Making an Impact – Confucius’ Leadership Tips
In Confucius’ teaching the ultimate duty for leaders is to utilize whatever power and authority they have to bring peace to the world
As a six year-old girl, I would sit on my great grandfather’s lap and make him guess who I was. His eye-sight was not brilliant but he could recognise faces without difficulties. It was a game we played. Instead of calling my name, he would say, “It is old man Wong and little girl White sitting on a rock.” He invented the little rhyme for my middle name and sang it out loud in great joy. Then he would tell me the moral stories passed on from generation to generation by the ancient Chinese masters. Since he passed away, I moved on with life and my career leaving his words behind.
In recent years crises hit like big bangs. Wake-up calls are everywhere (local and global) forcing us to look around and ask: What has gone wrong in the business world? How could people at the top let this or that happen? Importantly, how can we put things right? There is no shortage of debates on whether leaders are born or made? Or, what makes a good leader? There is no shortage of leadership development programmes and training courses. What is in shortage is people coming en masse to take a stand, asking business leaders to be not just people of importance but people of impact. My great grandfather’s insights re-surfaced.
Confucius (600 BC) the father of Chinese philosophy, taught his students to develop leadership in four stages. Confucius’ teaching remains relevant to current time:
Confucius did not mention public image, qualifications or status (i.e. external attainment) but development of self (i.e. internal mastery) as an important step for leaders. Well-being of self (physical, emotional and moral) does not only affect the performance of a leader but also those around him or her. Can you imagine an ill-tempered executive could lead and develop a high performance team? No. It is true, though hard to believe, that shouting and unacceptable behaviours do happen in the boardrooms and at staff meetings.
Putting family in order
The next stage leaders should aim to achieve is to establish harmony and disciplines in their own families. In Confucius' view, family serves as a training ground for people to hone interpersonal and leadership skills. Kids, in-laws, siblings, spouses and parents present you with all kinds of challenges. When leaders failed to instil harmony and disciplines in a small unit such as a family, what would qualify them to direct and organize a much larger entity like multi-national companies? On a very practical level, disharmonious families can become painful distractions, hindering your personal and business success.
Governing the nation
It is from families that leaders developed their abilities to restore relationships and respect. These core skills, Confucius emphasized, should be reinforced further when you moving on to important positions. It applies to not only Presidents and Kings and Queens, but also board of directors, chief executives and whoever involved in key decision-making process. People at the top have to make unpopular business decisions, and they have to win people over to implement what was decided. As an executive I faced this challenge time after time, for more than 20 years. This is when relationships and respect count the most.
Bringing peace to the world
In Confucius’ teaching the ultimate duty for leaders is to utilize whatever power and authority they have to bring peace, not turmoil, to the world. Every single action leaders take, they need to ask themselves: “How would this benefit not just me but others?” From past generations to present time, great leaders are remembered by many not as billionaires but role models. In the old days, apprenticeship was set up to teach new recruits technical skills AND life lessons so that they would become competent workers as well as good people. Are you still keeping this spirit alive in the business world?
No matter what kind of difficulties and challenges I encountered in life and in business, I remember my great grandfather said to me, “There is a difference between making yourself important and making an important impact.” Women are naturally good at relating to people and taking care of relationships. As executives and successful entrepreneurs, you should utilize your innate ability to the full. Instead of working in isolation and feeling “lonely at the top”, relate more to people and less to reports. Make an impact on the staff you lead, the constituents you serve, and those looking up to you as role models!
About the Author:
Joanna Tong, international speaker and founder of Bright-i, the online store offering quality East-West blended business skills, audio training and eBooks.
Take a look at Janna's profile on Par Excellence Magazine
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