Wu Wei – Thoughts from 2005

This is an interesting blog on appreciative inquiry and non-action — not “inaction” – that is, refusing to act and therefore freezing a situation in a troublesome stagnancy. It’s an interesting idea about leadership — honoring the need to learn, to listen and to observe. Something many of us think we have no time for — until our actions lead us into a cul-de-sac that was preventable…. He writes, quoting Donella Meadows’ book, Dancing With Systems…
“Get the beat; before you disturb a system, watch how it behaves; study its beat, watch it work,
Stay humble. Stay a learner; …trust intuition more and figuring-out rationality less,
Listen to the wisdom of the system; …don’t be an unthinking intervener… Rather, pay attention to the value of what’s already there and help the system run itself. [7]”

tether abundance

Applying the Ancient Concept of Wu Wei to Modern Leadership

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but…to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”[1] – Dorothy Nevill

 The premise of leaving words unsaid and non-action, or wu wei as per Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching, seems paradoxical in the context of the modern world’s organizations predilection for high productivity.   Yet, the urgency to take action can lead to unintended impact and even harmful unforeseen consequences.   Instead, becoming internally directed by “continually examining [our] own hypocrisy and closing the gaps between [our] values and behaviour,”[2]  and engaging in reflective action is the way to determine the optimal leverage points for action. 

There are many contemporary references to the need for and application of the non-action principle as an integral component of leadership.   Robert Quinn’s Fundamental State of Leadership described…

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  1. tiltabilities · · Reply

    Thank you Carol, for reblogging my post and your comments. 🙂


    1. You’re welcome. I really enjoyed your interesting take on leadership. Have you read the Dalai Lama’s book on leadership? Some wonderful insights into meditation, community and values-based leadership.


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