The Enlightened Parent
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
The Enlightened ParentWho’s in charge here?
The great leader speaks little.
He never speaks carelessly.
He works without self-interest
And leaves no trace.
When all is finished, the people say,
“We did it ourselves.”
The lesson in this 17th verse of the Tao Te Ching asks us to change how we see authority—which means viewing great or enlightened leaders as those who don’t actually lead anyone! Through the perspective of the Tao, such individuals create an environment where everyone feels that they have a personal responsibility to, and are a part of, the process. By adopting this model of an enlightened leader, you’ll be more than likely to alter the ways you criticize and admire captains of industry, government, or religion, as well as the way you guide others.
The advice in this 17th verse is directed toward leaders of all kinds; in fact, you can personalize it by substituting the words parent or teacher for leader. Examine the ways you view your own tactics, and then make the changes that are necessary in order to be someone who makes an enlightening difference in the lives of others. First, you must stay in the background and become an astute observer of what’s taking place; then ask yourself how, without interfering, you can create an environment that will help everyone act responsibly.
The Tao advises making yourself as invisible as possible if you truly wish to be an effective leader. Thus, perhaps your best strategy would be to actually leave the room and allow everyone else to act without feeling that they need to impress you. Maybe you should offer a slight suggestion and then an immediate departure. A knowing smile or gesture that conveys to the group that you trust in its ability to figure things out might work best. Possibly what’s needed is for you tell a quick story of how others have resolved similar issues. Or you could simply meditate and send positive conflict-resolving energy to all the individuals present.
Whatever your decision, you’ll be well aware of the need to create an environment where everyone will be able to say, “We fixed it ourselves without the need for any interference from anyone—we really don’t need a supervisor.” This approach, of course, involves suspending your desire to be seen as a strong authority figure.
Truly inspiring leaders get results by their own example: They encourage others to be responsible and do the right thing, but not by proclaiming and bragging about their unimpeachable management. They create space for others to be inspired and to achieve their own greatness. When the time comes for receiving accolades, they dissolve in the background, wanting everyone else to feel that their accomplishments arose from their own leadership qualities. The supreme Taoist leader always leaves people to choose and pursue their own way of life, their own conception of the good. The view of a self-styled authoritarian is not the way enlightened leaders see themselves; rather, they raise the energy of an environment through a viewpoint that elevates lower inclinations.
The Tao offers three other ways of choosing to be a leader. One option is to make a difference in the lives of others, resolving conflicts through love. By being an instrument of love and making an effort to praise others, this leader stays in harmony with the Tao. Those who are praised are inclined to become self-loving and act in a cooperative rather than competitive fashion. The drawback is that using the approval and affection of a leader for motivation means turning control of one’s life over to that leader. But if you see that the choice is between love or fear, the Tao always sees love as superior.
The ineffectiveness of fear as a leadership style is obvious: If I can get you to do as I desire by using that weapon, then you’ll only behave in these ways as long as I have the power to threaten you. When I leave, my influence over you departs as well. Studies have measured the effectiveness of teachers who were considered strict disciplinarians. Students in this setting were well behaved when the feared individual was in the room, yet when he or she departed, the classroom turned chaotic.
The opposite was true of instructors who viewed education as an opportunity to praise and encourage students: Their presence or absence from the room had almost no noticeable impact. This is a great thing to keep in mind if you’re a mother or father. That is, do you want your children to behave only when you’re around, or do you want them to have the self-discipline to conduct themselves wisely whether you’re there or not? I’ve always believed that parents are not for leaning upon, but rather exist to make leaning unnecessary.
The least effective means for managing others is to use tactics that will encourage them to despise you, for the moment they leave your sight, they’ll defy all that you say and stand for. Dictators almost always find this out the hard way, when the people they’ve abused rise up to threaten them in the same intolerable fashion in which they’ve been treated. Children who despise a parent similarly tend to emulate the hateful tactics to which they were subjected, or they detach themselves completely from that dictatorial adult and spend years attempting to heal the scars from the terrible treatment.
The enlightened leader trusts those whom he or she is in a position to govern. This view results in trust, as he or she who has faith in the people will be trusted by them in turn. Consequently, they’ll be able to say, “We did it ourselves.” So raise your children to be self-sufficient, to make their own decisions as soon as they’re able, and to feel pride in the decisions they do make. See yourself as an enlightened leader, and show the world a new type of leadership. Children who grow up with such a view will be the next generation of great leaders that Lao-tzu describes.