Wu Wei (无为) lies at the heart of Confucianism. It lies at the heart of Taoism. And it lies at the heart of Zen Buddhism. In each case, the meaning is different.
Wu Wei: No action.
Coming from a Western mindset, it is one of those terms that makes no sense. We see ourselves defined by our ego, an ego that acts upon the world to achieve goals. That is how we define our identity.
Confucius talked about wu wei as the supreme behavior of an emperor as they lead their nation. Where there is a silent guiding. Where a harmonious balance can be achieved.
Loa Tzu spoke of wu wei as a way of being. Where we live our lives as if floating down the river. Observing, accepting, letting go. But all with a clarity of intention.
In Zen, the meaning wu wei was extended, referring to the nothingness of nirvana, the emptiness of non-being. That mystery which is said to lie at the center of the ensō.
When wu wei leadership is practiced in a business or a classroom, action is gently guided and learning is actively supported. Motivation is from purpose, not as a reaction to fear. The dynamics are fluid. The systems are complex. There is a vitality that is palpable. There is no ego.