Leadership Lessons from Confucius: bringing out the good in people

bringing out the good in people

Confucius said: “A leader brings out the good in people – not the bad. A petty person does exactly the opposite.”

You have no greater responsibility as a leader than bringing out the good in people around you. That means spending the time to work with them to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and taking the necessary steps to develop and address them through mentoring, training, and assigning the right projects that will enable them to learn from experience.

Naturally this is a process that requires time and patience, but the rewards can be tremendous – not just in terms of improved productivity but the sheer joy of watching people grow their ability and confidence in front of your very eyes.


This article features a translation of Chapter 16 of Book 12 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 12 here.

(1) Confucius made regular use of the device of contrasting the lofty values and virtuous conduct of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) with the base instincts and mean behavior of a petty person (小人/xiǎorén). A leader is focused on helping others to rise through the development of their good qualities, while a petty person works to drag them down by fostering their negative ones. A leader is confident in their abilities, so they are willing to help others become the same. A petty person is insecure about their abilities, so they want others to be equally wracked with self-doubt.

I took this image in the Four Beasts Scenic Area in Taipei.

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