So much has happened since UK General election on 7 May: a coalition government, a new Prime Minister and the latest contest between the Miliband brothers to become Party leader...No wonder why people say: 'A week in politics is too long.' While it is not the intention of this article to discuss the election polls or the choice Nick Clegg made or any political related subjects, there are one or two things we can learn about what is required of a leader in recent weeks - from Confucius's (640 BC) perspective.
PR or policy?
At the height of UK's first live TV election debates and even over the last week or so, there have been arguments and counter-arguments about whether it is good PR or sound policy that makes a leader stand out. This, I think, is not only relevant to politics but also businesses and organizations. A fundamental question all leaders face is: What steps should they take to progress themselves as astounding leaders?
Confucius laid out four stages of leadership development that applied to both his and our times:
1. To enhance self: Confucius did not mention public image, qualifications or status but development of the well-being of self (physical, emotional and moral) as an important starting point for leaders.
2. To put family in order: in Confucius's view, leaders should first establish harmony and disciplines in their own families for they served as a good training ground for them to hone their leadership skills.
3. To govern the nation: it is from families that leaders learn about relationships, respect and authorities; these elements, Confucius suggested, should be developed by leaders when running a country.
4. To bring peace to the world: the ultimate duty for leaders, in Confucius teaching, is to utilize whatever power they have to bring peace (i.e. to give) rather than accumulate personal gains (i.e. to take).
Confucius's insight provides a guideline for leaders to fulfill the multiple responsibilities and expectations emerged in today's environment: role models, parents, mentors, executives, entrepreneurs, philanthropists etc. Leaders' roles can be complex and not easily defined but they can recruit people with the right skills and experience. Ultimately, it is the leader's personal attributes not titles or status that will sustain loyalty and commitment of followers. Awareness and enhancement of personal attributes should be taken seriously as part of leadership development, and should be continual.
Dragon Leadership: Eastern Wisdom for Modern CEO reveals the relevance of Confucius and Taoist philosophy to the contemporary business environment, helping executives to restore trust from employees and gain clarity of the business or organization direction amidst the economic challenges we all face around the world. Condensing the profound Chinese teachings into 270 pages of case studies, diagnostic tools and practical advice, the book is due out in 4 weeks. To order a signed paperback copy (156mm x 234mm), please contact the author, Joanna Tong via her website.