17 Inspiring Quotes From Dao De Jing for Leaders

Please find below my favorite passages from Dao De Jing that can be useful for leaders. I tried to choose quotes that can be understood without lots of contexts. It is amazing how the text written 2400 years ago can be still so relevant. Before reading, pause for a moment, slow down a bit and enjoy.

Abstraction

The sage experiences without abstraction,
And accomplishes without action;
He accepts the ebb and flow of things,
Nurtures them, but does not own them,
And lives, but does not dwell.

Retire

Fill a cup to its brim and it is easily spilled;
Temper a sword to its hardest and it is easily broken;
Amass the greatest treasure and it is easily stolen;
Claim credit and honour and you easily fall;

Tools

Clay is moulded into a vessel;
Because of the hollow we may use the cup.
Walls are built around a hearth;
Because of the doors we may use the house.
Thus tools come from what exists,
But use from what does not.

Substance

Too much colour blinds the eye,
Too much music deafens the ear,
Too much taste dulls the palate,
Too much play maddens the mind,
Too much desire tears the heart.

Indulgence

Straighten yourself and you will not stand steady;
Display yourself and you will not be clearly seen;
Justify yourself and you will not be respected;
Promote yourself and you will not be believed;
Pride yourself and you will not endure.

Perfection

The perfect traveller leaves no trail to be followed;
The perfect speaker leaves no question to be answered;
The perfect accountant leaves no working to be completed;
The perfect container leaves no lock to be closed;
The perfect knot leaves no end to be ravelled.

Armies

Weapons are tools of violence,
Not of the sage;
He uses them only when there is no choice,
And then calmly, and with tact,
For he finds no beauty in them.

Opposition

To reduce someone’s influence, first expand it;
To reduce someone’s force, first increase it;
To overthrow someone, first exalt them;
To take from someone, first give to them.

Contentment

Great love incurs great expense,
And great riches incur great fear,
But contentment comes at no cost;
Who knows when to stop
Does not continue into danger,
And so may long endure.

Nurture

Bearing without possessing,
Nurturing without taming,
Shaping without forcing,
This is harmony.

Impartiality

Who understands does not preach;
Who preaches does not understand.
Reserve your judgments and words;
Smooth differences and forgive disagreements;
Dull your wit and simplify your purpose;
Accept the world.

No end

So the sage is firm but not cutting,
Pointed but not piercing,
Straight but not rigid,
Bright but not blinding.

Lead by Following

In order to master people
One must speak as their servant;
In order to lead people
One must follow them.

Compassion

A good soldier does not inspire fear;
A good fighter does not display aggression;
A good conqueror does not engage in battle;
A good leader does not exercise authority.

Need

To give away what you do not need is to follow the Way.
So the sage gives without expectation,
Accomplishes without claiming credit,
And has no desire for ostentation.

Utopia

Appreciate your life and be content with your home;
Sail boats and ride horses, but don’t go too far;
Keep weapons and armour, but do not employ them;
Let everyone read and write,
Eat well and make beautiful things.

The Sage

So the sage does not serve himself;
The more he does for others, the more he is satisfied;
The more he gives, the more he receives.
Nature flourishes at the expense of no one;
So the sage benefits all men and contends with none.

PS. Feel free to apply for a free gestalt-based coaching session on my personal website.

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Sergiy Sumnikov

Business development advisor for expansion in Europe (www.scaleuphero.com) and mindful living enthusiast and coach (www.sergiysumnikov.com)