Last post about “Different views on leadership” discussed the differences between Western and Eastern leadership views. In searching for those dissimilarities I came across text from Spring and Autumn – Warring States, chapter Yao Yue describing discussion between Confucius and his apprentice Zi Zhang. Discussion is obviously focused on a leadership principles and attitudes:
Zi Zhang asked Confucius: “In what way should a person in authority act in order that he may conduct government properly?”
The Master replied: “Let him honor the five excellent, and banish away the four bad, things; then may he conduct government properly.”
Zi then said: “What is meant by the five excellent things?”
The Master: “When the person in authority is beneficent without great expenditure; when he lays tasks on the people without their repining; when he pursues what he desires without being covetous; when he maintains a dignified ease without being proud; when he is majestic without being fierce.”
Zi: “What is meant by being beneficent without great expenditure?”
The Master replied: “When the person in authority makes more beneficial to the people the things from which they naturally derive benefit; — is not this being beneficent without great expenditure? When he chooses the labors which are proper, and makes them labor on them, who will repine? When his desires are set on benevolent government, and he secures it, who will accuse him of covetousness? Whether he has to do with many people or few, or with things great or small, he does not dare to indicate any disrespect – is not this to maintain a dignified ease without any pride? He adjusts his clothes and cap, and throws a dignity into his looks, so that, thus dignified, he is looked at with awe – is not this to be majestic without being fierce?”
Zi then asked: “What is meant by the four bad things?”
The Master said: “To put the people to death without having instructed them – this is called cruelty. To require from them, suddenly, the full tale of work, without having given them warning – this is called oppression. To issue orders as if without urgency, at first, and, when the time comes, to insist on them with severity – this is called injury. And, generally, in the giving pay or rewards to men, to do it in a stingy way – this is called acting the part of a mere official.”
Are those described virtues far away of today’s leadership principles that are thought and written in so many books, articles or blogs? You might say that some are old fashioned – like to put to death without instructing – but think twice. With firing people from their jobs because dealing with cost reduction problems or other issues, isn’t it the same as “killing” them? Or, the meaning of “choosing the labors which are proper (from same party, thinking or obedient)”. When a leader has followers that are capable he can lead easily. If he has people that follow him just because he appears and behaves strongly or they have some gain in it, are those people really adding value?
Therefore, properly understood ancient wisdom can teach us things that we forgot or are re-inventing again. Would you agree with this?