Tao 39

It is wholeness that makes
The sky clear,
The earth stable,
And the riverside fertile.

If this balance is lost to dearth or excess
the sky might rage with storms,
the earth might quake and split,
the river might dry up or flood its banks.

It is the same with leaders.

One displays true leadership by being responsible and humble,
Not aloof like a stone nor pompous like a glittering jewel.
The true leader is only a leader in that they are followed,
And leads by example rather than decree.

Being virtuous, the leader embodies a wholeness that inspires followers to their own virtue,
Whereupon the labels of “leader” and “follower” fall into disuse.

All 81 chapters of our version of the Tao Te Ching are available online for free here. If you are so inclined, an updated version of our translation is available as an e-book, here.


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