During my college years, I was given a book that contained a quote that has had an enormous impact on my leadership life over the last two decades. The Chinese proverb, attributed to the 6th-century philosopher, Lao Tzu, goes like this:

Go to the people.
Live with them.
Learn from them.
Love them.
Start with what they know.
Build on what they have.
But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, 'We have done this ourselves'.

Lao Tzu

Like looking through a leadership kaleidoscope, a fresh read in a new season offers something entirely new to ponder:

“Learn From Them”

As leaders, we’re only aware of a fraction of what’s taking place in our organization and within our teams. And if we’re not careful, we can become “one-way” dispensers and miss the opportunity to hear the wisdom, gain increased visibility and learn from other’s experiences. Our teams have so much to teach us.

“Love Them”

Oh yeah, the “L” word. From creating safe places to celebrating contributions and providing opportunities to stretch and make an impact, there are a million ways to LOVE our people.

“Start with what they know. Build on what they have.”

So many leaders start from a place of disappointment toward their team members. At the end of the day, we’re the ones that selected and trained them. When there’s a gap between expectations and reality, it’s as much our fault as it is theirs!!

“But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves.”

Hire people that take ownership and give it away so that they can create, improve, and celebrate all that’s been accomplished.

Phew! Regardless of how long you’ve led, might this be a great reminder to learn from, love, build up and entrust.

Cheers to Lao Tzu for dropping some leadership nuggets that are still relevant 1,500 years later!!

Josh Block

Josh Block

Josh Block is a Michigan native, husband, father of two, speaker, company president, and leadership advocate. He believes that healthy leaders, thriving teams and fulfilling work carry remarkable power to transform people and families.

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