From talking with Karsten the other day: the 17th chapter of the Dao De Jing (道德经) has long been one of my favorites, and captures a crucial part of my beliefs on what makes a good leader.

When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!"

It really loses something in translation (like conciseness! lots of conciseness!) but oh well. You can get a character-by-character translation here... you're looking for the heading that starts with 第十七章 ("17th chapter"). Pinyin without the tones (I'm lazy) follows each line.

太 上 , 不 知 有 之 ﹔ (tai shang, bu zhi you zhi)
其 次 , 亲 而 誉 之 ﹔ (qi ci, qin er yu zhi)
其 次 , 畏 之 ﹔ (qi ci, wei zhi)
其 次 , 侮 之 。(qi ci, wu zhi)
信 不 足 焉 , 有 不 信 焉 。(xin bu zu yan, you bu xin yan)
悠 兮 其 贵 言 。(you xi qi gui yan)
功 成 事 遂 , 百 姓 皆 谓 : 「 我 自 然 」 。(gong cheng shi sui, bai xing jie wei: "wo zi ran")

The Wikipedia summary on the theme of "knowlege and humility" is also good. I keep going "meh, it loses something in translation," and I know I'm missing tons of stuff in the translation (my Mandarin is awful, and this is written in old-skool Chinese, and it's an esoteric philosophical text to begin with), but the little I do understand seems to jive with this.

The Tao Te Ching praises self-gained knowledge with emphasis on that knowledge being gained with humility. When what one person has experienced is put into words and transmitted to others, so doing risks giving unwarranted status to what inevitably must have had a subjective tinge. Moreover, it will be subjected to another layer of interpretation and subjectivity when read and learned by others.

Trying to read this text is one of the first things that made me actually want to learn Chinese. It's still a driving motivation. Oh yeah, and the "actually communicate with people" thing - but that came later. I've never really had to talk to someone who only spoke Chinese, but I'd like to be forced to - I want to spend a year working in China, hopefully... quite soon.

Wow. Brain backlog clearing brings up the weirdest stuff.