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Excerpted from Tao of Personal Leadership by Diane Dreher. Copyright © 1997 by Diane Dreher. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Great leaders inspire us with a vision of further possibilities."

  Diane Dreher, Tao of Personal Leadership, Part 1

Composed during the warring-states period in ancient China, the Tao Te Ching was drawn from Lao-tzu's close observations of nature. It has endured because its principles are as real today as they were twenty-five centuries ago. 

The Tao reveals the wisdom of living systems, describing the patterns of energy within and around us. The Chinese call this vital energy Qi, and the Japanese call it Ki. It is life itself, which flows in dynamic patterns throughout all existence. The ebb and flow of the tides, the phases of the moon, the changes of the seasons, all are variations on the cycles that occur not only in the natural world, but in individuals, families, relationships, institutions, and nations. Designed as a handbook for leaders, the Tao Te Ching can help us make wiser choices by being mindful of these patterns.

Much has been written in recent years about the difference between managers and leaders. Managers handle the day-to-day operations of business. Supervising workers, they make sure that people perform as expected: providing services, manufacturing goods, filling orders, or making deliveries. Managers handle budgets, keep offices running, and generally maintain the status quo, whereas leaders are men and women of vision, who see how the daily details fit into larger patterns of significance. 

Good leaders plan ahead, facilitate change, and develop their people and their institutions. Great leaders inspire us with a vision of further possibilities. They share their vision and challenge us to develop our own, joining with us to fulfill our highest human potential. Great leaders have always had the vision of living systems, the wisdom of Tao.

Research on leadership has been informed in this century by general systems theory, which originated in the 1940s and 1950s, when researchers in engineering, mathematics, and physics observed that an organism or mechanism functions as a unified whole. A change in one part results in a corresponding change in the whole system as it adjusts to regain balance, or homeostasis. 

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