What does ‘leading by following’ mean?

We talk about ‘servant leadership’ in the modern days, but Lao Tzu had talked about the leadership style 2,500 years ago.  In chapter 66, Lao Tzu illustrates the power leadership by using the analogy of streams and seas.


“All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.

If you want to govern the people,
you must speak to them humbly.
If you want to lead the people,
you must learn how to follow them.

“Therefore although the Sage is above the people,
no one feels oppressed.
When he is ahead of the people,
no one feels hurt.

The whole world never exhausts praises for him.
Because he competes with no one,
no one can compete with him.”

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 66

By staying low, the leader is able to receive and amalgamate, just like the seas do to the water from the countless streams.   The leader can stay low with the power of humanity, which is demonstrated by the  deep respect for others. The soft power is a lot more effective than the wielding of authority of a leadership position.

Leaders are to serve, not to dictate.

Leaders are to empower, not proving himself to be better than his people.


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