Group Coaching & The Tao of Leadership

Said to be by the great Lao-Tzu, the ‘Tao’ is essentially a book of how to govern; how to lead well. At its heart lies the proposition that flowing in and around everything is a paradoxical essence, called the Tao, and good leadership is about working in the same direction as subtle energy.

“When the Master governs, the people

are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is a leader who is loved

Next, one who is feared

The worst is one who is despised.

If you don’t trust the people,

you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.

When his work is done,

the people say, “Amazing:

we did it, all by ourselves!”

 In one group coaching session, I was working with a group of five top managers who were meeting together to discuss the restructuring of one of the business. Each had a strong view about what they saw as the correct approach and each was as forthright as the next. Needless to say, the meeting quickly degenerated into an argument.

Giving them the opportunity to pause and reflect, I read to them the this passage from the Tao:

“Governing a large country

is like frying a small fish.

You spoil it with too much poking.”


This team began to recognise that the way they shared their visions and blended them together were as important as the value of the individual visions themselves. I feel proud of them when I relate to you that ‘are we poking the fish?’ has become a question used as part of their everyday vernacular!


‘Tao Te Ching – the Book of the Way’, Translated by Stephen Mitchell, paperback, published by Kyle Cathie.


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