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The Daoist Leader – how Leaders can increase effectiveness by doing less and allowing more

Daoism and Leadership are not an obvious match. Daoism teaches us the attuitude of non-doing, not-knowing, selflessness, humbleness, spontaneity and intuition. This is the exact opposite of what is expected of leaders currently: to predict & control, to impose ones clear will and goals on a situation or system and to pretend to  know the answers and act accordingly.

But looking deeper very powerful teachings and possibilities for modern Leadership emerge. So why should we even bother? Because the context we operate in has changed. In an increasingly diffuse reality and opaque future our tools, attitudes and beliefs, built and shaped for a seemingly predictable reality, progressively lose their effectiveness, the sharp sword became dull.

We as CCG are currently exploring the integration of Daoism and Leadership – how can we make the deeper wisdom of Daoism accessible, applicable and practical for everyday Leadership.

To offer a first glimpse of Daoism we would like to introduce two of its core pillars:

1. Non-doing

Speaking about Non-Doing doesn’t mean inertia. It points to act without superimposing ones ego, a fixed plan or an `always-already-knowing` on a situation. Not forcing in a certain direction. A great Daoist quality can be found when visiting India (for a first time): Everything´s seemingly out of control, overwhelming, beyond what ones mind can grasp or even control, reality seems to follow different laws of nature and you cannot enhance things by pushing, as they will push back, jam and block. If you respond to any situation smiling, gentle, humorous and surrendering to what is (and what is not) this will open  magic doors you were not even aware they were here in the first place!

  • Responses of a “non-doing” form are intuitively rather than calculated
  • You don’t resist or enforce, but stay present with what is happening and allow for emergence.
  • Spontaneity is a core quality: you respond adequately to the present situation, being prepared without being fixed on your skills. You have them and forget about them. Being prepared means you might know and understand classical management skills and tools, but you don’t necessarily act on them (just because you know how to use a hammer not everything coming across is a nail).
  • Being forceful might be an appropriate way to respond – but not as a fixed concept or a habitual act but out of a specific context.
  • It doesn´t speak to passively go with the flow, but it asks for a masterly and skillful „dialogue“ with „what is“ to create oneness – leading to a collective consciousness or wholeness as we can call it too.
  • The activity of Leadership in that sense is leading conversations in manifold shapes and forms. Leading dialogues. Leading to wholeness. Creating shared pictures of a collective future through dialogue.

2. Not-knowing

  • “Knowing not knowing is the true knowing” said Sokrates as well as Lao Tzu. So we rather strive for the empty cup than the full one. Too much of fixed knowledge your cup might be way too full. You need to create emptiness to allow fullness to emerge. In Zen we practice the teaching of..“cleaning the kitchen is cleaning the mind”
  • But Emptiness is what leaders (not only them) are most afraid of – until they/we find out that an empty cup is filled with fresh ideas at the exact necessary pace and moment where and when it is needed. We don’t need to „pre-know” everything but trust that the right knowledge will be there at the right moment.
  • The key to trust is the wisdom of non-separation – the falling into and living from a larger intelligence that will serve us if we allow it to emerge.
  • The law of attraction: what gets created by attraction or the creation of pull (not by enforcement or push) is always something new, no-thing becoming some-thing which wasn’t there before. Something one possibly could not have reached by a goal or a KPI, as that only recreates a version of our already-already-knowing.

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