Purpose and Integrity for Sustainable Success in Turbulent Times

The Art of Leadership: Integrity

Sections 50–55

Erik Schön
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)
7 min readJan 2, 2021


Photo: Natalie Rhea/Unsplash

What is leadership? Why is this important? How do you lead successfully? The Art of Leadership provides timeless answers to these eternal questions. It is a modern reading of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching — a guide for sustainable success in turbulent times. All parts. Other reading formats.

50. Truly Set on Living

Lao Tzu

In the cycle of life and death:
companions of life are one third,
companions of death are one third,
one third are set on living, they slide from life to death.

How come?
They are too set on living.

Those truly set on living:
cross the country, facing rhinos and tigers;
enter war without weapons or shields;
rhinos have nowhere to jab;
tigers have nowhere to stick;
opponents have nowhere to pierce.

How come?
Those truly set on living are without mortal spots.

Chuang Tzu

Those who understand purpose certainly have a penetrating familiarity with the overall pattern of things; those who understand this pattern certainly know how to deal with contingencies. And those who know how to deal with contingencies will not find themselves harmed by other things.

For those of the very best character, fire cannot burn them, water cannot drown them, heat and cold cannot harm them, birds and beasts cannot hurt them. This is not to say they don’t pay any attention to such things, but rather that because they are alert to danger, secure amid changing fortunes, and careful in their undertakings, nothing is able to do them harm.


Those who know how to live don’t display the intention of defending their lives by taking the lives of others, so they are no threats. Since they are unwilling to defend their lives, those lives seem to be of no value to others. Therefore others are not eager to take them.

51. Integrity

Lao Tzu

Purpose is created,
integrity nurtures it.
Conditions are created,
momentum completes them.

Therefore, everyone
honours purpose;
respects integrity.
Purpose is honoured,
integrity is respected
since they enable
self-organisation without pressure and control.

Purpose is created;
integrity nurtures it,

Create without owning;
act without pressure and control,
nurture without orders.

This is ultimate effectiveness.

François Jullien

Integrity is interpreted by the verb that means “to obtain”. Integrity is something that is effective. It does not take over what it helps to exist (it remains uninvolved); it acts through action that is neither dependant nor expectant of any return (without applying pressure); it makes things develop (but without exerting authority).

Roger T. Ames

Momentum is an abstract field formed by tangible factors such as equipment and logistics and intangible factors such as timing and psychology that constantly shifts according to what is happening in the environment; making the most of favourable conditions and tilting the scales in our favour.

Denma Group

Momentum of a particular situation is changing as a consequence of shifting conditions. It is as if we were placing weights along a beam whose balance point is always in motion. From assessments and foreknowledge, the fulcrum is more easily found.

Momentum is like looking at a chessboard: the effectiveness of a position is read in terms of the relative power of certain pieces, the strength of their setup, their relationship to the opponent and also their potential to turn into something else. Add the particular psychological disposition of the opponent. All these are aspects of momentum. They are analytically distinguishable and a chess players sees them all at once. The world is more complex than multi-dimensional chess.

Derek M.C. Yuen

Create suitable conditions for an advantageous momentum to develop as a consequence. This conditions–consequences approach is complementary to the classic Western ends (objectives) — ways (courses of actions) — means (re- sources) approach to strategy which, although valuable for initial planning, is far from optimal in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environments with stakeholders having different, potentially conflicting purposes. For an outcome to be realised effectively, it follows as a consequence of a process which transforms a situation rather than a goal that leads to actions.

Unlike the ends–ways–means approach which involves a predetermined plan (course of actions) that is liable to disintegrate when put into practice facing stakeholders, the conditions–consequences approach is designed to leave as little room for chance as possible. This is done by identifying favourable factors before they have developed and creating suitable conditions in advance, and, in this way enable evolution in a suitable direction.

