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The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching Adapted for a New Age Paperback – March 16, 2005
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- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- ISBN-10 : 9780893340797
- ISBN-13 : 978-0893340797
- Paperback : 178 pages
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.41 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Green Dragon Publishing; 1st edition (March 16, 2005)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0893340790
- Best Sellers Rank: #333,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I started learning about Heider's work when I began attending a group facilitated by a loving and wonderful leader who had personally worked with Heider. I loved seeing how our facilitator could keep the group moving while respecting each person. As the weeks progressed, I could see that our facilitator was practicing a type of midwifery where the leader acts as a witness and a guide to the group. The individuals within the group, as well as the group dynamic, are always respected and allowed to flourish. Yet like the master gardener, the group process is skillfully shaped and guided to where the group is able to harmonize and function at a level far greater than what could ever have been possible through simple collaboration. Each person, just like each plant or element in a garden, is respected and valued for what they bring to the group. I feel like I have only begun to scratch the surface of facilitation and group dynamics with reading this text, and I am excited to learn more.
Most of all, I feel like a big breakthrough for me is learning through Heider's work that loving-kindness and respect in a leader shows vastly more skill, self-discipline, and strength than other types of management tactics.
As John Heider explains in the Introduction to this volume, Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching "is one of China's best loved books of wisdom. It was originally addressed to the sage and to the wise political rulers of the fifth century B.C." Lao Tzu's book is "simple and makes sense. But even more important, is the fact that Tau Te Ching persuasively unites leadership skills and the leader's way of life: our work is our path." Here is my personal favorite among many passages in a work that offers timeless wisdom for each new age:
"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."
The wisdom of these observations is relevant to our own age, especially given the unique challenges leaders now face. For example, how to increase and nourish positive and productive employee engagement at all levels and in all areas? How to develop and then sustain a culture of mutual respect and trust between and among everyone involved?
Heider suggests that Lao Tzu focuses on three separate but interdependent topics:
1. Natural law (how things happen)
2. A way of living (how to live in "conscious harmony" with natural law)
3. A method of leadership (how to govern or educate others in accordance with natural law)
Heider's adaptation of the Tao is based on his experiences in the classroom when he and his students discuss various passages and various translations of those passages. As he acknowledges, what he offers is his own version of the meaning of Lao Tzu's own words. Here's my take: For aspiring leaders, the first issue to address is "Who and what am I?" Next, "Who and what must an effective leader be?" Then, "What specifically must I understand -- and accept as well as relinquish -- to become such a leader?" Finally, "How can I help other aspiring leaders to complete that process of development?"
Here are a few of the dozens of passages in Heider's version that caught my eye:
o On Tao Means How: "Tao is a principle. Creation, on the other hand, is a process. That is all there is: principle and process., how and what. All creation unfolds according to Tao. There is no other way."
o On Success: "A good reputation naturally arises from doing good work. But if you try to cherish your reputation, if you try to preserve it, you lose the freedom and honesty necessary for further development."
o On Traditional Wisdom: "Most people are plagued by endless needs, but the wise leader is content with relatively little. Most people lead busy lives, but the wise leader is quiet and reflective. Most people seek stimulation and novelty, but the wise leader prefers what is common and natural.
"Being content permits simplicity in life. What is common is universal. What is natural is close to the source of creation.
"This is traditional wisdom."
o On Unity: "Tao cannot be defined. One can only say that it is the single principle responsible for every event or thing. When the leader has regard for this principle, and for no lesser principles, the group memvers must trust the leader. Because the leader pays equal attention to everything that happens, there are no prejudices to divide the group into factions. There is unity."
o On Three Leadership Qualities: : "These three qualities are invaluable to the leader: Compassion for all creatures, material simplicity or frugality, and a sense of equality or modesty. A compassionate person acts in behalf of everyone's right to life. Material simplicity gives one an abundance to share. A sense of equality is, paradoxically, one's true greatness."
Whatever the nature and extent of Heider's revisions of the primary text(s) may be, the narrative is nimble and cohesive. The clarity of his prose gives eloquence to Lao Tzu's insights. I am certain that many people who read The Tao of Leadership with an open mind (and heart) will become a more effective leader and, meanwhile, a more fulfilled human being.
* * *
Note: John Heider recommends five translations and renditions of Tao Te Ching in his Bibliography. All use the same system of numbering chapters that he uses, facilitating comparisons and contrasts between and among different versions. I presume to add another, the Capstone edition for which Tom Butler-Bowdon wrote the Introduction.
Top reviews from other countries
It is a translation of the Tao Te Ching that is practical and thought-provoking for anyone in a management or leadership role. I've lost count of how many times I've replaced in-the-moment harsh and rash decisions with more enlightened ones just by referring to one of the brief chapters here.
The underlying approach to group dynamics is gentle and holistic. It helps you get over the insatiable need for ever-new complex techniques for dealing with people. You don't need them. Dealing with groups is simple if you keep it simple.
One of my favorite quotes: "Of course, the world is full of novelty and adventures. New opportunities come along every day. So what?"