The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu once proclaimed, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”. Though his words are over 2,000 years old, Tzu realized a significant need that persists in today’s society. With countless Hollywood stars, idolized presidents, and televised preachers leading America into the 21st century, the country still lacks another powerful leader, the silent leader. The greatest impacts are made when people don’t feel as if they are being led- they barely know a leader is among them. I consider myself to be a silent leader; not only does this role coincide with my refrained personality, but it also fits my position as a Christian teenager and allows me to guide others my age on the path of improving our community.
Lao Tzu stands as an immortal leader through his founding of Taoism, a religion directed by a singular “principle” of life. Taoism revolves around the idea of meditation, a deeply refrained, reflexive practice. Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. asserted influence through vehement speeches; however Tzu demonstrated an overwhelming influence found in complete silence. This hushed method of guiding others fits my own gentle personality. My small demeanor and tranquil disposition hardly prevent me from exerting dominance over others with fervent words and vigorous action, but rather match my preferred method of leading others by simply setting an example and then getting behind them to nudge in the right direction. This particular manner of leadership doesn’t prompt much recognition or reward for the leader, but lets the followers say “we did it ourselves” and be all the more fulfilled.
As a 17 year old girl, I hardly have anything in common with an ancient Chinese Taoist from the Zhou Dynasty. In fact, I am a deeply committed Christian with a strong conviction for helping others. My faith and desire to aid those in need dictate the direction in which I choose to lead others. As a teenager, I don’t expect to publish an inspirational book like Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching” to convey my visions, but I am able to lead those my age in my community. I lead groups of students to volunteer to pack care boxes to be distributed to less fortunate families, to serve in soup kitchens, to ring bells for Salvation Army, to cheer for multiple charity races, to spend time with the elderly, and more. My chosen path of service and coaxing others in this direction ultimately improves the community while also bettering the volunteers’ lives, instilling Tzu’s thoughts, “kindness in giving creates words”. As a subtle leader with objectives like these, I make a positive impact on the community despite my age.
Some see silence as weakness. Some see it as passivity or submissiveness. Lao Tzu- and I- observe “silence is a source of great strength”. I believe the most powerful leaders do not ask for recognition; they lead by extraordinary examples and overwhelming compassion; they carry influence in actions over words; they are silent in the loudest of ways. I model my leadership after this philosophy and consider the world to, in fact, need me very much, because, though scarcely audible, my impact is significant.