Leadership Lessons from Confucius: true friends

true friends

Zengzi said: “A leader attracts friends through their cultural refinement, and looks to their friends for support in nurturing their goodness.”

How many true friends do you really have? How many of them are willing to stick with you through thick and thin and are not afraid of being seen with you even though you have radically different political views? How many of them are friends with you because of your status and the social and business contacts that you bring? And how many of them would move on at the drop of a hat if someone with even greater wealth and prestige comes along?

Probably after due reflection the answer to the question that you don’t have quite as many true friends as you used to think.


This article features a translation of Chapter 24 of Book 12 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 12 here.

(1) Zengzi is echoing Confucius’s belief that the correct way of building a friendship is to get together and study the wisdom of the ancients in order to nurture each other’s learning and morality. Friendship therefore has an ethical foundation. Its purpose is for like-minded people to encourage and teach each other how to accelerate their journey along the path to goodness and share the joys and tribulations they encounter along the way.

(2) Zengzi was only twenty-six years of age when Confucius died in 479 BCE, but quickly rose to prominence as one of the leading proponents of the sage’s teachings. You can read more about Zengzi here.

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

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