Leadership lessons from Confucius: constant renewal

constant renewal

子曰:「夷狄之有君,不如諸夏之亡也。」
Confucius said: “Even the Yi and Di tribes that have chieftains can’t match the various states in our land that don’t have rulers.” (1)

The culture of an organization requires constant renewal in order to stay strong and vibrant. That means it needs to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking from people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Narrow-mindedness leads to arrogance and atrophy in an organization. As a leader, you are responsible for making sure that it remains humble and agile.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 5 of Book 3 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 3 here.

(1) This is one of the most controversial passages in the Analects. The Yi and Di tribes lived to the north and east of China and followed different cultural traditions and practices than the Han Chinese. Although there is no justification for translating the term 夷狄 (yídí) as “barbarians” as some Western scholars have, Confucius is guilty of cultural chauvinism here with his suggestion that the political structures of the two peoples were not as sophisticated as those of the various states that existed in China at the time.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Beijing. You can read more about it here.

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