Leadership Lessons from Confucius: harmony but not conformity

Confucius said: “A leader strives for harmony but not conformity. A petty person strives for conformity but not harmony.”

It’s never easy to handle differences in opinion between your team members, but your responsibility as a leader is to harmonize the diverse notes of opinion into a single coherent tune that everyone can agree to play like the musicians in an orchestra. Achieving harmony is a lot more difficult in the early stages of the process than imposing conformity, but the long-term results are far more positive and lasting. While harmony provides a framework for promoting the frank and exchange of ideas, conformity kills discussion and creativity.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 23 of Book 13 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 13 here.

(1) The Analects features a number of pithy comparisons between the behavior of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) and a petty person (小人/xiǎorén). This is definitely up there among the best ones. Other examples include 4.16, 7.36, and 12.16.

(2) Confucius was very keen to remind the rulers of his time of the need to appoint virtuous ministers and officials and listen to their advice rather than “yes-men” who would just agree with everything they had to say. By the same token, he was also anxious to remind ministers of their responsibility to speak out when they disagreed with the actions of the ruler — even if this meant losing their position and perhaps even life for doing so.

--

--

--

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

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

How managers can support work-life balance and lead with empathy during COVID-19

Managing Crisis In Business

Acqui-Hiring: A Smart Recruitment Strategy

What can I do today to build momentum?

build momentum

A New Kind of Leadership: A Time Whose Idea Has Come

Find balance for yourself and your team

How to Motivate Non-Performing Employees? : Skill Vs Will

The Importance of Leadership

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Richard Brown

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.

More from Medium

Hire Like a Billionaire

Are we shaping online communities, or are they shaping us?

Regressive Tax

Understanding Inflation