Leadership Lessons from Confucius: joining in the harmony

Richard Brown
2 min readJul 11, 2019

Whenever Confucius was together with other people who were singing and they sang a song well, he always asked them to repeat it before joining in the harmony.

There’s no need to intervene when your team is performing well. Sit back and enjoy the show. Observe how closely they work together and harmonize their goals and actions. Admire their creativity and talent as you listen to the music they’re playing.

You don’t need to be at the center of the action all the time. As a leader, your role is to get out of the way after providing the initial direction and foster the environment and culture that enables your team members to grow and flourish. Stepping in at the wrong time will only disturb the harmony and rhythm that your team has so carefully built up, not to mention the tune and the lyrics.

Only when the project is complete is it time to take part in it by asking your team to repeat the lessons that they have learned and joining in the rousing final chorus. After the applause dies down, you can tell your team that they are ready to move on to even greater things.


This article features a translation of Chapter 31 of Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 7 here.

(1) I have written before about Confucius’s great love of music. He regarded it as the embodiment of human culture and civilization (at least the “right” sort). For more articles on the topic of Confucius and music, click here and here.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.



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.