Leadership Lessons from Confucius: criticizing other people

Zigong was in the habit of criticizing other people. Confucius said: “Zigong must already be perfect. I have no free time for that.”

Why bother going through the pain of addressing your own weaknesses when you can achieve so much more by criticizing other people? After all, you are already performing at a much higher level than everyone else. They are the ones who would benefit from some timely guidance and advice from a proven winner like you. Indeed, they should be grateful that you are willing to take some valuable time out of your busy schedule to provide them with penetrating insights that will enable them to improve how they work and make faster progress in their career.

If only, of course, they would pay full attention to your hard-won words of wisdom and act on them afterwards. Even though they have nodded politely in agreement with your suggestions in the past, they have never seemed to be able to make that breakthrough you know they are capable of. Perhaps another friendly word in their ear from you would make sure they really understand the importance of what you are teaching them.

Or perhaps it is time to acknowledge the uncomfortable but incontrovertible truth that you are the only person who really cares around here. In fact, and it is a little embarrassing to admit this, you are a little bit special compared to everyone else. It is such a pity that none of them appear to have any interest in the wealth of experience and expertise you have to offer them. Loneliness is a small price to pay for standing out from the crowd, isn’t it?


This article features a translation of Chapter 29 of Book 14 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 14 here.

I took this image at the Temple of the Duke of Zhou in Qufu. The duke was Confucius’s great hero and role model as a result of his tireless efforts to the establish the foundation of the fledgling kingdom of Zhou while acting as regent to the young King Cheng.


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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.