Leadership Lessons from Confucius: rich and beautiful music

Richard Brown
2 min readAug 19, 2019


Confucius said: “What rich and beautiful music fills my ears when Zhi, the music master, is conducting — right from the opening passage through to the finale of the Cry of the Ospreys!”

What kind of music are you making with your leadership? Have you brought everyone together to work in perfect harmony with each other towards a common goal? Or do you have them playing discordant notes because you’re not giving them a clear direction to follow?

Like Zhi, the music master, your responsibility as a leader is to make sure that everyone makes “rich and beautiful music” that stirs their emotions and motivates them to positive action. That means making sure that they have the same score to follow and that they are placed in the right roles that allow them to make the most of their talents. It also requires that you constantly strive to inspire them to reach new creative heights by giving them room to breathe rather than simply dishing out instructions.

In this way, you will be able to lead your team to achieve ever more rousing finales from ever more complex projects as they continue to attain ever higher levels of performance.


This article features a translation of Chapter 15 of Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 8 here.

(1) Music Master Zhi (師摯) was a famous court musician of Lu, who may also have been the conductor of the state orchestra.

(2) The Cry of the Ospreys is the first poem in the Book of Songs. It describes how a young man came across a maiden walking by a river and fell in love with her at first sight. You can read a translation of the Cry of the Ospreys 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.