Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Tao of Leadership - John Heider

In our many discussions, Suresh and I do discuss leadership as well. So he did what he normally does - gifted me with a copy of the 'Tao of Leadership' which he felt was essential reading. It is an amazing book. I have read it for the last three months and am still dipping into it. I guess I will keep on dipping into it for the rest of my life. It is like a quiet pool or the pond in the valley.

The 'Tao of Leadership' is about the way. It emphasises the nature of the leader, the how. The wise leader is one who facilitates, who grows group members, who gives them opportunities without obligations, who has the consciousness to hold the group field, who has no favorites, no attachments, who speaks less, who shows by being, who understands that things are cyclical, who is still and has clarity, who is selfless, who serves, who lives simply, who understands paradoxes (he gains by placing others self interest over his), who yields and does not push, who does not deal harshly,  who has no point of view. It's an incredible source of wisdom , of how to live and how to lead.

The book has 81 principles, each with a wealth of meaning and knowledge. Some aspects I could not yet grasp, and I felt I could relate to most. A gist of the 81 principles is given below.

1. Tao means How
Tao is a principle. Creation is a process. The How and the What. Tao can be known by meditation, by being aware. All processes reveal the underlying principle

2. Polarities
All behavior consists of opposites. By doing anything more and more, the opposite will appear. Allow the process to unfold on its own. Do not insist on things to come out in a certain way.

3. Being Oneself
Have no favorite behaviors. Be respectful of all behaviors. Thus the group becomes open to all possibilities, open to everything, and not just pleasing the leader.

4. Tao is not a thing
Creation consists of things and events. Creation is vibratory. Of polarities. Tao has no opposites. It is one, is unity.

5. Equal treatment
Behavior – consequences. Awareness shines equally in pleasant and not pleasant. One person is worthy as the next. A leader does not pretend to be special. Silence is a great source of strength.

6. The Pond in the valley
Being open and receptive is yin (the valley). When no fear and desires stir the surface, the water forms a perfect mirror. Go into the valley and watch the pond. The pond will never run dry.

7. Selflessness
True self interest teaches selflessness. Paradox – by being selfless, the leader enhances himself. Enlightened leadership is service. The leader gains by placing the well being of other above self.

8. Water
Water cleanses and refreshes without judgment. Free and fearless, fluid and responsive. Leader works in any setting without complaint, with any person. Leader sheds light and creates harmony. Timing is everything. Leader is yielding. Because the leader does not push, the group does not resist or resent.

9. Good group
Teachers shouldn’t outshine the teaching. Settle for good work and let other have the floor. Leader has no need for fame. A moderate ego demonstrates wisdom.

10. Unbiased leadership
Remain open and receptive. Know what is emerging yet keep peace while others desire for themselves. Remain unbiased, clear and down to earth.

11. The group field
In silence. What’s happening when nothing is happening in a group? That is the group field. The spirit is the centre of the circle, when nothing is happening, that determines the nature of the group. Learn to see emptiness. Silences and empty spaces reveal the essential mood, the context for everything that happens. This is the group field.

12. Time for reflection
Endless drama clouds consciousness. Too much noise obscures the senses. Continual input obscures genuine insight. Don’t substitute sensationalism for genuine learning. Allow time for silent reflection. Let the senses rest and grow still.

13. Success
In order to do good work you must take good care of yourself. Value yourself and allow others to value you. If you can live with the fruits of success and care for yourself properly, you will be able to foster success in other people.

14. Knowing what is happening
When we do not understand what is happening in a group or with a person, look gently with your inner eye. When a person is calm, complex events appear simple. See without staring. Stay in the present.

15. The leader’s teachers
Silence and ability to pay attention. Grace and awareness, consideration – did no injury, courteous and quiet, yields gracefully, natural and inconspicuous, open and receptive, give up selfishness, hence could enhance others

16. Giving up selfishness
Let go of your efforts. Letting go is like dying. When you die you give up selfishness. You become one with all. Let go of selfishness and give up the illusion of being separate. I act on behalf of all. I am not resisting the now.

17. Being a midwife
Remember you’re facilitating another person’s process. It’s not your process – don’t intrude. Don’t control. If you do not trust a person’s process, that person will not trust you.

18. This versus that
Remember all creation is unity. This vs that is loss of consciousness of unity. How everything works. Meditate on the process.

19. Self improvement
To improve yourself try silence that will show you true selfless self.

20. Traditional wisdom
Facilitate process and clarify conflicts. A wise leader is relatively desireless, defenseless. Be quiet and reflective. Prefer the common and natural. Being content permits simplicity in life.

