102 Incredibly Wise Lao Tzu Leadership Quotes

Here are the very best Lao Tzu leadership quotes if you want to learn more about leadership or become a better leader yourself.


Who is Lao Tzu?

Lao Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher, poet, and the founder of philosophical Taoism, a philosophy of thought and also a religion. The name “Lao Tzu” translates to “Old Master”.

He is also the author of the Tao Te Ching, a 5,000 character account of his thoughts and philosophical ideas that ultimately capture the wisdom of Lao Tzu himself.

The Tao Te Ching is a book of poetry that, according to WorldHistory.org, “is an attempt to remind people that they are connected to others and to the earth and that everyone could live together peacefully if people would only be mindful of how their thoughts and actions affect themselves, others, and the earth.”

Great leaders of today still refer to Lao Tzu’s beautiful words, for his words of wisdom and ancient teachings still very much apply in today’s world.

Even though Lao Tzu is said to be the author of Tao Te Ching, many modern scholars actually doubt Lao Tzu even existed.

Instead, they believe that Lao Tzu’s words and ancient wisdom is a compilation of wise sayings created by various people over a long time.


What is Taoism?

Taoism, according to WorldHistory.org, is a Chinese philosophy founded by Lao Tzu in 6th century B.C. Taoism became the official religion of China under the Tang Dynasty, and is therefore a philosophy and a religion, and still a religion practiced throughout Chinese culture today.

Taoism “emphasizes doing what is natural and ‘going with the flow’ in accordance with the Tao, a cosmic force which flows through all things and binds and releases them.”

As the founder of Taoism, according to famousphilosophers.org, Lao Tzu was “against putting effort and striving, as he thought struggle is not only futile but also hinders productivity. In his theory of ‘wu-wei’, he advises to simply do nothing.

By this he means not to go against the forces of nature, wait for the gush of events nature brings to you and dive right in.”

In other words, spontaneous changes and life flows are inevitable, so it’s better not to have fixed plans or a fixed mindset as you go through life, and also that you should embrace simplicity.


This post is all about 102 incredibly wise Lao Tzu leadership quotes. 

good traveler


102 Incredibly Wise Lao Tzu Leadership Quotes

This collection of quotes are the best Lao Tzu quotes and words of wisdom that can provide all leaders a source of great strength.


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

2. “Bring out the best in yourself, and you will bring out the best in others.”

3. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

4. “The wise person leads by remaining in the background.”

5. “If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them.”

6. “Plan for the difficult while it is still easy. The greatest things in the world are done while still slight. So wise leaders never do big things; that’s how they achieve greatness.”

7. “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”

8. “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”

9. “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

10. “Great acts are made up of small deeds.”

11. “Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”

12. “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”

13. “A leader is best When people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, They will say, “We did this ourselves.”

14. “Act without expectation.”

15. “Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment”

16. “To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”

17. “I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.”

18. “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”

19. “To know that you do not know is the best. To think you know when you do not is a disease. Recognizing this disease as a disease is to be free of it.”

20. “Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness.”

21. “The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.”

22. “The wise man is one who knows what he does not know.”

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

24. “Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.”

25. “Accomplish but do not boast, accomplish without show, accomplish without arrogance, accomplish without grabbing, accomplish without forcing.”

26. In conflict, be fair and generous.

27. “She does not show herself, and therefore is apparent. She does not affirm herself, and therefore is acknowledged. She does not boast and therefore has merit. She does not strive and therefore is successful. It is exactly because she does not contend, that nobody can contend with her.”

28. “Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here.”

29. “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.”

30. “He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”

31. “Rushing into action, you fail. Trying to grasp things, you lose them. Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe.”

32. “Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.”

33. “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”

34. “One who is too insistent on his own views finds few to agree with him.”

35. “A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.”

36. “Take care with the end as you do with the beginning.”

37. “If you are untrustworthy, people will not trust you.”

38. “The Wise Man is square but not sharp, honest but not not malign, straight but not severe, bright but not dazzling.”

39. “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

40. “Boasting of wealth and virtue brings your demise.”

41. “When the work is done, and one’s name is becoming distinguished, to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven.”

42. “When you accept yourself, the whole world accepts you.”

43. “Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place. When you handle the master carpenter’s tools, chances are that you’ll cut your hand.”

44. “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.”

45. “The way of heaven is to help and not harm.”

46. “A skillful soldier is not violent, an able fighter does not rage, a mighty conqueror does not give battle, a great commander is a humble man.”

47. “When wealth and honors lead to arrogancy, this brings its evil on itself.”

48. “The moral man does something, and when no one responds, he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.”

49. “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled.”

50. “If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself.”


More Lao Tzu Inspirational Quotes


51. “Composure is the ruler of instability.”

52. “Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained.”

53. “Because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her.”

