One single saying

定公問:「一言而可以興邦,有諸?」孔子對曰:「言不可以若是其幾也!人之言曰:『為君難,為臣不易。』如知為君之難也,不幾乎一言而興邦乎?」曰:「一言而喪邦,有諸?」孔子對曰:「言不可以若是其幾也!人之言曰:『予無樂乎為君,唯其言而莫予違也。』如其善而莫之違也,不亦善乎?如不善而莫之違也,不幾乎一言而喪邦乎?」
Duke Ding asked: “Is there one single saying that can ensure the prosperity of a country?” Confucius replied: “No single saying could have such an effect. There is a saying, however: ‘It is difficult to be a ruler, it is not easy to be a minister.’ A saying that could make the ruler understand the difficulty of his task would come close to ensuring the prosperity of the country.” “Is there one single saying that can ruin a country?” Confucius replied: “No single saying could have such an effect. There is a saying, however: ‘There is nothing I love more about being a ruler than never having to be contradicted.’ If you are right and nobody contradicts you, that’s great; but if you are wrong and nobody contradicts you, then would this not come close to being a case of a ‘single saying that can ruin a country?’”

Great leaders approach their task with humility. They do not underestimate the complexity of the challenges they face and they welcome the opinions of others.

How many young leaders have started out with such ideals only to end their days in loneliness and paranoia after losing sight of them due to the harsh realities of power?

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