Leadership and the Tao

I try to start my day with a reading from Lao Tzu.He remains the wisest teacher about organizations and leadership. The commentary from the R.L. Wing translation is always rich with aha’s. I found this morning’s selection especially strong and want to share it.

“Lao Tzu advises leaders to move toward simplicity and away from complexity—toward universality rather than differentiation. As always, he urges leaders to learn when to stop and practice noninterference. Leaders who insist on exacting systems and roles in their organizations cannot create a natural, effortless atmosphere for the completion of tasks, because the structure they conceive of is suited for machines, not humans.

When people are forced into roles and every aspect of their work is defined, their possibilities become limited, they no longer create, and they do not evolve. When leaders systematize every detail in their organization, they close it off from the possibility of evolution. Just as life forms that are highly specialized move in the direction of extinction, this path leads to the extinction of the organization.

On the other hand, with open-ended management the people have nothing to resist or resent. They become spontaneously cooperative because their attention shifts to the end rather than the means.”