54. “All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small.”

55. “The sage shuns excess, shuns grandiosity, shuns arrogance.”

56. “The best of all leaders is the one who helps people so that eventually they don’t need him.”

57. “Manage affairs before they are in a mess.”

58. “The ruler attains wholeness in the correct governance of the people.”

59. “He who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him.”

60. “Too much brightness blinds the eyes. Too much sound deafens the ears. Too much flavor ruins the tongue. Chasing desires to excess turns your mind towards madness, and valuing precious things impairs good judgment.”

61. “To avoid disappointment, know what is sufficient. To avoid trouble, know when to stop.”

62. “No calamity greater than to be discontented with one’s lot.”

63. “When I let go of who I am, I become who I might be.”

64. “Creating without claiming. Doing without taking credit. Guiding without interfering. This is primal virtue.”

65. “It is through their not being full of themselves that they can afford to seem worn and not appear new and complete.”

66. “Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.”

67. “Stand by your word. Govern with equity. Serve skillfully. Act in a timely way, without contentiousness, free of blame.”

68. “Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves.”

69. “The giant tree starts out as the tiniest shoot, the tallest tower starts out as a single brick, the longest journey starts with the first step.”

70. “All in the world think themselves great, but the great are not concerned. Indeed, only by not being concerned can they be great. If they cared about being great, they’d eventually become petty.”

71. “Anything great is long in making.”

72. “If you don’t stand sincere by your words, how sincere can the people be? Take great care over words, treasure them.”

73. “Keep your mind deep. Treat others well. Stand by your word. Make fair rules. Do the right thing. Work when it’s time.”

74. “He assists in developing people but he does not presume ownership over them.”

75. “When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad. Being and non-being create each other.”

76. “The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be.”

77. “Do not shine like jade, instead be humble like a rock.”

78. “He who stands on tiptoe doesn’t stand firm. He who rushes ahead doesn’t go far. He who tries to shine dims his own light. He who defines himself can’t know who he really is. He who has power over others can’t empower himself. He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures.”

79. “The masters were said to be profound because they show the greatest wisdom when comfortable in Life’s mysterious and unknown depths.”

80. “The best athlete wants his opponent at his best.”

81. “If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.”

82. “When the people are too foolish to recognize danger, disaster will surely come.”

83. “Great talents mature slowly.”

84. “The wise humble themselves—and because of their humility, they are worthy of praise. They put others first, and so become great. They are not focused on outcomes or achievements; therefore they always succeed.”

85. “To recognize your insignificance is empowering.”

86. “Let your workings remain a mystery. Just show people your results.”

87. “Guidance creates, nurtures, develops, matures, brings to fruition, nourishes, sustains, and shelters. It is creative without possessiveness, constructive without conceit, develops without coercion.”

88. “Good people do not quarrel. Quarrelsome people are not good.”

89. “Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking-place of failure; but who can tell when the turning-point will come?”

90. “Who thinks his great achievements poor shall find his vigor long endure.”

91. “There is no greater illusion than fear.”

92. “The wise do not appear great among others; and so they reveal their true greatness.”

93. “The earth and the stars do not take sides—they are impartial. They regard all individuals as insignificant, as though they were playthings made of straw. The wise are also impartial; to them all people are equal and alike.”

94. “The wise attend to the inner truth of things and are not fooled by outward appearances.”

95. “When well-matched armies come to conflict, the one that is aware of its own weakness conquers.”

96. “To know that there are some things you cannot know is wisdom.”

97. “Gentle flexibility is the way of the humble master.”

98. “Tell me and I’ll listen, show me and I’ll watch, let me experience and I’ll learn.”

99. “Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.”

100. “To give birth, to nourish, to bear and not to own, to act and not lay claim, to lead and not to rule: this is mysterious power.”

101. “The Master leads by emptying people’s minds and filling their cores, by weakening their ambition and toughening their resolve.”

102. “At the center of your being, you have the answer.”


What is your favorite Lao Tzu leadership quote? My favorite is:

“There is no greater illusion than fear.”


This post was all about 102 Lao Tzu leadership quotes.


Other posts you might like:


Join the Imperfect Taylor Newsletter!

Stay in the know! Every week you’ll receive new blog posts that help you on your personal development journey – from mindset & money to health & career – no topic’s off limits.

Imperfect Taylor in a coffee shop.
Email Address
Picture of About Taylor

About Taylor

A few years after graduating college, Taylor made it her mission to become debt free. After paying off all $60k of debt, she began to blog about what she's really passionate about: personal development. Nowadays, Taylor blogs about the topics of Mindset, Money, Health, and Career for women. Read more about Taylor here.

"It's Per$onal" is a super popular and anonymous blog series about the personal lives and finances of women all over the world. Check it out!

If you like this post, you might like these, too!