Yule 2019#2: Leaders?

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. It felt like a conversation started, which is great. Interestingly, immediately after posting my blog on Facebook, I happened upon posts by two friends concerning the topic of leadership. Both friends are ministers and, though I don’t think that they know each other, share a certain kind of world view. Today, I want to share what they had to say with you.

The first friend is a Christian ministers called Mark. He is, amongst other things, a chaplain at the hospital where both my parents were treated before they died. He was also the chaplain attached to the Scout Camp where my father was Chief Warden. Mark led the funerals of both my parents. He is a very kind, thoughtful and sensitive man. He is also very open minded and sees wisdom outside his own faith. He often comments positively on the writings of other traditions. Recently, he has been looking at the writing of Lao Tzu. Specifically, the Tao Te Ching. This is one of the key texts of Taoism, an ancient Chinese religion that predates Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. I teach tai chi and Taoism is the philosophy that underpins the practice. I have studied Taoism for years and it is basically how I see the world. Taoism teaches a deep respect for the Natural world and advises a life of simplicity lived close to Nature. There is no God in Taoism, only the Tao. The Tao is everything and everything is the Tao. A good life is one lived in accordance with the Tao. That is a life lived in harmony with your true nature. So, the trick is to discover how to recognise our true nature. You can see how there is a similarity to what I was writing about yesterday.

But there’s no point reading my fumbling thoughts when you can go straight to the main man, Lao Tzu. This is what Mark posted:

Poem 17 Tao te Ching

Leaders are best when the people
are hardly aware that they exist.
Next best when they are loved.
Next, when they are feared.
The worst are the ones who are despised.

If you don’t trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

Leaders do not talk, they act.
When their work is done,
the people say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

The other friend who posted something that seemed to chime with my own thoughts is a guy named Chris. I knew Chris when he was head of Religious Education at a school where I was head of Drama. He was an excellent teacher. Like myself he became disenchanted with the education system in England. He walked away from teaching and became a minister. This is what he wrote.

What does it mean to aspire to greatness? If, as for some, it means to reach the pinnacles of power to bring about your desired outcomes then I bid you welcome, friends, to our political and financial elite. We seek that elitism for ourselves or accept the bread and circuses it hands out to placate the envy of the hoi polloi.

If, however, greatness means being presence to inspire, move to goodness, bring about the highest good in oneself and to motivate others to the same, then we all are called to such greatness. We may, being all too human, falter along the road but we need not turn from it.

The choice between these two is the true ‘god’ we worship, and the reality is you can’t serve both. Elitism or Presence is the fork in our daily road.

Both these pieces point towards what I see as an essential truth: anyone that seeks a position of power is not to be trusted with power. Anyone who seeks power in order to accomplish an objective, no matter how laudable it may sound, is not to be trusted. Rather, just try to act in a manner that feels honourable to yourself. Trust your instincts. Act honourably and align yourself with others that do so. Don’t try to change others – it is up to them to seek out what they find to be honourable. Seems like sound advice to me.


  1. We were once witness to a majordomo ceremony in a small Mexican/Mayan village far off the beaten track in the jungle. In the majordomo ceremony, if I can remember correctly, a person was appointed to the position of power/judgeship. They did not seek the position and if they accepted they were required to give away all their (meager) wealth and not allowed to accumulate any during their tenure. I guess the community supported them. (Reminds me of what Auda said in Lawrence of Arabia. “I am a river to my people.”) Anyway…. it was an honor to serve and the person was to acquit themselves in matters that concerned the community that best served the community.

    Now I’m going to read what you wrote again so I’m sure I understand it.


    • That sounds like a sensible arrangement. I like the notion of public office being a means of service to the community. So often, over here, lip service is paid to that idea but that is all. Politicians will declare that all they wish to do is serve their country and then claim generous expenses for their trouble. I really like the idea of politicians having to surrender all their wealth and rely on the kindness of those they serve to live. That would quickly flush out the charlatans and show who is sincere.


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