Leadership Lessons from Confucius: ready for the challenge?
Confucius said: “In their form of government, the states of Lu and Wei are like older and younger brothers.”
The older and larger an organization gets, the more difficult it is for leaders maintain its vitality and sense of purpose. Internal politics and out-of-date processes and procedures can all too easily slow it down and lead to missed opportunities and a bureaucratic, perhaps even toxic, culture. With the acceleration of new technologies like AI, it is becoming even more critical for the leadership to take immediate steps not just to reverse the slide but to transform their organization so that it can take full advantage of the huge new opportunities that are emerging. Take a deep look inside and ask yourself if you and your organization are ready for the challenge.
This article features a translation of Chapter 7 of Book 13 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 13 here.
(1) The states of Lu and Wei were originally given as fiefdoms to the descendants of the Duke of Zhou and Kang Shu, the fourth and seven sons of King Wen, the founder of the Zhou dynasty. They thus adopted very similar forms of government and culture right from their establishment. By Confucius’s time, however, the strength and status of Lu had seriously declined as a result of continuous strife between the ruling ducal house and the Three Families. Although much larger and more powerful than Lu, Wei was also experiencing similar turmoil following the seizure of the throne by Duke Chu upon the death of his grandfather, Duke Ling, even though his father was still alive. See 13.3 for more details. With his comment, therefore, Confucius is lamenting the collapse of good governance in these two closely related states. Uncharacteristically, he does not have an answer for how to reverse their decline.