Leadership Lessons from Confucius: driving meaningful change

meaningful change

Confucius said: “If a ruler were to employ me, I would have everything under control in one year and in three years the results would show.”
子曰:「苟有用我者,期月而已可也,三年有成。」

Never underestimate how challenging it is to drive meaningful change. Stirring vision statements and pretty PowerPoint slides are just the starting point. It takes a huge amount of time, effort, and commitment to make sure that everyone not only accepts and understands the new direction you’re leading the organization in but also embraces and implements it. If you don’t actively lead from the front, nobody will get behind you.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 10 of Book 13 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 13 here.

(1) According to Sima Qian in the Records of the Historian, Confucius was in the state of Wei hoping to secure a high-level position in the government. After his appointment as chief magistrate of the small city of Zhongdu in 502 BCE, he is said to have achieved such great success in the post that it became a model of order and prosperity within a year. Given that Wei was much larger in scale than a mere city and embroiled in an increasingly unstable political situation thanks to growing power struggles under the aging ruler Duke Ling, Confucius modestly extended his time scale for sorting things out there to three. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in gaining the appointment he coveted and was thus denied the opportunity to show what he and his ideas were made of on a bigger stage.

I took this image in the stunning primal forest of Taipingshan. You can read more about the magical place here.

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