Our eighth foundational principle, perhaps a portentous number given the quote's provenance, comes from Verse/Chapter 67 of the Tao Te Ching:
"Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be generous; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men*."
There are many translations of this verse, and some perhaps more exact than the one above which I believe to be the most Westernized "self help" version. And then there's Ursula K. Le Guin's pseudo-translation, which is probably the most poetic but also the furthest interpreted.
I think she's directionally correct. I invite you to interpret the "three treasures" widely:
The first is gentleness, kindness, compassion, mercy, love. The second is frugality, moderation, economy, temperance. The third is modesty, meekness, respectfulness, humility.
I've underlined what Le Guin chooses: mercy, moderation, modesty. Three m's make for a good mnemonic.
As we work with potential leaders of companies this is profound advice. Leadership is granted, not taken. To lead, you have to have a good reason for be granted leadership - a compelling vision for the path, a method of getting there, a way of enabling people to collaborate. And in this, "compassion wins the battle and holds the fort."
Leadership is first and foremost about the people that you lead - the duty bestowed on you is to them, and the only way to do right by people is to see their innermost essence and will yourself to want the best for them. Leadership is not an ego game; it is about love.
The second "treasure" is moderation. To lead you need temperance - in character, in your marshaling of resources, in your stewardship and captaincy. Frugality is the necessary condition for generosity where it matters. It, too, is an outgrowth of compassion, of love.
And finally, modesty or humility. To recognize that you have talents that may not have been bestowed on others. That yours then is a path of enabling others to reach their full potential. That to lead is not to grab the reigns, not to rush to the front. There can be a competition between truths, between opinions. But the greatest leaders are humble in their greatness. They put their teams first, their customers first, their products first. It is them that they serve. True leadership is a calling of service, above all.
This is the way: mercy, moderation, modesty. These are not popular virtues in our time.
Founders first. Always.
#1 No fear, no greed
#2 We're the coach, not the athlete
#3 It is only with the heart that one can see rightly
#4 Energy attracts like energy
#5 “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
#6 "Love people, not things. Use things, not people.”
#7 Ask, don't tell.