Leadership Lessons from Confucius: beating down the doors

The Lord of She asked about governance. Confucius said: “If you make the people near to you happy, others will come to you from afar.”

If you make your organization an attractive place to work for, you won’t have to pursue aggressive recruitment strategies to attract the right people. They’ll be beating down the doors to join you. Strict enforcement of petty regulations to impose greater discipline will just as easily drive them away again by causing resentment and resistance.


This article features a translation of Chapter 16 of Book 13 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 13 here.

(1) Lord She was a high-ranking minister in the state of Chu and was given the walled city of the same name to run as his own personal fiefdom by its ruler Duke Zhao. The duke implemented strict legalist policies within the state to keep its people under control while pursuing aggressive expansionist ones outside it that led to constant wars against its smaller neighbors such as Cai, Wu, and Chen. With his response, Confucius was attempting to persuade the Lord of She to intervene with the duke to put a stop to the great suffering that his policies were causing the people both inside and outside of Chu. Perhaps his words had the desired effect, because subsequently the lord did manage to persuade the duke to stop using armed force against neighboring states and to initiate new policies aimed at boosting agricultural production, including the construction of new irrigation systems. These steps not only led to greater prosperity for Chu, but also enabled the state to build more productive and peaceful relations with its neighbors.


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Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.