Applying twenty-two hundred year old Chinese philosophy to modern business management – one verse at at time. This is my project to translate the Tao Te Ching into something usable by modern business leaders. Just as there is no single right way to lead, there is no single interpretation of the Tao. So consider this exercise worth every penny you paid. Today we look at one of my favorite verses, number sixteen. First the original verse, translated into English by John C.H. Wu:
ATTAIN to utmost Emptiness.
Cling single-heartedly to interior peace.
While all things are stirring together,
I only contemplate the Return.
For flourishing as they do,
Each of them will return to its root.
To return to the root is to find peace.
To find peace is to fulfill one’s destiny.
To fulfill one’s destiny is to be constant.
To know the Constant is called Insight.
If one does not know the Constant,
One runs blindly into disasters.
If one knows the Constant,
One can understand and embrace all.
If one understands and embraces all,
One is capable of doing justice.
To be just is to be kingly;
To be kingly is to be heavenly;
To be heavenly is to be one with the Tao;
To be one with the Tao is to abide forever.
Such a one will be safe and whole
Even after the dissolution of his body.
Make yourself an empty bowl
Cling to the stillness of internal peace
While chaos whirls around you
Be the eye of the storm
Bird fluttering around
Will return in time to roost
Keep your eye on the goal
Maintain focus on the goal with inner peace
To find this peace is to define your leadership
And this leadership can be constant
And your constant peace in the goal gives you insight.
If you focus on the noise of doing business
You’ll be blindsided by disasters
But if your focus with peace on the goal
You’ll embrace the noise
And understand the moving parts
If you can do that, you’ll be just to your people
And to be just, and at peace,
And to be constant and focused on the goal,
is to be a true leader.
This verse comes again and again to my attention when I consider the difference between the leader and the manager. A manager solves problems, and leader builds his people to solve their own problems. This advice is prevalent in a piece I read today called “Stop Wasting Your Time Solving Problems” over at Leadership Freak. Go read it, I’ll summarize: Don’t fix things; Don’t give advice. Instead, listen and honor their frustrations and hard work, then give them the skills and confidence they need to resolve their own problems. Tell them why you believe in them. Ask questions to give them clarity. Draw them out to their own conclusions. This is true leadership.
This is a Tao of Management.
[This is also part of my ninety-night blog challenge. This is night Seventy-five]