Tag Archives: effortless action

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: unintended consequences

Beijing Confucius Temple: unintended consequences

子曰:「道之以政,齊之以刑,民免而無恥;道之以德,齊之以禮,有恥且格。」
The Master said: “If you lead through laws and regulations and maintain order through punishments, people will avoid them but won’t develop a sense of shame. If you lead through virtue and keep them in line with the rites, they will develop a sense of shame and unite behind you.”

Whenever government or business leaders are faced with an ethical crisis, their instinctive response is to pass a raft of new legislation, regulations, rules, and codes of conduct to “solve” it. While in the short term this approach may give the illusion that they are “doing something” (not to mention generating some handy headlines), in the long term it has the highly corrosive effect of widening the gap between the elite and the people and increasing the level of interference into individuals’ lives. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: unintended consequences

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like the Pole Star

moral power

子曰:「為政以德,譬如北辰,居其所而眾星共之。」
The Master said: “Governing by the power of virtue can be compared to the Pole Star, which remains fixed in place while all the other stars orbit respectfully around it.”

As a leader, your most important task is to set a shining example to the people around you through your virtue (德/dé), a term which can be extended to mean ethical or moral power. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like the Pole Star

Daodejing Chapter 37: The Dao takes no action

Daodejing Chapter 37

「道常無為而無不為,侯王若能守之,萬物將自化;化而欲作,吾將鎮之以無名之樸。夫亦將無欲,無欲以靜,天下將自定。」
The Dao takes no action,
But leaves nothing undone.
If princes and kings are able to stay true to it,
All things will be transformed of their own accord.
If, during their transformation, desire should arise within them,
I will calm them down using the nameless uncarved block of wood.
This will free them of desire.
Being free of desire, they will be tranquil;
And the world will find peace of its own accord.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 37: The Dao takes no action

Daodejing Chapter 28: an uncarved block of wood

Daodejing Chapter 28

「知其雄,守其雌,為天下谿;為天下谿,常德不離,復歸於嬰兒。知其白,守其黑,為天下式。為天下式,常德不忒,復歸於無極。知其榮,守其辱,為天下谷。為天下谷,常德乃足,復歸於樸。樸散則為器,聖人用之,則為官長。故大制不割。」
Know the male,
But keep to the female.
Be a ravine to the world.
As a ravine to the world,
Constant virtue will never leave you,
And you will return to being an infant.
Know the bright,
But keep to the dark.
Be a model to the world.
As a model to the world,
Constant virtue will never be wanting,
And you will return to the limitless.
Know honor,
But keep to disgrace.
Be a valley to the world.
As a valley to the world,
Constant virtue will always be sufficient,
And you will return again to the uncarved block of wood.
When the uncarved block shatters, it is transformed into utensils.
The sage makes use of them,
And becomes the lord of all the officials.
Therefore, the deepest cut doesn’t sever.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 28: an uncarved block of wood

Daodejing Chapter 27: intuitive wisdom

Daodejing Chapter 27

「善行無轍跡,善言無瑕謫,善數不用籌策,善閉無關鍵而不可開,善結無繩約而不可解。是以聖人常善救人,故無棄人;常善救物,故無棄物。 是謂襲明。故善人者,不善人之師;不善人者,善人之資。不貴其師,不愛其資;雖智大迷,是謂要妙。」
An excellent driver leaves no tracks.
An excellent speaker makes no slips.
An excellent accountant uses no tallies.
An excellent gateman needs no bolts to secure a door,
But nobody can open it.
An excellent binder needs no knots,
But nobody can untie the binding.
This is why,
The sage excels at taking care of everyone;
So abandons no one.
The sage excels at taking care of everything;
So wastes nothing.
This is called intuitive wisdom.
Therefore, those who excel are the teachers of those who don’t;
Those who don’t excel provide object lessons for those who do to learn from.
If you don’t value your teachers,
If you don’t care for your object lessons,
No matter how knowledgeable you think you are,
You are greatly deluded.
Such is the essential truth.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 27: intuitive wisdom

Daodejing Chapter 22: to yield is to be whole

Daodejing Chapter 22

「曲則全,枉則直,窪則盈,敝則新,少則得,多則惑。是以聖人抱一為天下式,
不自見故明,不自是故彰,不自伐故有功,不自矜故長。古之所謂曲則全者,豈虛言哉?誠全而歸之。」
To yield is to be whole.
To bend is to be straight.
To be empty is to be full.
To be exhausted is to be renewed.
To have little is to gain.
To have too much is to be troubled.
That is why the sage embraces the one and sets an example to the world.
He does not show off and therefore shines.
He does not promote himself and is therefore revered.
He does not boast and is therefore honored.
He does not seek glory and therefore endures.
Because he does not contend,
Nobody in the world contends with him.
The ancient saying “to yield is to be whole” is indeed true.
When you are whole, all things will come to you.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 22: to yield is to be whole

Daodejing Chapter 17: the best leader

Daodejing Chapter 17

「太上,不知有之;其次,親而譽之;其次,畏之;其次,侮之;信不足焉,有不信焉。悠兮其貴言。功成、事遂,百姓皆謂:我自然。」
The best leader is one whose presence is unknown to his people;
The next best is one who is loved and praised;
The next is one who is feared;
The worst is one who is despised;
When a leader has no trust in his people,
The people have no trust in him.
The best leader reflects and chooses his words carefully.
When his objective is achieved and the work is done,
The people all say, “We did it ourselves.”
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 17: the best leader

Daodejing Chapter 10: Laozi throws down the gauntlet

「載營魄抱一,能無離乎?專氣致柔,能嬰兒乎?滌除玄覽,能無疵乎?愛國治民,能無為乎?天門開闔,能為雌乎?明白四達,能無知乎?生之蓄之,生而不有,為而不恃,長而不宰,是謂玄德。
Can you nurture your spirit and embrace oneness,
Without letting it go?
Can you concentrate your vital energy and reach a state of suppleness,
Like a new-born baby?
Can you polish and clean your mystery mirror,
So that you leave it untainted?
Can you love your country and care for your people,
With effortless action?
Can you play the role of the female,
Opening and closing the gates of Heaven?
Can you understand everything instinctively,
Without employing knowledge?
Bearing and nurturing;
Bearing without possessing;
Acting without taking credit;
Leading without dominating.
This is called mysterious virtue.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 10: Laozi throws down the gauntlet