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July 17, 2023

"Doing nothing" or Wu Wei. Does that sound like an invitation to relax?

The concept of Wu Wei lies at the heart of Tao/Dao philosophy. Wu Wei means to follow our path by striving to behave as spontaneously as nature does. To adopt the attitude of the willow or bamboo bending in the wind, effortlessly, without resistance. This is the Wu Wei paradox. It doesn't mean not acting, it means "effortless action" or "action without action".

Non-action invites us to let ourselves be absorbed in the flow of things. It means, on the one hand, accepting the world as it is and, on the other, accepting ourselves and others as they are. The state of Wu Wei is like what we feel when we are in Flow.

Alan Watts' translation for Wu Wei is "not forcing", and I find myself more comfortable with this wording.

I have been practicing the Wu Wei principle (not knowing at the time that it was called that) while coordinating global projects and facilitating organizational change for a Fortune 500 companies. Looking back at those times, I believe Wu Wei supported me to faciliate change, paying close attention to people's needs and cultural differences. Coincidentally or not, one of the major projects I was part of was called TAO 😊 , and it was about moving globally to a single SAP platform (for those unfamiliar with this term, details here:

On an intuitive level, I adopted what I learned is called Dao Leadership, i.e. a water-like style of coordination, supervision.

Below, there are the five qualities of water that characterize a Daoist leadership style:

o   Water is selfless. All species and organisms depend on water. Without water, none of us could survive. In return, water gets almost nothing from us. Daoism holds that the ultimate goal of leaders is to serve their people without the desire to gain personal benefit.

o   Water is modest and humble. According to Lao Tzu, people who are humble and modest not only live in harmony with others but are also effective leaders. Lao Tzu said: "He/she who knows how to motivate people behaves with humility. And this is a virtue without rival".

o   Water is extremely adaptable and flexible. Genuine leaders should adapt to any situation, like water takes the shape of the container that holds it. An open, flexible mindset will allow the leader to adapt easily to the dynamics of change.

o   Water is transparent and clear. A true leader should be honest and communicate transparently.

o   Finally, water is gentle, but at the same time persistent, patient, strong. Water droplets that continue to fall on a rock over the years will erode even the hardest rock. Perseverance and patience will help the water to work its way through the rocks over time and 'nibble' away at the mountains.

Since 2019 I've been also wearing the coach’s hat, and so I cannot help asking you some questions 😊

o   Since last year, which of the five water qualities have you improved?

o   What skills do you value the most in a leader?

o   What have the recent global crises taught you about flexibility?

And finally, I invite you to reflect on the meaning of Alan Watts' words of wisdom, and, why not, write down on a piece of paper your personal approach to these words.

What I am really saying is that you don't need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy.

*** Article originally published for

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