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books - self development 2008

The Tao of Leadership

Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching Adapted for a New Age

by John Heider

From the introduction… Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching is one of China’s best loved books of wisdom. It was originally addressed to the sage and to the wise political ruler of the fifth century BC. … This adaptation, I believe, will be of value to anyone who aspires to a leadership position, whether within the family or group, church or school, business or military, politics or governmental administration. Tao Te Ching means the Book (Ching) of How (Tao) Things Happen or Work (Te). The title is pronounced Dow Duh Jing.

Here are my flags…

pg 27 Knowing What is Happening … When you are puzzled by what you see or hear, do not strive to figure things out. Stand back for a moment and become calm. When a person is calm, complex events appear simple. To know what is happening, push less, open out and be aware. See without staring. Listen quietly rather than listening hard. Use intuition and reflection rather than trying to figure things out. The more you can let go of trying, and the more open and receptive you become, the more easily you will know what is happening.

pg 37 Self-Improvement… if you wish to improve yourself, try silence or some other cleansing discipline that will gradually show your true selfless self.

pg 39 Traditional Wisdom… Our job is to facilitate process and clarify conflicts. This ability depends less on formal education than on common sense and traditional wisdom. The highly educated leader tends to respond in terms of one theoretical model or another. It is better simply to respond directly to what his happening here and now.

pg 43 The Paradox of Letting Go… When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. These are feminine or Yin paradoxes:

– By yielding, I endure.
– The empty space is filled.
– When I give of myself, I become more.
– When I feel most destroyed, I am about to grow.
– When I desire nothing, a great deal comes to me.

pg 63 Unity… Tao cannot be defined. One can only say that it is the single principle responsible for every event or thing. … But too much theoretical talk distracts the group from what is happening, from the process itself. Talking about the process is one way to block process and lower the energy of the group field. When that happens, the wise leader returns once again to an awareness of what is happening and to the single principle that lies behind what is happening.

pg 65 Inner Resources… To know how other people behave takes intelligence, but to know myself takes wisdom. To manage other people’s lives takes strength, but to manage my own life takes true power. If I am content with what I have, I can live simply and enjoy both prosperity and free time. If my goals are clear, I can achieve without fuss. If I am at peace with myself, I will not spend my life force in conflicts. If I have learned to let go, I do not need to fear dying.

pg 69 Keep It Simple… Do not get carried away by the group process. Stick to the single principle. Then you can do good work, stay free from chaos and conflicts, and feel present in all situations. The superficial leader cannot see how things happen, even though evidence is everywhere. This leader is swept up by drama, sensation, and excitement. All this confusion is blinding. But the leader who returns again and again to the awareness of process has a deep sense of how things happen. This leader has a simple time of it. The sessions flow smoothly, and when the group ends, the leader is still in good spirits.

pg 87 Owning or Being Owned?… Are you doing this work to facilitate growth or to become famous? Which is more important: acquiring more possessions or becoming more conscious? Which works better: getting or letting go? There is a problem owning a lot. There is a problem with getting more and more. The more you have and the more you get, the more you have to look after. The more you might lose. Is hat owning or being owned? But if you give up things, you can give up spending your life looking after things. Try being still in order to discover your inner security. If you have inner security, you will have what you want anyway. Also you will be less harried, and you will last longer.


pg 93 Here and Now… The wise leader knows what is happening in a group by being aware of what is happening here and now. That is more potent than wandering off into various theories or making complex interpretations of the situation at hand.

pg 97 Be Open to Whatever Emerges… The wise leader does not impose a personal agenda or value system on the group. The leader follows the group’s lead and is open to whatever emerges. The leader judges no one and is attentive to both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people. It does not even matter whether a person is telling the truth or lying. Being open and attentive is more effective than being judgmental. This is because people naturally end to be good and truthful when they are being received in a good and truthful manner. Perhaps the leader seems naive and childlike in this uncritical openness to whatever emerges. But openness is simply more potent than any system of judgements ever devised.

pg 105 Materialism… The wise leader leads a quiet and meditative life. But most people are busy getting as many possessions as they can. The quiet path leads to a more conscious existence. The busy path creates an exaggerated materialism.

pg 107 The Ripple Effect… Do you want to be a positive influence in the world? First, get your own life in order. Ground yourself in the single principle so that your whole behaviour is wholesome and effective. If you do that, you will earn respect and be a powerful influence. Your behaviour influences others through a ripple effect. A ripple effect works because everyone influences everyone else. Powerful people are powerful influences.

If your life works, you influence your family.
If you family works, your family influences the community.
If your community works, your community influences the nation.
If your nation works, your nation influences the world.
If your world works, the ripple effect spreads throughout the cosmos.

