Leading Differently: Confucius' Checklist for Authority Figures - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1757 Words
Date:  2023-02-11


In the "Analects," Confucius derives a somewhat different way of leadership. He seems to demystify the traditional leadership where laws reprimand people, and strict punishment is placed on them. According to Confucius, this methodology rarely yields the kinds of citizens they are supposed to be and makes them people who try to follow the law but they inherently evil (Ivanhoe, 2001). Therefore, in this context, Confucius derives a checklist where the leader is supposed to be the point of reference for the people that he or she leads. A fairly spiritual way of influencing people is derived in this specific context. This way of leadership is where the leader connects with the supernatural until he has a spontaneous harmony between him and heavens. Such a way, adopted by the leader, according to Confucius, is the only way that a leader could show spiritual perfection of goodness and gentleness among other virtues that are supposed to be held by society. A fairly spiritual way of influencing people would induce each person to pursue individual perfection making leadership effortless, no need for the law, government decrees, and punishments.

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What, for Confucius, Should Be the Proper Relation of the Ruler to Those He Governs and of the People to the Ruler?

Observing the way Confucius approaches the thought of a leader and his people shows that he considers that a ruler is not a senior member of society. The way that leaders have placed themselves in the modern world is as if they are the absolute power. They issue decrees and direct people on what to do and failure to which there are consequences that follow (Ivanhoe, 2001). This approach has, however, never helped the leader to relate with his people. It is rather, a methodology that makes the leader be part of a society which he does not connect with other people in terms of their needs, behaviors, what they like, and how they would want things done. Therefore, a leader that disconnects themselves from the people as per the thought of Confucius fails to know the needs of the people and thus lacks the capacity to lead them.

The disconnection of the people from the Zhou kings to the local rulers is the reason they became unruly. Confucius believes that the Golden Age was such a good time of leadership. This is because the Zhou lineage maintained a proper relationship with heaven and collectively respected and practices sacred practices as per their traditions. They were informal obedience to the heavens and hence as far as the people rallied behind them, they were in perfectness to the matters of heaven and issues of etiquette were rare. However, at the time when the Zhou kings were reduced to mere figureheads, and the leadership was taken by the local leaders, matters changed, and society became unruly. Unlike the Zhou kings, the local leaders were only interested in self-aggrandizement and sensuous pleasures (Ivanhoe, 2001). Therefore, the people took after them and became unruly. Therefore, the best relationship between the leader and the people is not through delegation of duties. Instead, it should be a direct relationship because it is where people obtain lessons and become governable.

What Qualities Should the Ruler Have and Why?

The relationship between the leader and the people is, however, not the only thing to observe since a leader needs to have the qualities that can be said to be of a good leader. The conditions of a good leader, according to Confucius, are not many. One of the most significant quality is that a good leader is a man who connects with the supernatural. The connection of the leader with the heavens depends on their devotion and sincerity to traditional cultural forms. The need for a leader to be devoted to the traditional cultural forms is because it is the only way that they can acquire intuitive mastery of the forms of God (Ivanhoe, 2001). Mastery of the form of God is the only way to possess the values of good. Among these are goodness, gentleness and generally, the supreme values that are required of a noble warrior or a virtuous man. With a direct interconnection to heaven, a leader acquires some effortless action to behave well. Their spiritual perfectness makes them be in harmony with their inner selves as well as the sacred way of heavens. Their virtues and the virtues of proper leadership, therefore, blend in so perfectly that they become a source from where the people can learn about proper behavior.

Confucius believes that leadership with virtue would be an easy one. He states, "One who rules through the power of virtue is analogous to the pole-star: it simply remains in its place and receives the homage of the myriad lesser stars" (Ivanhoe, 2001) A breakdown of this statement shows his thought on how leadership needs to be carried out. Leadership ought to be directed according to the pole star where the pole star is the God of heaven. Once a leader acknowledges that the virtues of the pole stars are binding, he can act like him. He, therefore, receives the homage of the lesser stars. The homage of the lesser stars is the following of the citizens who believe that that they need to follow the leader once he shows that he has commendable values. Forthwith, they behave like their leader, and hence the society turns into a virtuous one altogether. Therefore, when the leader acquires the qualities of the heavens, they have a positive influence of the same values in their subjects which makes the society altogether virtuous.

