“The best leader is one whose existence is barely known by the people. They act without effort and teach without words.” -Lao Tzu
A good leader does not need to announce his or her presence to ensure everyone knows he or she is the person in charge. The leader’s attitude and virtues should certainly deliver the message. He or she trusts the employees to perform their best even though they are not strictly supervised under 24-hour CCTV in each corner of the office building.
They are let to do what they are hired for and if they need supports, the leader is approachable and supportive. And for that, he or she is respected, praised, and even loved. A good leader is not feared and does not take credits. When a project is completed successfully, he or she will say this to everyone involved “Good job everyone, we did it. Thank you for your hard work!” Performance acknowledgment and praises are part of the company’s virtues.
Are leaders always in high or important positions? On the contrary, sometimes a leader can be invisible or unrecognized. Sorenson and Hickman (2014) states that ‘Invisible leadership’ inspires people to empower their ability to thrive willingly to achieve their goals. And such a leader may not be the CEO of a company or have a Ph.D.
For example, parents who love their children with good values and wisdom, kindergarten teachers who show the world of knowledge to the kids or a child who never tries to lead but manages to charm her parents to buy an expensive toy. I personally believe that a person who takes initiative to make positive changes and can motivate others to do so is certainly a leader.
If anyone can be a leader, how does one differ from a great leader? According to Taoism, a Chinese philosophy founded by Lao Tzu (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism), in order to have a meaningful life, we should live wholeheartedly. Be conscious and enjoy the moment. Let go and go with the flows. Wouldn’t it be ideal if leaders adopt such a philosophy?
“Those who stand on tiptoes do not stand firmly. Those who rush ahead don’t get very far.” -Lao Tzu
The hustle and bustle of work can rush us to finish tasks as quickly as possible to meet deadlines. Some of us sometimes find the need to catch up with work on weekends or on public holidays in order to make up for the lost time. As a result, certain actions may go on autopilot. And then as routines become monotonous, suddenly, we realize we never get the chance to enjoy life.
I used to be proud of my ability to multitask and complete everything efficiently. I wasted no time by simultaneously writing emails, signing memos, and listening to an online conference at my desk. And yet, did I provide sufficient information in those emails? Did I read the memos meticulously before signing them? Did I actually get the best out of the conference?
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Obviously not as much as I intended to. If I had spent more time and given mindful attention to each task, I would have completed them more thoroughly. Those activities would have had more significant results instead of just being part of office routines.
Being mindful or conscious means being present in each activity, whether it is working, parenting, gardening, or eating, so that we value the process. When was the last time we really enjoyed our food? Just eating, enjoying the flavor, appreciating the cook, observing the surroundings, and enjoying the moment instead of having a meeting over lunch or talking about work with colleagues. Simple things and yet meaningful.
By being conscious, a leader might be more aware of his or her team’s achievement, the types of support the team needs, or the reasons why certain strategies work better. It also provides clearer state of mind for making more effective decisions.
“Mastery the world is achieved by letting things take their natural course. You cannot master the world by changing the natural way.” -Lao Tzu
Have you ever known a leader who works so hard to make sure employees are doing what they are instructed to do? Regular officers are expected to be able to perform a managerial duty. Strict rules and policies are designed to control and supervised employees. Memos are issued to make sure they are aware of those policies and comply.
Long and never-ending meetings are held to ensure everyone understands what is happening and what they have to do. And when a project does not go as planned, the boss blames everyone. Control seems to be the company’s latest virtue. How may the employees feel?
The harder subordinates are controlled, the harder they try to release themselves. The stricter a company’s policy is, the sooner employees leave. Go with the flow and force nothing rather than tighten our grip. Relax and accept the situation the way it is and understand everything has its own timing. Letting go means doing what needs to be done, trusting the actions taken are for the best, and then letting tomorrow take care of itself (Finley, 2007).
Control is good to some extent to implement discipline and ensure everyone works in the targeted flow or performance. However, too much control may ruin a plan instead of cultivating it. Let’s look at a mango tree, for example. We plant it, fertilize it, water it, and then let nature take care of itself. Doing more than necessary may hinder its growth. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished (Lao Tzu).”
Leaders, to lead wholeheartedly we need to be present to live the moment passionately and courageously. And in presence, we can consciously know when we need to continue fighting and when we should let go and trust that the Universe will take care of the rest.
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Finley, Guy. 2007. The Secret of Letting Go. Llwellyn Publications.
Sorenson, Georgia J. and Hickman, Gill Robinson. 2014. The Power of Invisible Leadership: How a Compelling Common Purpose Inspires Exceptional Leadership. Sage Publications, Inc.
Quotes are taken from:
Tzu, Lao. 4th Century BC (1868: Publish in English). Tao Te Ching. Translated by Tolbert McCarroll.