By: Fabrizio Battaglia
In the last 50 years, Asia has established itself as global economic powerhouse, especially China. Yet, Asia and the global economy in general, have probably never faced a time of greater uncertainty. How do you lead a company when the rules are constantly changing and where behavioral leadership clearly shows its limits?
We look to Confucius. The Chinese philosopher composed his thoughts on leadership some 2,500 years ago. Yet, the wisdom, relevance and practicality of these principles are as sound today as they were centuries ago. In fact, even after all this time, they provide a road map for effective management that leads to great results, especially in times of uncertainty.
Here are 5 principles of Confucian Leadership.
- LEADERSHIP IS AN OBJECTIVE IN ITSELF: According to Confucius, leadership is not a means to an end. It is the end. It is a primary outcome by itself because it makes possible sustainable and renewable success from which good results are just one of the many by-products. Confucius believed the proven principles of effectiveness were scientific. They were the most worthwhile goal of any organization
- THE PURSUIT OF LEADERSHIP IS SELF PERFECTION AND HARMONY: If effective leadership is being practiced, the leader will be striving for self-perfection, since exemplarity is key. This is a lifetime journey. The great purpose being to produce an environment where there is social harmony.
- BEHAVIOR OF LEADERS IS BASED ON VALUES: Leaders work to instill behavior that is values-led. The values that reign supreme in Confucian Leadership are kindness, justice, which will inspire respect, which eventually leads to trustworthiness. As you’ll soon see, the most powerful tool of a leader and the one essential to pass down through the ranks of the organization is trust.
- RITUALS ARE A WAY FOR AN ORGANIZATION TO INTERNALIZE VALUES: Rituals reinforce values-led behavior. They may be as simple as a new employee orientation or a retirement party for every person who finishes their career with the company. But they are an occasion to reinforce what values are important and which will lead the organization forward. They give a sense of purpose to the group.
- TRUSTWORTHYNESS IS THE CORNERSTONE OF THE WHOLE CONSTRUCT: The first priority and primary requirement of a leader under Confucian principles is to establish with his people that they are trustworthy: “The strength of a society is not measured in wealth but in the level of trust in that society.”
In other words if members feel they can live up to the group values, exemplified and lived by the leader himself, the society does not need to waste time in numerous controlling procedures and putting in place complex incentives systems to align behaviors.
Behaviors will align naturally along with members inner convictions. Shame will safeguard them from stepping aside. We see it in our daily lives: Laws designed to put people in jail do teach people how to keep out of jail, not necessarily that honesty is one of the key pillar or our society.
We thought it was worthwhile to revisit the time-tested principles of Confucian Leadership. Asian culture and business are based on these principles, which are essential for forming trustful relationships in this region. In fact, we think they still set standards for effective management in Asia and the global economy in general.
image credit: Joe.China