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Diane Dreher's Tao Leadership Blog

The Power of Respect

Living respectfully is an essential leadership principle much needed today. Psychologists have called it the key to personal power. Psychologist Jerry Lynch, who coaches Olympic athletes, says that "your real power as a person comes when you relate to others from your heart rather than your head."

 

Our energies contract when we concentrate on ourselves and the impression we're making. The Tao tells us to reverse this direction, to let our energies flow out from our hearts in greater respect and appreciation for the people around us.

 

The Tao tells us:

 

Tao leaders lives close to nature.
Their actions flow from the heart.

 

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 8

 

Instead of self-consciously posing and performing, Tao leaders concentrate on others. Remember this lesson in your interactions. Take time to listen, observe, and discover the spark of greatness in the people you know. As a Tao leader, you can inspire others by making that spark come alive.

 

How can you use the power of respect in your life today?

 

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The Wisdom of Winter

The Tao Te Ching reminds us to honor each season in our projects and our lives. Yet in Western society, it seems we recognize only three seasons in life: spring, summer, and fall, the beginning, middle, and end. The wisdom of Tao reminds us of the fourth: the season of winter, during which little seems to be happening.

 

Throughout the natural world, in the winter months, many plants are dormant, looking apparently dead. But beneath the surface, within the earth, a great deal is going on. My Japanese maple tree stores up energy for a spring of rebirth while the flowering quince brings forth the earliest blossoms.

 

Winter is a natural time for slowing down, for contemplation. At the end of any project, a wise leader pauses to take stock, to go over our notes, to recall what went well and what needs work, learning from the experience. This final phase is essential so that our new beginnings can be more successful. Tao leaders bring forth deep wisdom from the roots of winter to initiate a spring of new possibilities.

 

The Tao reminds us to:

 

Hold to this timeless pattern
Throughout the time of your life,
Aware of the eternal cycles,
The essence of Tao.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14

 

How can you use the wisdom of winter in your life?

 

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Patience and Process

The Tao affirms the wisdom of patience and process, a lesson that can be difficult for highly motivated leaders.

 

When I was in graduate school at UCLA, my friends used to grow beautiful plants from avocado seeds, so I tried it myself. I planted a seed in a clay pot, watered it every day, and waited.

 

Weeks went by. Nothing. Finally, I dug it up to see what was happening. The seed had sprouted, put forth roots, and was nearly ready to emerge, but my impatience killed the plant.

 

We need patience to see projects through to completion. Different projects, like different plants, have their own growth cycles. Green beans spring up quickly in my garden while carrots take much longer to grow.

 

We can also become impatient with problems, eager to solve them quickly. Yet the wisdom of Tao reminds us not to rush, for rushing puts us in a stress reaction, narrowing our vision and preventing us from thinking clearly.

 

As the Tao Te Ching reminds us:

 

The greatest skill is developed gradually,
The greatest music rarely heard.
The great Tao is without form,
Elusive, undefinable,
Yet the source of all life.

 

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 41

 

The next time you find yourself rushing when you're trying to solve a problem or becoming impatient near the end of a project, take a cue from the Tao. Pause for a moment, take a deep breath. Perhaps even take a short break. Then come back, with new perspective and fresh energy to see the process through.

 

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The Lesson of Ma-Ai

There's a Japanese word, ma-ai, the distance in time and space between two people, two events, two energies. The martial art of aikido relies on the interval between action and response, between one person's energies and another's.

 

In our lives, as in the martial arts, ma-ai is key. Moving too soon is just as unproductive as waiting too long. We can use the wisdom of ma-ai to look for the larger patterns, recognizing when to pause, when to move, when to blend our energies with those around us.

 

As the Tao Te Ching reminds us:

 

The wise leader knows
When enough is enough

 

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9

 

There are intervals of ma-ai in all areas of life: the rhythms of yin and yang, action and contemplation, figure and ground, society and solitude. In our gardens, ma-ai is the space plants need to grow at their best. Different plant species each have their own ma-ai. And so it is with difference individuals. In my life, after a busy day at work, I find pleasure in a quiet evening at home. After a day working alone at my desk, I enjoy the exhilaration of a good workout.

 

Ma-ai keeps us from polarization and going to extremes. Committee meetings are essential for communication and shared governance, but too many meetings can wear us down. Self-care is essential, but so is compassion for others. A Tao leader remembers the importance of balance.

 

Is there an area of your life that could benefit from the lesson of ma-ai?

 

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