The Pole Star

子曰:「為政以德,譬如北辰,居其所而眾星共之。」
Confucius said: “A ruler who governs by the power of virtue is like the Pole Star, which remains fixed in place while all the other stars orbit respectfully around it.”

Book 2 of the Analects opens with one of Confucius’s most famous sayings on leadership. The role of the leader is set a shining example to everyone through their virtue (德/dé), a term which can be extended to mean moral power.

To throw in a modern management cliché, if the leader walks the walk the people in the organization will readily follow them. If the leader just talks the talk, however, the people will lose their confidence in them and the culture of the organization will become cynical and divided.

As the Pole Star, the leader has to understand that their every action will be carefully scrutinized and the culture of the organization will be negatively impacted if they fail to live up their stated values. They have to learn to lead by example.

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