7 Leadership Lessons from Tao Te Ching

Roughly 6000 years ago, Lao Tzu wrote an incredible book about the workings of the world. It is mind-bending how many of those teachings apply to modern leadership.

Anmol Mohan

"When the Master has accomplished her task, the people say, 'Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!"

"The Master puts herself last and finds herself in the place of authority. She detaches herself from all things; Therefore she is united with all things."

"The Master makes things change without interfering. She is probing yet causes no harm. Straightforward, yet does not impose her will."

Leadership aims to make itself redundant. It is to train the people so well that there is no need for a leader. The people will make the same decisions the leader would have made in the same situation.

"The Master has no mind of her own. She understands the mind of the people."

"The Master's mind is shut off from the world. Only for the sake of the people does she muddle her mind."

"Knowing you don't know is wholeness. Thinking you know is a disease. The Master is whole because she sees her illness and treats them, and thus is able to remain whole."

Leaders think as a team. We do not think of ourselves as a leg, brain, or stomach but as a whole person. Leaders do not see parts of the group. Instead, they see the entire team and act as a team.

They acknowledge that not all parts are equal and seek help from different functions according to their strengths. But the aim always remains to keep the collective together.

"It is easier to carry an empty cup than one that is filled to the brim."

"Those who call themselves righteous, can't know how wrong they are. Those who boast of their accomplishments, diminish the things they have done."

"When intellectualism arises, hypocrisy is close behind."

Leaders do not load but unload. They do not seek to add but subtract. They are not particular about being knowledgeable but possess the abilities to make the best of the resources.

"The master is willing to help everyone, and doesn't know the meaning of rejection"

"What is a good person but a bad person's teacher? What is a bad person but raw material for his teacher?"

"Know the honourable, but do not shun the disgraced."

Leaders do not leave anyone behind. They don't judge. They are full of love and forgiveness.

When they discover someone who is lost, they don't judge. Instead, they make it their responsibility to help and inspire. They offer trust by default and never run out of it.

"Embrace simplicity. Put others first."

"The Master does not force virtue on others, thus she is able to accomplish her task."

"If you want to be the ruler of people, you must speak to them like you are their servant. If you want to lead other people, you must put their interests ahead of your own."

Leaders lead from the lowest position. They do not drive people towards the knowledge they have discovered; instead, they strive to give people what they want. Thus by leading by example, they ensure this virtue is passed from people to others.

"When you do not trust people, people will become untrustworthy."

"She trusts people who are trustworthy. She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy. This is how she gains true trust."

"If you want to possess something, you must first give it away."

Leaders know that they cannot gain trust without giving it first. Therefore, they always prefer reasons to trust over grounds to distrust. They take people's idiosyncracies into the process so that the problems are highlighted early, thereby avoiding erosion of trust.

"Stillness is the standard of activity."

"Know the masculine, but keep to the feminine; and become a watershed to the world. Know the white, yet keep to the black; be a model for the world."

"Even though the Master has much to see, she is at peace in her indifference."

Leaders are aware of their powers but choose to stay humble by default. They avoid an unnecessary show of strength. That's how they keep their learning attitude intact.

They stay neutral during good times and avoid arrogance. They remain neutral during bad times and endure negativity. They are ready to lose, and that's how they know they will win without compromising their values.

All quotes are a credit to "Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu," translated by John H. McDonald for Arcturus Publishing Limited.

Book Summary

Anmol Mohan

I am just trying to make sense of this world. I am interested in the hardest puzzles like Consciousness, Humanity and Multiverse. Sharing my honest learning during this journey.