Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Translated from the ancient Chinese by DC Lau
Harmondswoth: Penguin, 1963
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Tao Te Ching (aka Dao De Jing), universally translated as ‘the way’, is an ancient Chinese text reputedly written by Lao Tzu (Lǎozi means “old master”) around 6th Century BC. The precise authorship and date of composition is widely debated by academics. It is a keystone text in the philosophy and religion of Taoism (or Daoism) that has harmony (Yin Yang) and simplicity at its core and is one of the most widely translated spiritual texts outside of the bible.
The text is composed of 81 short verses around the general theme of the art (or way) of living. The central themes in the text include the harmonious life, non-intervention, non-competitiveness, stillness and being.
The book refers directly to leadership (indeed it is often categorised as a reflection for leaders or “mirror for princes”) and has some very inspirational leadership concepts that are deeply applicable to the modern business setting particularly around ideas of compassionate leadership, servant leadership and what Kurt Lewin et. al classified as a laissez-fair (shared) leadership style. According to Tao Te Ching, a good leader:-
• achieves results in a selfless way
• is generous, kind and just
• is open, honest and trusting
• goes beneath the surface and is guided by what they feel not just what they see
• cultivates virtue in themselves and others
• exercises humility