“The man of highest “power” does not reveal himself as a possessor of “power” Tao Te Ching
A Harvard Business Review blog post by Whitney Johnson, “Lead Without Trying So Hard” describes the power of charisma and how this is achieved through a sincere generosity that draws people to you. Johnson outlines the characteristics of people who give more than take yet they possess the “ability” to lead and be someone others want to be near. The post concludes that truly effective leaders, with charisma and real power, have the confidence to give that power away and be rewarded through the effectiveness of the teams that they have built.
The post refers to an experience of the state of wu-wei (oo-way), or more wei-wu-wei, “effortless doing”. That if one can let go of the need to try, to struggle and to expend unnecessary energy, we will possess “de” (duh) – character, virtue – and people will like and trust you, respond and follow your lead.
Reading this post joined a couple of dots for me. There has long been a consensus that good leadership is about empathy and strong interpersonal skills (my early reading when heading for headship was about Ernest Shackleton). But in the last 10 years, there has been a great deal more refinement and understanding of the qualities of generosity and selflessness that, perhaps counter-intuitively, lead to to greater success as a leader.
Influential in more recent research into this approach to leadership is Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take”. Summarized in this article, the book describes how success can be achieved by helping others. And whether it is wu-wei, loving your neighbour, “sewa” (selfless service) in Sikhism, or any other synchronous religious thought, being nice and kind is a route to self-fulfillment and therefore success, regardless of financial reward.
And that, therefore, leads to the other dot, this recently viral video (below), that encapsulates the power of giving to others to gain personal fulfillment. Is it that easy? Well that is the point of the Tao and of wu-wei. If we give to others, our rewards will come. Or as Yoda once said: “Do or do not. There is no try”.