A Leader is Best When People Barely Know He Exists

Lao-tse (c. 565 B.C.), on leadership:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Not so good when people obey and acclaim him. Worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done his aim fulfilled they will say: ‘We did it ourselves.'”

This quote does an awesome job of capturing the purpose of leadership and of servant leadership. A leader’s success is not about external accolades or success, although they provide good feedback to a leader and help measure progress. A leader’s success is about the team. At Interstates, it is about our Interstates Family. It is about setting the direction and then aligning the team around that direction. Leaders provide encouragement, feedback, support, empowerment and motivation so people will take chances. All of this helps the team accomplish the goal. And all of it is related to SAM/POC/GRAD leadership, which is taught in various training programs at Interstates.

To provide a little perspective, we have used SAM/POC/GRAD for almost 20 years. That is a long time, right? Getting back to the quote… I first heard it in an interview with Bud Grant, former coach of the Minnesota Vikings. It was in 1982 or so. Yes, I am showing my age. Coach Grant had it memorized and said he used it throughout his professional career (1950’s to 1980’s). The quote is from Lao-Tse (565 B.C.). Now, that is a long time – pretty humbling. And it still applies today; great leadership can be simple and it can have a huge impact on people, teams, and clients.

During the next 5 days, think about your team and the fundamentals of leadership. Then, act on those fundamentals by using SAM/POC/GRAD once a day for 5 days. Keep leading the Interstates Way!


Scott Peterson, Interstates CEO


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