Enlightened Leaders Lead People Toward Themselves: Leadership Advice From the Tao Te Ching

By Rena M. Reese

The 17th Verse of the Tao:

With the greatest leader above them,

people barely know one exists.

Next comes one whom they love and praise.

 

Next comes one who they fear.

Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

 

When a leader trusts no one,

no one trusts him.

 

The great leader speaks little.

He never speaks carelessly.

He works without self interest and leaves no trace.

When all is finished, the people say, "We did it ourselves."

                                                - Tao Te Ching

If you are in a position of leadership, consider the types of leaders outlined in this verse. Which are you? Are you trusted? Feared, loved and praised? Are you the one they "barely know" exists? This last one seems counter-intuitive, but with reflection you can see that empowering people to find their own solutions by being invested in the process, and taking responsibility for their own work, is the enlightened way to lead. Anything less is leading from ego.

So what are the traits of an enlightened leader?

  • Positively makes a difference in people's lives

  • Uses love and peaceful means to resolve conflicts; never makes decisions based on fear or using fear tactics

  • Uses the adoration of people and their desire to please, responsibly, and not to feed their own need to be better than, famous, recognized or more powerful.

  • Trusts those that are being led, that they know what is best for themselves and encourages them to seek their own empowered answers and truths

  • Honestly gives kudos freely and with love

  • Always gives credit where credit is due--refusing to take credit for the ideas and work of others, but rather holding others up and celebrating their efforts and accomplishments

  • Mutes self interest and refrains from viewing those who are being led as an opportunity for selfish showcasing or profiteering.

  • Keeps words pristine, truthful and authentic

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or CEO-- leadership rules are constant. Presidents, Queens and Kings can equally use the wisdom of the 17th verse to lead in an enlightened fashion. When you lead in an enlightened fashion, people are more creative, resourceful, trusting, loving, group minded, self-monitored and invested. If you lead with fear, when your might is gone, your power diminishes along with it. If you lead with trust, people are more likely to do the right thing when you are not looking. Just think of the classroom with the strict and threatening teacher. When the teacher is gone, havoc is more likely to erupt. Look at nations oppressed by brutal dictators. When the dictator falls, the people often become unraveled and swing to the other extreme, from controlled to out-of-control.

Unenlightened leaders use their followers' burning need to be noticed and acknowledged-- to manipulate. Enlightened leaders use that same need to empower and activate their followers' self-pride and success.

Read other articles and learn more about Rena M. Reese.

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