Remember that your influence begins with you and ripples outward. So be sure that your influence is both potent and wholesome. How do I know that this works? All growth spreads outward from a fertile and potent nucleus. You are a nucleus.

pg 115 Unfolding Process… For example, facilitating what is happening is more potent than pushing for what you wish were happening. Demonstrating or modeling behaviours is more potent than imposing morality. Unbiased positions are stronger than prejudice. Radiance encourages people, but outshines everyone else inhibits them.

pg 119 Don’t Stir Things Up… Run the group delicately, as if you were cooking small fish. As much as possible, allow the group process to emerge naturally. Resist any temptation to instigate issues or elicit emotions which have not appeared on their own. … do not push. Allow them to come out when they are ready.

pg 129 Theory and Practice… The leader’s teachers did not emphasize complex theories. They practiced and taught a way of life based on consciousness and wisdom. People who see the world in terms of theories often have a very intricate view of what is happening. Clarity is difficult for them. They are very hard to work with. If you teach a group by making complex explanations, you will confuse people. They will take notes and fill their minds with opinions.

But if you return again and again to an awareness of what is actually happening, you will both clarify and enlighten. The ability to distinguish between theory and practice will save you much trouble. Practice a way of life, and demonstrate conscious cooperation with the single principle. If you cooperate with Tao, you will experience the power of universal harmony.

pg 133 Three Leadership Qualities… These three qualities are invaluable to the leader:

– Compassion for all creatures
– Material simplicity or frugality
– A sense of equality or modesty

A compassionate person acts in behalf of everyone’s right to life. Material simplicity gives one an abundance to share. A sense of equality is, paradoxically, one’s true greatness. … Compassion, sharing, and equality… sustain life. This is because we are all one. When I care for you, I enhance the harmonious energy of the whole. And that is life.

pg 135 Opportunities… The greatest martial arts are the gentlest. They allow an attacker the opportunity to fall down. The greatest generals do not rush into every battle. They offer the enemy many opportunities to make self-defeating errors. The greatest administrators do not achieve production through constraints and limitations. They provide opportunities.

Good leadership consists of motivating people to their highest levels by offering them opportunities, not obligations. That is how things happen naturally. Life is an opportunity and not an obligation.

pg 145 Freedom and Responsibility… Keep in mind that Tao means how: how things happen. But how-things-happen is not the same as what-should-I-do. No one can tell you what to do. That is your freedom. That is your responsibility. Instead of asking for advice, learn to be more conscious of what is actually happening. Then you will be able to see for yourself how things happen. You can make your own decisions about what to do. … But no one can decide for you what to do in a given situation. That is up to you.

pg 147 Judge and Jury… It is not the leader’s role to play judge and jury, to punish people for ‘bad’ behaviour. In the first place, punishment does not effectively control behaviour. But even if punishment did work, what leader would dare use fear as a teaching method?

The wise leader knows that there are natural consequences for every act. The task is to shed light on these natural consequences, not to attack the behaviour itself. If the leader tries to take the place of nature and act as judge and jury, the best you can expect is a crude imitation of a very subtle process. At the very least, the leader will discover that the instrument of justice cuts both ways. Punishing others in punishing work.

pg 151 Flexible or Rigid? At birth, a person is flexible and flowing. At death, a person becomes rigid and blocked. Consider the lives of plants and trees: during their time of greatest growth, they are relatively tender and pliant. But when they are full grown or begin to die, they become tough and brittle. The tree which has grown up and become rigid is cut into lumber. The rigid group leader may be able to lead repetitious and structured exercises but can’t cope with lively group process. Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow. Whatever is rigid and blocked will atrophy and die.

pg 153 Cycles… By serving others and being generous, the leader knows abundance. By being selfless, the leader helps others realize themselves. By being a disinterested facilitator, unconcerned with praise or pay, the leader becomes potent and successful.

pg 157 Win or Lose… If you get into an argument with a group member, and it does not come out the way you wish it would, do not pretend to compromise while withholding your true feelings. Yield your position gracefully. Return to facilitating what is happening. It is not your business to be right or to win arguments. It is not your business to find flaws in the other person’s position. It is not your business to feel belittled if the other person wins. It is your business to facilitate whatever is happening, win or lose. Because we are all one, there are no sides to take. When all is said and done, the wise leader goes along with what is happening anyway.

pg 159 A Simple Life… If you want to be free, learn to live simply. Use what you have and be content where you are. Quit trying to solve your problems by moving to another place, by changing mates or careers. ….Eat food grown locally. Wear simple, durable clothing. Keep a small home, uncluttered and easy to clean. Keep an open calendar with period of uncommitted time. Have a spiritual practice and let family customs grow. Of course, the world is full of novelty and adventures. New opportunities come along every day. So what?

pg 161 The Reward… It is more important to tell the simple, blunt truth than it is to say things that sound good. The group is not a contest of eloquence. It is more important to act in behalf of everyone that it is to win arguments. The group is not a debating society. It is more important to react wisely to what is happening than it is to be able to explain everything in terms of certain theories. The group is not a final examination for a college course.

The wise leader is not collecting a string of successes. The leader is helping others to find their own success. There is plenty to go around. Sharing success with others is very successful. The single principle behind all creation teaches us that true benefit blesses everyone and diminishes no one. The wise leader knows that the reward for doing the work arises naturally out of the work.

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