Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the wisdom of the crowd

Confucius said: “When everyone hates someone, you should investigate that person further. When everyone loves someone, you should investigate that person further.”
子曰:「眾惡之,必察焉;眾好之,必察焉。」

Beware of the wisdom of the crowd. Just because someone is extremely popular, it does not necessarily mean that they can do no wrong; and just because someone is extremely unpopular, it does not necessarily mean that they can do no right.

Take time to evaluate someone before you draw any conclusions about them. While it can be useful to listen to the views of other people, do not let their opinions color your judgment. There is no substitute for carrying out an assessment yourself.

Notes
This article features a translation of Chapter 28 of Book 15 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 15 here.

(1) Confucius was deeply distrustful of public opinion because of what he believed was the ease with which it could be manipulated by the hypocritical smooth talkers and thieves of virtue he rails against in the Analects.

See 13.24 and 17.13 for two excellent examples of his views:

Zigong asked: “If a person is liked by all the people in their village, what would you think?” Confucius said: “That’s not good enough.” “And if this person is loathed by all the people in the village, what would you think?” “That’s not good enough either. It would be better if the good people in the village liked them and the bad people loathed them.”

Confucius said: “Village worthies are the thieves of virtue.”

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.