Leadership, Leaders and Confucius

If you are serious about your study of leadership, I highly recommend reading Barbara Kellerman’s book, “Leadership: Essential Selections on Power, Authority and Influence”. 

Kellerman has curated some of the best writing ever about leadership, from the Greeks to the Eastern Philosophers, to enlightenment writers through contemporary writers. 

I’m currently reading two of the Eastern selections. The writing from Confucius’ Analects struck me:

1.16  The Master said: “Don’t worry if people don’t recognize your merits; worry that you may not recognize theirs.”

Western society is busy teaching children to recognize their own “specialness” through school programs, music, art and media but we have neglected teaching them to recognize the value of others. 

Our obsession with individuality has perhaps lead us to forget that we are essentially social creatures.  In fact, leadership is a social act between two or more people.  Good leaders not only recognize the merits of others, they bring out the best in others.

I’ve had bosses who have encouraged me, been confident in my abilities and challenged me to do better.  Their high standards helped bring out the best in me.  Those bosses who were entirely focused on themselves and their careers did not encourage and support me.  I didn’t work as hard for them, since they didn’t care enough about me to bring out my best. 

Leadership isn’t about leaders, it is about bringing about the best in those who follow.  Leadership isn’t anything new.  Confucius wrote about it in 225 BC.  So why is it so hard to learn? 

Source: Kellerman, Barbara.  “Leadership: Essential Selections on Power, Authority and Influence. McGraw Hill. 2010.


3 replies »

  1. Leadership is an art, not a science. There is no specific formulae that works concretely for all situations, for all followers. We are all individuals each with a definitive set of motivators, frequently changing due to numerous different social and environmental influences, themselves frequently changing. Keeping up with these “changes” in order to motivate followers to accomplish the leader’s goals is……”hard work”.

  2. I agree with Rob – further i would say that some of the ‘hard work’ is in the amount of effort the leader is willing to put into actively engaging in reviewing and adapting their leadership style to their followers.
    A leader that adapts one style of leadership that works for them and never engages again in reviewing it is doomed to fail

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s