Analects Book 13 is full of insightful advice from Confucius on how to be an effective leader, starting in the very first chapter with his counsel to Zilu to lead the people by example. Here are ten quotes on leadership from Confucius that are just as applicable today as they were when they were first spoken by the sage.
“Lead the people by example. Work hard for them…. Tirelessly.”
“First appoint your senior officials. Forgive small mistakes. Promote people of talent.”
“A leader must be able to give the appropriate name to whatever they want to talk about and must also make sure they do exactly as they say. When it comes to speaking, a leader doesn’t allow any carelessness.”
“If a leader behaves in the correct manner everything will operate smoothly even if they don’t issue orders. If a leader doesn’t behave in the correct manner, nobody will listen even if they do issue orders.”
“If you behave in the correct manner, what difficulties will you meet when in government service? If you are unable to behave in the correct manner, how can you possibly make sure that others behave in the correct manner?”
“If you make the people near to you happy, others will come to you from afar.”
“Don’t try to rush things. Ignore matters of minor advantage. If you try to rush things, you won’t achieve success. If you pursue matters of minor advantage, you won’t succeed in major affairs.”
“A leader strives for harmony but not conformity. A petty person strives for conformity but not harmony.”
“A leader is easy to work for but hard to please. If you try to please them without following the proper way they won’t be happy, but they’ll only give you tasks you have the ability to carry out. A petty person is hard to work for, but easy to please. If you try to please them, even without following the proper way, they’ll be happy, but they’ll demand that you have the ability to do anything.”
“A leader is confident but never arrogant. A petty person is arrogant but never confident.”
I took this image in the ancient water town of Wuzhen, which is located just a couple of hours from Shanghai by High Speed Train. You can read more about Wuzhen here.