The Tao Te Ching tells us:
Who gives from the heart to all the world?
Only one who leads with Tao.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 77
In this competitive, often confusing, world that emphasizes aggressive sales tactics and short-term economic gain, many leaders rise and fall with the cycles of change.
Those who rise above this competitive struggle draw upon deeper principles, inspiring trust and commitment in the people around them. As James Kouzes and Barry Posner found in their classic management research with nearly two thousand managers in North America, Mexico, Western Europe, Asia, and Australia, what people most desire in a leader is credibility, the ability to trust their leader--an atmosphere of mutual respect (Kouzes & Posner, 1993).
Without respect, life is a crazy roller-coaster ride from one crisis to the next. Relationships remain superficial and some people in power lack empathy, using other people as a means to an end.
Unless we can work together respectfully, the alchemy of cooperation and creativity cannot exist. Without the trust that respect engenders, institutions stagnate, for people lack the will to reach out and explore the unknown.
What about you? How can you nurture greater trust around you, leading with heart and affirming the inclusive and compassionate spirit of Tao? Think of one small thing you can do today—take a deep breath and be mindfully present, slow down and listen, or show your appreciation for at least one person today.
Together, we can make a difference. Small actions add up. As the Tao reminds us, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 64). I encourage you to take that step today.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B.Z. (1993).Credibility. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
An earlier version of this lesson appeared in Dreher, D. (1996). The Tao of Personal Leadership. New York, NY: HarperCollins.