There are three distinct advantages of the conditions–consequences approach to strategy compared to the traditional ends-ways-means approach when circumstances (landscape, climate, stakeholders, organisation, . . . ) change as they invariably will in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment:

  • It helps avoid being locked into a predetermined course of actions.
  • It helps avoid constant re-planning when there is too big a difference
    between reality and plan.
  • It helps avoid being locked into bringing about one single, predetermined

52. Back To the Beginning

Lao Tzu

The beginning of everything
is the mother of everything.
Once you know the mother,
you know the children.
Once you know the children,
guard the mother
and be safe until life ends.

Close your eyes
and thrive until life ends.
Open your eyes and use pressure
and struggle until life ends.

Seeing the small is real insight;
safeguarding the weak is real strength.
Seeing how things reveal themselves;
relying on insight
in order to prosper.

This is embracing purpose.

Derek M.C. Yuen

Reality is constantly evolving.

By embracing purpose, it is possible to embrace variations in circumstances, which marks an important step toward a system of variation that is capable of replacing all models.

53. Thieves’ Purpose

Lao Tzu

When having some knowledge of purpose,
only stray paths bring fear.
Although the path to purpose is smooth,
people prefer shortcuts.

When an organisation is divided
fields are weedy;
vaults are empty;
clothes are gorgeous;
weapons are worn;
food is binged;
treasures are hoarded.

This is called thieves’ purpose,
avoid confusing it with purpose.

Ames & Hall

One explanation for people getting lost along the way is of their own making: They are tempted from the straight and narrow by beckoning byways and shortcuts.

54. Well Planted, Well Embraced

Lao Tzu

Well planted, rooted;
well embraced, saved.
Heirs will continue
the family habits.

Maintain self:
integrity becomes real;
maintain family:
integrity becomes abundant;
maintain community:
integrity becomes enduring;
maintain society:
integrity becomes prolific;
maintain the world:
integrity becomes universal.

through self, contemplate others;
through family, contemplate families;
through community, contemplate communities;
through society, contemplate societies;
through the world, contemplate past and future worlds.

How do I know?
From this!

Stefan Stenudd

If you want to understand others, you must start by understanding yourself. It works the opposite way as well. If you want to understand yourself, compare with what you learn from watching others.

Integrity should be cultivated, and not preached. One needs to find it within oneself, in one’s search for purpose. Otherwise, integrity is ill planted and ill held, so it will be uprooted and escape.

Integrity is no simple rule to memorize, but an endeavor of growing insight. It’s a time-consuming quest.

Margaret Mead

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

55. The Baby’s Integrity

Lao Tzu

A person with integrity is like a baby:
wasps and vipers avoid stinging it;
tigers avoid stalking it;
eagles avoid attacking it.
Soft bones, weak muscles, tight grip;
ignorant of the union of man and woman,
its vital energy complete.
Screaming all day without getting hoarse,
its harmony complete.

Knowing harmony is endurance.
knowing endurance is insight.
On the other hand,
striving to increase life is dangerous,
forcing you to use energy needlessly.
Beings prosper and age naturally;
going against this is going against purpose.

Go against purpose and the end is near.

Ames & Hall

Vitality is managing one’s energy effectively across the seasons of one’s lifetime. The newly born child is an image of the fullness of potency: a robustness that makes it immune from environing evils.

What gives the baby its vigour is its capacity to respond from the centre, being supple, yet firm, flexible yet potent. The baby, unconsciously and without motivation, is the embodiment of harmony and equilibrium.

Robert G. Henricks

When people reach their prime, they are inclined to want more of life, to show off their strength, and to use their minds to control their lives. But this leads to using up and wasting away one’s vital powers and hence the start of old age.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Purpose is more than the cycle of any individual life. We rise, flourish, fail. Purpose never fails. We are waves. It is the sea.

The Art of Leadership: All Parts

Contents: A very short summary of all parts
Introduction: How to make a difference

Glossary: Explanation of key terms
Acknowledgements: Standing on the shoulders of giants
Sources: Where to learn more
Other reading formats: Hardcover, paperback and PDF



Erik Schön
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)

From hacker, software researcher, system engineer to leader, executive, strategizer. Writer: #ArtOfChange #ArtOfLeadership #ArtOfStrategy http://yokosopress.se