Leadership lessons from Confucius: a rising tide lifts all boats

a rising tide

子貢曰:「如有博施於民,而能濟眾,何如?可謂仁乎?」子曰:「何事於仁,必也聖乎!堯舜其猶病諸!夫仁者,己欲立而立人,己欲達而達人。能近取譬,可謂仁之方也已。」
Zigong said: “What about someone who acts generously towards the people and benefits the masses? Could that be described as goodness?” Confucius said: “Why stop at calling it goodness? It could be defined as perfection. Even Yao and Shun wouldn’t be able to match it! Good people help others get on their feet while establishing their own career; they help others to achieve their goals while achieving their own objectives. By standing in other people’s shoes, it can be said that they’re on the right track to goodness.” (1) (2)

A rising tide lifts all boats. Leadership is not just about improving your own effectiveness but also that of everyone around you. It requires building a platform that enables everyone to learn and grow.

No one is an island. It’s only by working together for the good of all that we can reach our individual potential.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 30 of Book 6 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 6 here.

(1) You can read more about the follower Zigong here.

(2) Yao (堯) and Shun (舜) were two of the five legendary sage kings believed to have unified ancient China. They served as role models for building a stable and benevolent system of government. You can learn more about Yao and Shun here and here.

I took this image at the Temple of Mencius in Zoucheng, a small town near to Qufu. You can read more about it here.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *