With the greatest leader above them,
people barely know one exists.
Next comes one whom they love and praise
Next comes one whom they fear.
Next comes one whom they despise and defy.
When a leader trust 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.”
Leading in an Enlightened Way
Well, after many weeks of keeping this verse in the back of my mind as I’ve lived my everyday life, I’ve concluded I am far from an enlightened leader.
Despite this, I love the guidance that this verse and Wayne Dyer’s essay on it in Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life give me in my attempts to be a leader in my household (as a Mum), my family, my friends, my community and my online relationships.
I always aim to model values and awareness to others in my life, and like anyone who attempts to do such, I fail dismally on a regular basis.
Living as the type of leader Lao Tzu speaks of in this verse requires an incredibly high level of enlightenment and awareness. Maybe somebody like the Dali Lama lives this way, but I know few others who do in the world.
Regardless, such an enlightened level of leadership is something I will continue to aspire to in my parenting and in my life.
Sometimes I surprise myself and find I’ve actually managed to do it! 🙂
A moment of enlightened leadership – sort of!
A few weeks ago I experienced a moment of something close to enlightened leadership, but that wasn’t before I tried out all the other forms of ‘leadership’ in the process – so I’m not sure it could actually qualify as enlightened leadership anyway!
I was stacking a pile of wood that my Dad had delivered to me. I was happy to do it alone as I see any such activity as a way of strengthening my body in everyday life (slowly building up my body as I get healthier).
But my 12-year-old daughter decided she was going to help.
She got very enthused and went inside to change into appropriate clothing (and possibly do her hair!!).
She returned to the wet, boggy driveway where the wood was dumped in a pile, reached down, touched a piece of wood, jumped back and exclaimed “ugh, there’s bugs on it!”.
Having grown up around a farm, as well as being somewhat of a tomboy, I don’t have much patience for that sort of response, but I took a breath and suggested she get some gardening gloves if she didn’t want to risk touching any bugs.
She refused, and quickly decided that she no longer wanted to help.
This annoyed me. Not because I particularly needed the help, but because she had so quickly given up the task despite initially showing enthusiasm.
I think I saw it as a bit of a pattern and it touched on my fears as a parent that I wasn’t doing a very good job of bringing up a child who was willing to work at tasks and be resilient.
I tried to convince her to at least follow through on what she said she’d do, but she resisted. I got more determined to force her to follow through on her word (a very important value of mine), and she got more determined not to.
I then decided to try some very unenlightened threats of not buying her the birthday gift she wants me to buy her if she couldn’t even manage to pick up a few pieces of wood to help me out.
She wouldn’t budge.
We were locking horns. I was quickly becoming disenchanted with 1. My failings as a parent to bring up a child with a work ethic, and 2. The whole current generation of spoiled children who want everything done for them (enabled beautifully by us parents!).
I could feel it was just time to stop talking. Stop lecturing. Stop trying to rule with fear. Just stop, breathe, and not say anything further to add to the interaction that was only going downhill.
I continued working for a while longer. My daughter practiced her netball goals.
I became more mindful of my task and kept reminding myself to stay quiet even if I did have a few more things I wanted to say (that I knew would have made it worse, but still felt inclined to throw in).
After a while of working in silence I was feeling like I needed a drink and a short rest, so I silently went inside.
I stayed inside for about five minutes, and when I stepped outside again there was my daughter, complete with gardening gloves, stacking the wood.
“You weren’t meant to come out yet Mum. I was trying to surprise you”, she said.
And I had a moment of seeing what Wayne Dyer meant when he suggests “you must stay in the background and become an astute observer of what’s taking place; then ask yourself how, without interfering, you can create an environment that will help everyone act responsibly”.
I didn’t quite manage that whole scenario, but I saw once again how becoming unattached to an outcome can lead to that outcome being achieved.
I had completely let go of any expectation of my daughter helping me. And only in that total surrender did she feel the space to step in and take action on her own terms.
I’d like to think my general mothering style is at least largely based around what Wayne Dyer describes as an inspiring leader, who “encourage(s) others to be responsible and do the right thing, but not by proclaiming and bragging about their unimpeachable management. They create space for others to be inspired and to achieve their own greatness”.
It’s certainly what I aspire to. I miss the mark more often than I hit it, but I’m always aiming for it at least.
Instead of believing that you know what’s best for others, trust that they know what’s best for themselves. ~ Wayne Dyer
Easier said than done Wayne, but I give it my best shot.
As a mother I do wrestle with this whole concept of allowing my kid to do what she thinks is best when she is only 12, and when it conflicts directly with what I think is best for her.
But as she goes into adolescence I am quickly learning to let go of the reins a bit more and let her make her own mistakes/deal with the consequences of her decisions.
I daresay I’ll get a lot of opportunities to practice the type of leadership discussed in this verse of the Tao in the coming teenage years.
I plan to refer back to it regularly!
How do you go with this in your role as a parent, boss, or leader in other ways? I’d love to hear. Either share in the comments or over in our closed FB group – My Tao Year.
Keep Smiling my friends