fear and punishment can be effective in a logistical sense, but fail in essence because no one is improved or enlightened in the process. People led in this manner only accomplish a task because they are told to. Various levels of force may be involved, but in every case they just do what the leader wants because they fear the loss of a job, security, peace of mind, a level of freedom, etc.
True Leadership
Subjects will always despise trade-offs set up by uninspired leaders. Not to mention the resentment of being made a subject in the first place. I’m ashamed to say this is the type of leadership I most often employ in my parenting. But Lao Tzu rightly suggests that I could be much more effective by thoughtfully applying one of the higher forms of leadership.

And as Lao Tzu also points out, it requires a lot of trust in people to properly employ the highest form of leadership. Encouraging those around you to be themselves and trusting them to want to improve is extremely difficult and sometimes involves a great deal of disappointment. But you don’t get trust unless you give it, and I think the payoff is worth the risk.

1 comment:

  1. I must confess I've done too much of the lesser type of leadership myself, in my life. Oh how I long to be more like the Master, who is the embodiment of the first type of Leadership Lao Tzu was illustrating. Alas, I must keep trying.