Confucius on Leadership by John Adair
It is believed that Confucius lived in China in 6th BCE, i.e. about 2700 years ago. And is even today considered a teacher on leadership? He did not write any book himself. But his saying has been saved by his followers. That leaves us with some fragments of wisdom that the man had for us. John Adair, a leadership Guru of this era, in this book Confucius on Leadership, talks about the lessons that Confucius had for leaders. More importantly how they are still relevant in the business era of the day. To me, it essentially means that the human nature has not changed over time. We are still driven by the same tenets and inherently we still value the same characteristics in others and ourselves.
In the first chapter, he introduces the reader to the words and their meanings. How it is very important to understand the meaning of each word used for a leader or for that matter for anyone. This reminded me of a small chapter of Taitriya Upanishad that I read. And that talks about more or less the same thing – understand the words and their ability to put you at them at the common understanding of the meaning implied.
He then goes on to describe three things that leader has to take care of – task, team, and individual. And how the leader exists at the intersection of these three. A common purpose i.e. a task brings the individuals together as a team that is led by a leader. If anyone of these is taken away the leader is not really required. Then goes on to explain how a leader is needed for each of them individually and together to serve the purpose. Bringing out the qualities in a leader that would help achieve the task while nurturing the team and building respect for the leader.
The second part of the book Confucius on Leadership is dedicated to describing the qualities of a good leader. They include enthusiasm, integrity, warmth, humility and he expects leaders to be tough, demanding but fair. This is summed up in a quote that says – It should be easy to serve a leader but tough to please him. Throughout the book, there are quotes from Confucius and other leaders that convey the message. Some of them are here:
- A plan is a good basis for changing your mind
- Word and example should go hand in hand
- We can safely use ourselves as a gauge for knowing how to behave to others
- Authority flows to the one who knows
- No chief should be hard of hearing
- A man of benevolence never worries, a man of wisdom is never in two minds, a man of courage is never afraid
- When a man is eager and willing, God joins in
- Praise like gold and diamonds, owes its value to its scarcity
- The bird carries the wings and the wings carry the bird
Confucius on Leadership is an easy read.