Tag Archives: leadership

Analects of Confucius: on the nature of a leader

Throughout the Analects, Confucius and his disciples regularly muse about the qualities required of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ), a term which has been variously translated as “gentleman”, “nobleman”, “superior man”, “man of superior order”, “man of virtue”, and “ideal man”. Confucius saw the leader as a pillar of society and the embodiment of all the moral values he espoused. There are numerous discussions of the nature of a leader in the Analects. Continue reading Analects of Confucius: on the nature of a leader

Leadership by virtue

子曰:「道之以政,齊之以刑,民免而無恥;道之以德,齊之以禮,有恥且格。」
Confucius said: “If you rule people by laws and regulations and keep them under control through punishment, they will evade them and have no sense of shame. If you lead them by virtue and keep them in line with the rites, they will develop a sense of shame and unite behind you.”

Whenever politicians are faced with a problem, their instinctive response is to pass a raft of new legislative initiatives to “solve” it. While in the short term this approach may give the illusion that they are “doing something” (not to mention generating some handy headlines), in the long term it has the highly corrosive effect of widening the gap between the governing and the governed and increasing the intrusion of the state into individuals’ lives. Continue reading Leadership by virtue

The Pole Star

子曰:「為政以德,譬如北辰,居其所而眾星共之。」
Confucius said: “A ruler who governs by the power of virtue is like the Pole Star, which remains fixed in place while all the other stars orbit respectfully around it.”

Book 2 of the Analects opens with one of Confucius’s most famous sayings on leadership. The role of the leader is set a shining example to everyone through their virtue (德/dé), a term which can be extended to mean moral power. Continue reading The Pole Star

Moderation and self-cultivation

子曰:「君子食無求飽,居無求安,敏於事而慎於言,就有道而正焉,可謂好學也已。」
Confucius said: “A leader eats without stuffing his belly; chooses a home without demanding comfort; is quick to act but careful in what he says; and keeps the company of others who possess the Way so that he can be corrected by them. This is what it means to truly love learning.”

Leadership is about cultivating your inner self rather than being concerned about personal comforts. This is a theme that Confucius regularly returns to throughout the Analects, hammering home the need for moderation and adherence to traditional values. Continue reading Moderation and self-cultivation

A serious commitment

子曰:「君子不重,則不威,學則不固。主忠信,無友不如己者,過則勿憚改。」
Confucius said: “If a leader isn’t serious he will inspire no awe and lack a solid foundation for learning. Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal; and when you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”

Confucius wasn’t afraid to remind his disciples and the rulers he met that leadership requires a serious commitment to living up to fundamental principles such as loyalty and trust and constantly examining your behavior for areas you can improve on. Continue reading A serious commitment

Daodejing quotes on trust

In the Daodejing, trusting others and being trustworthy are seen as essential qualities for a leader. Here is a collection of the most popular quotations on the subject of trust from the text.

言善信
In speaking, it is good faith that counts;

Daodejing
Chapter 8

信不足焉,有不信焉。悠兮其貴言。
Leaders who don’t trust their people enough won’t be trusted in return.
Wise ones choose their words carefully.

Daodejing
Chapter 17