There are some great books on leadership and, increasingly, some great blogs; and there has certainly been fascination with the subject of management and leadership over the last 20 years. Indeed, most generations seek to redefine “leadership” according to their own times. And while each new generation adds to the body of knowledge, sometimes it can pay to revisit the earliest leadership writings.
Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, lived in 4BC and was a contemporary of Confucius. He is credited as the author of Tao Te Ching, which is widely quoted in management teachings. One of my favorite quotes comes from Chapter 17:
Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.”
Great leaders know that personal power extends only as far as one’s personal reach. This is power by control. However, as Jamie Notter points out, “leadership is effectively a capacity within the entire system” — and when it works this way, ownership in the efforts of an organization rests with the entire team. By honoring the efforts and input of your village, leaders effectively transform their businesses with little resistance. After all, one does not need to “sell-in” a change when the change is self-initiated and driven by the individuals in your team.
As Henrik Edberg points out on the Positivity Blog, Lao Tzu is about “getting things done” — which is another way of managing to outcomes. And as a leader, there can be no greater satisfaction than seeing your team celebrating their own leadership successes.
Nina Nets It Out: The personal power of leaders only extends so far. But as the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu reminds us, great leaders empower their people. Remember this today.