Leadership lessons from Confucius: creating unity

Temple of Yan Hui: unity

子曰:「君子周而不比,小人比而不周。」
The Master said: “A leader creates unity without taking sides. A petty person takes sides without creating unity.”

There are always going to be naysayers sniping away in the background when you implement a new initiative, but that shouldn’t discourage you from going ahead with it. Your role as a leader as a leader is to rise above the negativity and generate unity around your plan.

That doesn’t mean ignoring honest differences of opinion or justified objections, of course. If you discuss them openly and frankly, you will find a way of establishing common ground for resolving them. Indeed, such discussions will generally result in better ideas and stronger team unity.

As for those who are secretly hoping that you’ll fail, simply ignore them. You have much more important matters to spend your precious time and energy on.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 14 of Book 2 of The Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 2 here.

Confucius is often found comparing the qualities of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) with the behavior of a petty person (小人/xiǎorén) in The Analects. This term could also be translated as small, small-minded, or perhaps even mediocre.

Another image of the Temple of Yan Hui in Qufu. I can’t recommend this place enough. You can read more about it here.

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