Leadership Lessons from Confucius: rise above the fray

Confucius said: “A leader is proud without being contentious and sociable without taking sides.”

There is no need to get embroiled in bitter arguments with other people. When discussions take a darker turn, simply walk away. Even though it may appear to some that you have “lost”, the truth is that there are never any winners when people are screaming their heads off at each other either face-to-face or online. Better to withdraw and cool off rather than say something you might regret in the heat of the moment. It’s not as if your opponents have any real interest in what you have to say in any case.

There is no need to get caught up in cliques either, no matter how strongly you believe in a cause. Even if someone does not fully share your beliefs, that is not a reason for shunning them or discounting what they have to say. It is only by listening carefully to others with different viewpoints that you will be able to develop a deeper and broader perspective on what is really happening in the world. Surrounding yourself only with fellow believers will serve to narrow your mind and isolate you from others.

This article features a translation of Chapter 22 of Book 15 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 15 here.

(1) Factionalism was rife in the courts of the Spring and Autumn period, leading to constant political upheavals and social instability. Members of the ruling families and their ministers, officials, and advisors were far too caught up in the struggle for power to heed Confucius’s call to rise above the fray.

I took this image at the Mencius Cemetery in Qufu.

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