Leadership lessons from Confucius: taking yourself out of the equation

taking yourself out of the equation

子絕四,毋意,毋必,毋固,毋我。
Confucius avoided four things: conjecture, arbitrariness, stubbornness, and egotism.

Every situation you face is different. Investigate it thoroughly before jumping to conclusions about how to deal with it. Just because you may have encountered something similar in the past, it doesn’t mean that you should follow the same playbook this time.

Don’t allow your preconceptions to cloud your judgment. Approach the issue at hand with an open mind and draw your conclusions based on the facts. If you find that you’ve reached the wrong decision, don’t hesitate to change it. Strong leadership means having the humility and courage to admit that you’re wrong rather than sticking to your course in order to maintain face. By allowing your ego to go unchecked, you’ll not only end up causing unnecessary trouble for yourself but also everyone else around you.

Leadership isn’t about making yourself look good; it requires taking yourself out of the equation and letting the facts speak for themselves so that you can make the right judgment calls. The more you let your emotions and preconceptions take hold, the less likely you are to achieve that goal.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 4 of Book 9 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 9 here.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Yilan, Taiwan. You can read more about the rather convoluted history of this temple in this excellent article by Josh Ellis here.

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