21. Tao Is universal
All power and effectiveness comes from flowing, the law of creation. Everything is bound by this principle.

22. The paradox of letting go
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. When I give up trying to impress, I become impressive. My best work is done when I forget my own point of view.

23. Be still
The wise leader speaks rarely and briefly. The leader’s teachers move through being than through doing. In order to know your inner wisdom, be still. Reflect. What do you deeply feel?

24. Take it easy
Trying too hard causes behavior of insecurity.

25. Tao – Is and Isn’t
Tao is the principle of how everything works. Everything is dependent on Tao but Tao is not dependent on anything.

26. Center and ground
Being centered is the ability to recover one’s balance even in the midst of action. A centred person is not easily excited. One who is not stable can get carried away by intensity of leadership and make mistakes of judgment.

27. Beyond techniques
The wise leader does not rest on techniques or gimmicks or set exercise. The method of awareness of process applies to all people and all situations. Because the leader sees clearly, the leader sheds light on others.

28. A warrior, a healer and Tao
A leader acts as a warrior – yang. A leader acts as a healer – yin. Doing and being. The third aspect is Tao. Returns to silence. Such simplicity and economy is a valuable lesson. Because the leader is clear the work is delicate and does not violate anybody’s sensibilities.

29. The paradox of pushing
Constant interventions backfire. The best group process is delicate. Leaders who push are blocking the process. The wise leader stays centered and grounded and uses the least force to act effectively.

30. Force and conflict
One who understands how process unfolds uses as little force as possible. The leaders touch is light. He neither defends nor attacks.

31. Harsh interventions
Harsh interventions are required when all else fails. The leader feels more wholesome when the group process is flowing freely and unfolding naturally, when delicate interventions outnumber harsh interventions. Harsh interventions are an indication that the leader may be uncentered or has an emotional attachment to whatever is happening. In harsh interventions, success is a failure. There has been injury. Someone’s process has been violated. They may plot revenge.

32. Unity
The leader pays equal attention to everything that happens. Talking about process is one way to block process and lower the energy of the group field. Tao is the single principle responsible for every event or thing.

33. Inner resources
If I am content with what I have, I can live simply and enjoy both prosperity and free time. If I am at peace with myself, I will not spend my life force in conflict. If I have learned to let go, I do not need to fear dying.

34. All inclusive
Leadership is not a matter of winning. Tao is all inclusive. The work is done in order to shed light of awareness on whatever is happening.

35. Keep it simple
Do not get carried away by the group process. The leader who returns to awareness of process has a deep sense of how things happen.

36. Polarities, paradoxes and puzzles
All behaviors contain their opposites. Learn to see things backwards, inside out and upside down.

37. Doing little
The able leader does little, yet much gets done. Tao does nothing at all, but everything gets done. When the leader gets too busy, return to silence.

38. Potent leadership
It’s a matter of being aware of what is happening in the group and acting accordingly. Highest potency is when a conscious yet spontaneous reaction to the here and now, no calculations and manipulations. 2nd highest is trying to do what is right. 3rd highest is imposed morality, should or shouldn’t. The wise leader loses sense of immediacy, becomes quiet. Lets all effort go until clarity returns.

39. The source of power
Act in accordance with how things are. Be. Do not be neurotic or self centered. Know what is happening and act accordingly. Freedom comes from obedience of natural order. Power comes through cooperation, independence through service, greatness through selflessness.

40. Meditate
Silence. What is happening when nothing is happening? How what’s happening (process) arises out of how it happens (principle). Return to yourself.

41. Disturbing wisdom
The wise leader’s only allegiance is to how things happen.

42. The Creative process
The wise leader learns that he needs pairs of opposites to interact and be creative. To lead, follow. To prosper, live simply. Being well defended will not protect you, it will diminish your life and kill you. Be two sided. See the paradox.

43. Gentle interventions
Will overcome rigid resistance. When gentleness fails, try yielding or stepping back. Wise leaders realize how much how little can do. It’s the leader’s consciousness.

44. Owning or being owned
Getting or letting go? Owning is also being owned. If you give up things, you can give up spending your life looking after things. Be still and discover your own inner security. You will have what you want anyway.

45. Appearing foolish
The best work seems simple. Yet a great deal happens. It may look as if the leader is sitting there and has no idea what to do. But it’s just this lack of needless interventions that permits the group to grow and be fertile. Simple minded. Perplexing honesty. Appearing foolish does not matter. The leader’s stillness overcomes group agitation. His consciousness is the primary tool of his work.

46. Nothing to win
It’s more important to be content with what is actually happening than to get upset over what might be happening but isn’t.

47. Here and now
By staying present and aware, the leaders can do less, yet achieve more. Stillness, clarity, consciousness.

48. Unclutter your mind
Forget many options. Allow them to recede into the background. Unclutter. Simplify your work. When you rely on knowing just what to do, your work will become direct and powerful. The quality of your consciousness is more potent than any theory or interpretation. Learn how fruitful the blocked group or individual becomes when you give up trying to do just the right thing.

49. Be open to whatever emerges
Do not impose personal agendas or value systems. Be open to whatever emerges. Judge no one. Be open to all, to truth and lies. Being open and attentive is more effective than being judgmental. People tend to be good and truthful when they are being received in a good and truthful manner. Openness is more potent than any system of judgment.

50. Existence – life and death
Favoring one denies existence – It contains both. Mistakes are far more deadly than existence itself. Everything comes and goes. Don’t grasp or cling, worry or cringe. When you exist with fear or love of death you are safe from harm.

51. Principle and process
Everything is a vibratory pattern, a process. They develop according to a principle. Vibratory energy and the principle make a partnership which produces many forms. There are no alternatives, no other way. The partnership between principle and process is the first fact of life. Of our work.

52. The womb
Creation is about polarities. The fundamental polarity (yin-yang, male-female) produces everything. Knowing that I am a process created out of a single principle gives me stability. My allegiance is not to people, things – only to principle. I know how things work. I also know the importance of staying flexible. I know I am eternal. When I am done I am going home.

53. Materialism
Quiet path leads to conscious existence. Every path to materialism. Becoming more conscious leads to god and a sense of unity with all creation. Excessive consumption is possible by exploiting someone. The wise leader leads a quiet meditative path.

54. The ripple effect
To be an influence in the world, get your life in order. Ground yourself in the single principle so that your behavior is wholesome and effective. If you do that you will earn respect and be a powerful influence. Your behavior influences others through a ripple effect. You are the nucleus. Growth spreads outwards from you.

55. Vital energy
People who surrender all their blocks and conflicts experience a free flow of energy. They are in love with all creation and their energies are as abundant as all creation. Excitement or arousal is not vital enlightenment. Excitement is the tension that comes when stimulation meets resistance. It exhausts energy. Vital energy is a continuous flow. It meets no resistance and goes on without stress. It springs from the eternal.

56. The leaders integrity
The true nature of events cannot be captured in words. But what cannot be said can be demonstrated. Be silent. Be conscious. Consciousness sheds light on what is happening. Since all existence is one whole, there are no sides. The leader’s integrity is not idealistic. It’s how things work.

57. Doing less and being more
Run an honest and open group. Facilitate what is happening. Interfere as little as possible. Fewer rules the better. Coercive – resistance. Manipulative – evasive. When we establish a clear and wholesome climate the group acts in a wholesome manner. When the leader practices silence, the group remains focused. When the leader does not impose rules, the group discovers its own goodness. When the leader acts unselfishly, the group does what is to be done.

58. Unfolding process
Group process evolves naturally. It is self regulating. Do not interfere. Efforts to control process usually fail. Trust what is happening. Let it grow. Storm. Let it rage. The wise leader knows how to facilitate the unfolding group process. The group’s process and the leader’s process unfold the same way. Facilitating what is happening is more potent than pushing for what you wish were happening. Demonstrating model behavior is more potent than imposed morality. Unbiased positions are stronger than prejudices. Radiance encourages people, outshining inhibits them.

59. The source of your ability
Be conscious. Be aware of what is happening and how things happen. Then you can act accordingly. You can be vital and effective. Your life unfolds according to the same principle that grows every other unfolding. Being like everything else means you are ordinary. Consciously knowing that you are like everything else is extraordinary. Knowing how that universally works is the source of your power. Consciousness or awareness is the source of your ability.

60. Don’t stir things up
Run the group delicately. Do not instigate issues or elicit emotions. If you stir things up you will release forces before their time. Do not push. Allow them to come out. All energies naturally arise, take form, grow strong, come to a new resolution and pass away.

61. The Lowly Receptacle
The great leader is not above others. Greatness comes from knowing how to be lowly, empty and receptive and of service. River water is absorbed and transformed In the sea. The wise leader is of service, receptive, yielding, flowing. The leader is aware of the group process, the group members need to be received and paid attention to.

62. Whether you know it or not
A person does not have to join a group or be a wise leader to work things out. Life’s process unfolds naturally – but knowing how things work gives the leader real power and ability.

63. Encounters
The wise leader acts effectively. To be effective, be aware and unbiased. Aware – you know what’s happening. Unbiased – unbalanced and centred. Tell the truth. Neither avoid nor seek encounters. Be open and when an encounter arises, respond while it’s manageable. To avoid encounters – don’t brag about your ability or try to make people be the way you think they ought to be.

