Analects and Leadership

Analects originated from the practices of a Chinese philosopher known as Confucian. Analects were believed to be the core of effective leadership as they were core to human integration and unity. The following are some of the principles of leadership taught by analects and how they can benefit a society. At the same time, effects of petty leadership shall also be discussed.  

Virtue is the core of effective leadership. Analects believe that “virtue is more essential to human than both water and fire (Kezar, 2004).” The argument is that ethics are at the core of every successful society. It is impossible to equate the value of ethics and the utility of money in a society. On one hand, money is an artificial creation while on the other hand virtues are inherent in any successful and peaceful society. Therefore, virtues are basic and inalienable in any human setting.

Effective adoption of the responsibilities at all levels informs the basic and effective governance. Analects view leadership as a holistic practice rather than an exclusive practice of the people at the top of any societal organization. Confucian noted that a good government can only occur when “a ruler is a ruler, a father acts as a father, and a son acts like a son (Kezar, 2004).” Therefore, the unity in diversity of responsibilities can only help in attaining a successful leadership if all the people stick to their rightful practices according to their responsibilities.

Cohesion in a society was largely ritualistic. Analects believed that rituals held the society together. Some of the rituals such as paying tribute to the dead may not have an outright benefit to the society at the moment (Kezar, 2004). However, such practice such as offering gifts to the nobility of a society was viewed as significant. The rituality enhanced humane conduct, fairness, and cohesion in the society.

The next core practice according to analects is the wisdom and justice. Other English translations equate the virtue to humaneness (Kezar, 2004). Analects argue that a leader should be wise and fair to all the people who are under him. In any case, it is only through fairness and wisdom that a leader can impart his qualities upon the people that he leads. Leaders should not claim all the tribute while the success was occasioned via a collective process.

At the same time, leadership should be pegged on objective decision-making. Effective leadership can only be achieved when the leader is composed while making the decision (Kezar, 2004). While a rush decision may be limited in scope and subjectivity, a delayed decision may not achieve the desired end. Therefore, a leader should only decide and act within a specific timeline if the decision that he or she is to make shall benefit the community. Emotions or any form of bias must not influence the decision of any leader.

Confucian taught that the weighing balance of practice for analects is the self. In his writings, he noted that the one must act in a way that reflects how he or she would want to be treated by the other members of the society (Kezar, 2004). For instance, Confucian taught that analects should not seek self-glorification. He argued that such an approach would be an indirect way of demeaning the status of other members of the society. He advocated for “slow speech and a simplified approach in mannerism” among all leaders (Kezar, 2004).  

At the core of any society, there exist basic units that act as the foundation. Effective cohesion and social relationship can only occur if the right practices are embraced at the foundational level (Kezar, 2004). For instance, the children must be submissive and obedient to their parents at the family level if they are to play their role in uniting the society. At the same time, the basic practices submission of wives to their husbands must occur if the society is to have the rightful relationship interlink. It is worth noting that the submissive group is only under obligation to act submissively if the leaders are acting within the ethical boundaries.

Petty persons are detrimental to any society. According to Confucian, petty leaders can cripple the unity and integration in any society to devastating effects (Kezar, 2004). Poor leadership can cripple the output of a society or those under one’s leadership. The levels of productivity deteriorate for various reasons. Such reasons include poor motivation levels, the leaders who claim all credit, poor communication practices, and poor appraisal practices. Other causes of poor performance at work in cases of poor leadership include the poor job delimitation, ineffective delegation, and reference to emotions.

Poor leadership is devoid of strategic planning and efficient ways of how such set objectives are to be achieved. Therefore, the discord between the set goals and the path to attain such success is lacking. In any instance, poor leaders tend react without having a holistic view of the matter. The decisions made are prone to subjectivity (Kezar, 2004). In such a case, it is impossible to a holistic value of the matter in question. Petty leaders do not have a way in which they can attain their visions and hence the societies or the organizations that they lead easily crumble.


Kezar, A. (2004). Philosophy, leadership, and scholarship: Confucian contributions to a ‘

            leadership debate. Leadership Review, 4(1), 10-31.

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