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Taoism and its model of traits of successful leaders

Xuezhu Bai (Department of Research, China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, Shanghai, China)
William Roberts (Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue, Whistler, Canada)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




This paper aims at building up a comprehensive framework for integrating existing leadership theories from the perspective of Taoism, the well‐known oriental philosophy, characterized by a dialectic thinking system. With sufficient evidence demonstrated, it argues that a Taoism‐oriented model of leadership offers a complementary lens, through which leadership insights can be deepened, and may serve as an effective tool for adaptive leaders in a world where change is the only constant.


Through an in‐depth analysis of the principles of Taoism, and the concepts of leadership studies, it establishes a Taoism‐oriented model of leadership to integrate the current major schools of leadership studies.


The model of traits of successful leaders based on Taoism has satisfactorily solved the conflicts between different perspectives of leadership studies and provided a dynamic framework to guide leaders to keep up with the organizational changes.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is only a rudimentary one that needs further exploration: for example, when external contexts of leadership are introduced, the current model would appear, in different patterns, to accommodate greater contextual complexities.

Practical implications

The model of traits of successful leaders based on Taoism will contribute to a greater understanding of an organization for different leadership styles. It will potentially serve as an effective tool for the selection of appropriate leaders for an organization and for building up an effective leadership team to accommodate the rapid changes of the organization.


This paper is an initial attempt to bridge leadership studies of east and west via the perspective of Taoism, which contributes to an integrating framework to accommodate different schools of leadership studies.



Bai, X. and Roberts, W. (2011), "Taoism and its model of traits of successful leaders", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 30 No. 7/8, pp. 724-739.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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