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Leaderly Quotations: Lessons from Lao-Tzu

September 19, 2009

Sixth Century philosopher Lao-Tzu (meaning Old Sage or Old Master) is well known for his wise musings, though it’s not clear whether he was a composite of several Tao scholars (the writings of the Tao-te Ching) or an older contemporary of Confucious. Nevertheless, my favorite quotation is the following one because it speaks to a topic very close to my heart and one closely related to my master’s leadership thesis – shared leadership.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: “We did this to ourselves.”

Do you see any of Lao-Tzu’s teachings in practice in your organization? If yes, what impact have you seen, in terms of staff morale, productivity and innovation?

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