Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the best disinfectant

Zigong said: “The errors of an exemplary person are like an eclipse of the sun or the moon. When they make an error, everyone notices; when they correct their error everyone looks up to them in admiration.”

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It is only by being transparent about your errors and taking immediate steps to correct them that you will gain people’s trust and confidence. The more you try to hide them, the less people will respect you.


This article features a translation of Chapter 21 of Book 19 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 14 here.

(1) See 1.8 and 7.23 for related comments on the importance of transparency and taking immediate steps to correct your mistakes:

Confucius said: “An exemplary person who has no seriousness of purpose lacks dignity and a solid foundation for learning. Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”

Confucius said to his followers: “My friends, do you think I am hiding something from you? I am hiding nothing at all. There is nothing I do without sharing it with you. That’s my way.”

I shot this image at the Longshan Temple in Lukang, Taiwan.



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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.