64. The beginning, the middle and the end
Learn to recognize beginnings. At birth events are easier to manage. Don’t disrupt the process by using too much force. A wise leader sees things almost before they happen. Once an event is fully formed and energized, stand back as much as possible. Do not try to make an event conform to any predetermnined plan. Many leaders spoil the work as it nears completion. Don’t do too much. Because the wise leader has no expectations, no outcome is a failure.
65. Theory and practice
Not complex theories but practice of life based on consciousness and wisdom. Theories are an intricate view of what’s happening. Instead of complex explanations, if you return to awareness of what is happening, you will clarify and enlighten. If you distinguish between theory and practice, you save much trouble. Practice demonstrates conscious cooperation. Experience the power of universal harmony.

66. Low and open
Leadership is knowing how to follow. Follow as in stay in the background and facilitate other progress. The leader does not push, or shape or manipulate. He has no position to defend, shows no favoritism.

67. 3 leadership qualities
Compassion for all creatures – everyone has a right to life. material simplicity or frugality – has an abundance to share. A sense of equality or modesty – is one’s true quality. Compassion, sharing and equality sustain life. We are all one.

68. Opportunities
Good leadership consists of motivating people to their highest selves by offering them opportunities, not obligations. Life is an opportunity, not an obligation.

69. A fight
If a group member wants to fight with you – never seek a fight. If it comes, yield. Step back. Your weapon is the light of consciousness. Advance only when you encounter no resistance. Do not cling to your past – If you have made it, if you win – be gracious. The more conscious force will win.

70. This is nothing new
This way is easy but not many understand it. As a rule the greatest interest is given to the greatest novelty. The wise leader does nothing new or original. He appeals to few followers, to those who recognize that traditional wisdom is a treasure that lies beneath and ordinary appearance.

71. All the answers
Knowing that you do not know everything is far wiser than thinking that you know a lot when you really don’t. The wise leader learns how painful it is to fake knowledge. It’s a relief to be able to say ‘I don’t know’.

72. Spiritual awareness
Group work must include spiritual awareness if it is to touch the existential anxiety. The wise leader models spiritual behavior and lives in harmony with spiritual values. There is a way of knowing, higher than reason. There is a self, greater than egocentricity.

73. Freedom and responsibility
Tao means how. Not what. No one can tell you what to do. That’s your freedom and your responsibility. Be conscious of what’s happening. You will be able to see and make your own decisions about what to do. What people do is their own responsibility.

74. Judge and jury
It’s not the leader’s role to play judge and jury, to punish people for bad behavior. Punishment does not control bad behavior. Wise leaders know there are natural consequences for every act. Shed light on the consequence. Don’t attack the behavior. Don’t take the place of nature and act as judge or jury. It’s a subtle process.
75. Without greed
The wise leader is not greedy (for credit), selfish, defensive or demanding (hard, critical, strict control). Such a leader can be trusted to allow any event to unfold naturally.

76. Flexible or rigid
At birth, a person is flexible and flowing. At death, rigid and blocked. When growing, tender and pliant. Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow. Whatever is rigid will atrophy and die.

77. Cycles
Natural events are cyclical, changing from one extreme to another. The way of nature is to relax what is tense, to fill what is empty, to reduce what overflows. A wise leader follows the natural order of events and does not take the consumer society for a model. The leaders behavior works because it is based on understanding of cycles and opposites (paradoxes!). Effective behavior only seems backwards.

78. Soft and strong
As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. Wise leaders know that yielding overcomes resistances and gentleness melts rigid defences. The leader does not fight group energy but flows, yields, absorbs and lets go. A leader must endure a great deal of abuse. If the leader is not like water, he would break. The ability to be soft makes a leader a leader. What is soft is strong.

79. Win or lose
If you get into an argument with a group member and it does not come out the way you wish, do not pretend to compromise while withholding your true feelings. Return to facilitating. It is not your business to be right, to win, to find flaws – your business is to facilitate whatever is happening – win or lose.

80. A simple life
To be free, live simply. Use what you have, be content, where you are. Quit trying to solve problems by moving, changing mates or careers. Read and reread. Pen and paper. Walk. Keep a small house. Have an open calendar. Have a spiritual practice. Let family customs grow. Now opportunities will come every day. So what?

81. The reward
Tell the simple, blunt truth than things that sound good. Act on behalf of everyone than win arguments. Wise leaders are helping others find their own success. Sharing success with others is very successful. The single principle – true benefit blesses everyone and diminishes no one. Reward for doing the work arises naturally out of work.

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