Lao Tzu- What the Old Master can teach us about Organizational transformation

Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher who lived during the 5th or 6th century BC. Considered one of the most important thinkers ever, Lao Tzu created the seminal work ‘Tao Te Ching’- a foundational work of Taoist philosophy. The teachings in Tao Te Ching have been so influential that shades of them could even be found in major religions like Buddhism.

However,  Lao Tzu’s teachings have a wider resonance outside of philosophical and religious domains. A keen observer of movements of the mind and the trajectories that life takes under different mindsets, his teachings are especially relevant to organizations in transformation.


Transformation, from one form to another, simple & elegant-like the old master’s teachings

The name ‘Lao Tzu’ literally translates as ‘Old teacher.’ This is rather fitting, given how leaders and change agents would do well to take heed of the master’s words. For in them are wisdom that shed lights in the dark, and insights which helps you see things in a new light.

Over and above all, his words are meaningful enough to fuel powerful transformations in organizations.

This is the first in a series of posts inspired by Lao Tzu’s teachings that connect to transformation and other  aspects of business relevant to modern leaders and change agents.

So, without further ado.. 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

The first step is almost always the hardest. Perhaps because you’re unsure if the journey would go as well as you planned. Or maybe because you are still unclear about the destination and fear that the journey may not end any time soon. Whatever be the reason that pulls you back, overcoming hesitation becomes a formidable challenge.

In modern organizations, a leader may confront the need for a transformation. And yet, s/he may be hesitant to kick start the transformation, fearing ambiguities. The thing to understand here is that while such fears and apprehensions are all too human, the risk of not embarking on a much needed transformation for a better work culture and higher profits far outweigh any such apprehensions.

So, it’s best not to delay that pivotal first step.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” 

This line exemplifies one of the most lovable quality of La Tzu- an uncanny ability to fuse wisdom with quirkiness. On the face of it, the line sounds prosaic-a mere statement of fact. But if you step back, you would see that it’s also an attempt at pointing out something that you may have not been conscious of. 

You are on a certain path. The landscape is blank now but in some time, you would enter a domain of danger from which it would be hard to get out unscathed. Since you have been traversing through the same bland landscape for long, you have been lulled into the belief that the idea of danger ahead is fiction. That’s when Lao Tzu’s words become important- a reminder that the the danger ahead is indeed real.

A reminder that you should transform, take a different path, and move towards a better destination.

“When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

A leader’s task is multipronged. This becomes even more evident in times of organization’s transformation. Not only should the leader lead the others in the organizations in an inclusive manner through the transformation, s/he should also remain inspired.

This is possible only if the leader has realized their True Personal Vision.

True Personal Vision is the vision that’s innate to an individual. The beauty of this vision is that in the whole wide world, it could only be found in your own self and nowhere else. Unfortunately, this vision could become obscured from your own view thanks to the numerous distractions of everyday.  

This makes the leader blind in a sense because it’s the vision that would act as a guiding lamp for him/her.

But if s/he realizes True Personal Vision, it not just acts as a perennial source of personal inspiration, a pointer in the right direction for when you are lost, but it also enables you to inspire and lead the rest of the organization one a path of greater prosperity. In fact, the vision is all-encompassing enough that it becomes everyone’s passionate pursuit to achieve it, making them truly say, “We did it ourselves.”



The obvious question that now needs to be answered is how you could realize your True Personal Vision.

Temenos Vision Lab or TVL is a unique session developed by Temenos+Agility which helps you do just that. Developed based on 25 years of business consultancy experience, TVL has some of the best leadership and transformation coaches guiding you to your True Personal Vision.

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