Why Does Confucius Believe That if the Ruler Has These Qualities People Will Behave Morally and Punishment Would Be Unnecessary?

Once a leader has the necessary virtues, and the subjects learned with little resistance, Confucius believes that it is an objective way to view the subjects as having acquired the values. He, in one instance, makes an illustration of a subject who has learned from him and says, "I can talk all day with Yan Hui without him disagreeing with me. In this way, he seems a bit stupid. And yet when we retire, and I observe his private behavior, I see that he is, in fact, worthy to serve as an illustration of what I've taught" (Ivanhoe, 2001). From the illustration, Confucius makes a revelation of what a subject becomes when they learn from a leader who has values. They also become like them. They grow to be the people that the leader was always aspiring. Hence, there is no instance when the leader and the subjects can be disagreeing because of they in perfect harmony also.

The values that are observed by people who are in line with the virtues of heaven are those that are positive. Positive values entail those that make the society a positive one. They are those values that are not based on selfish motives but those that seek to make the world a better place for all. In one instance, Confucius was once asked about his aspirations. His message was simple; "To bring comfort to the aged, to inspire trust in my friends, and to be cherished by the youth." (Ivanhoe, 2001) Such are the values that increase the ability to correct others when they are wrong and the willingness to influence others towards good behavior. Such qualities direct and individual to be an effective member of the society, and hence, there is no need for them to be corrected. If a ruler has such qualities and the people take after him, they are bound to operate properly. They would not be unruly, and neither would they focus on negative things. People with leaders who have good qualities and who follow the qualities would not need to be punished as they would be operating morally making punishment unnecessary.

To What Extent Do You Think Confucius’ Ideas About Government Are Relevant Today?

Confucius' ideas are extremely relevant and applicable in government today. Governments in modern days are making the mistake of making strict rules to regulate and govern people. However, it is apparent that even when there are stricter rules and harsher punishments for law offenders, rates of crime are on the rise. However, focusing on the way governments are run, one would not fail to observe that leaders themselves are to blame for the existential moral decay. They are to blame because they are evil themselves. Most of the world leaders are corrupt. They spread hate and often support moral decay. It is because leaders lack virtues that most of the society members have grown immoral. The ideas that Confucius shows are relevant because they show that if governments must contain the members of their societies, they need to go back to the drawing board and decide on the values that it needs to uphold for the people obey and follow the law.

To What Extent Do You Agree With Confucius (And Why)?

To some extent, I agree with Confucius. I agree with him, based on the fact that good leaders are supposed to have values. Leaders have such an instrumental effect on their subjects, and they need to have a good influence on their subjects. Having adorable virtues would make an instrumental part of the society to follow suit and the society would have a great share of people who believe in values following from their leaders. However, it would not be easy to lead people based on values alone. Some people cannot be contained if there is not a law for them to observe. Therefore, above having virtues as per connected to the supernatural as Confucius states, there needs for law and punishment to be instituted on those who cannot follow virtues.


Confucius directs that proper leadership is not about laws and punishment but having leaders who have a connection to the supernatural such that their values and qualities are seemingly effortless. He believes that there is a need for leaders to follow suit so that they can be as effective as the Zhou dynasty before their power was delegated to local leaders and the people became unruly. Having effective qualities as that of the supernatural on the side of leaders influences their subjects to have the same qualities, which in turns makes punishment not necessary. Therefore, the directives by Confucius relate to modern society, but in my view, there is a need for rules to be still instituted alongside the values for the good running of society.


Ivanhoe, P. J. (2001). Readings in classical Chinese philosophy. Hackett Publishing.

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Leading Differently: Confucius' Checklist for Authority Figures - Essay Sample. (2023, Feb 11). Retrieved from https://midtermguru.com/essays/leading-differently-confucius-checklist-for-authority-figures-essay-sample

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