Why Confucius should be every leaders idol

In their book, ‘The 100 Most Influential Leaders of all Time’, Britannica lists their guide to the 100 people who have had the biggest influence on others. And on us. This is one of my favourite books, of all time, of course, and there are a few names on that list that, on first reading, I didn’t know. Like Tokugawa Ieyasu, or Hongwu, as examples. I know of them now. 

Most of the names I did know, particularly Confucius, who is listed at number three on the list of 100.  

“Confucius (originally named Kong Qiu) is China’s most famous teacher, philosopher, and political theorist, and his ideas have influenced the civilisation of East Asia and some other parts of the surrounding area.”  

Although the facts about Confucius’s life are scanty, they do establish a precise time frame and historical context. Confucius was born in the 22nd year of the reign of Duke Xiang of Lu (551 BCE). The traditional claim that he was born on the 27th day of the eighth lunar month has been questioned by historians, but September 28 is still widely observed in East Asia as Confucius’s birthday. It is an official holiday in Taiwan, referred to as ‘Teacher’s Day’.” 

Most people would be familiar with the words ‘Confucius Say’, but what was it about Confucius that made him such an influential human? What did he stand for? And why should we look to Confucius for how we should act as leaders in 2023? 

1. Confucius spent his life learning and being taught 

Confucius was only three years old. Instructed by his mother early in life, Confucius then distinguished himself as an indefatigable learner in his teens. He recalled toward the end of his life that at age 15 his heart was set upon learning. A historical account notes that, even though he was already known as an informed young scholar, he felt it appropriate to inquire about everything.” 

And because of his insatiable appetite for learning, Confucius needed to seek out the right trainers and mentors. Confucius needed people who challenged him and helped him increase his knowledge and skills. And who pushed him to be better at the areas that he chose to focus on (like the six arts —ritual, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and arithmetic) —and his familiarity with the classical traditions, notably poetry and history, allowed him to become a teacher himself in his 30s). 

If you came to one of our leadership programs, the first half day is dedicated to learning. Learning about yourself and learning about others. Too many leaders don’t take learning and self-development seriously, and think it just happens on the job. Be like Confucius. 

2. Confucius then shared his knowledge 

“Confucius was the first person to devote his whole life to learning and teaching for the purpose of transforming and improving society.” 

I loved reading this bit – Confucius believed that all human beings could benefit from self-cultivation. “He inaugurated a humanities program for potential leaders, opened the doors of education to all, and defined learning not merely as the acquisition of knowledge but also as character building.” 

You might need to go back a paragraph or two and reread those lines. Confucius was not only a leader, but he was a leadership trainer. I love him even more, now! ???? 

“For Confucius, the primary function of education was to provide the proper way of training exemplary persons (junzi), a process that involved constant self-improvement and continuous social interaction.” 

And maybe even reread that paragraph. Self-improvement and social interaction. Just a reminder at this point that Confucius lived around 551 BCE. Around 2,500 years ago. And he was focused on the things that we should be working on in 2023. 

If you did nothing else as a leader (or after reading this post), other than go out and work out how to be better in social situations, and how to be better with your social interactions, your leadership skills would be totally upgraded. Be like Confucius. 

3. Confucius was uber high on integrity 

Confucius found public service integral to true education. He “confronted those who challenged his desire to serve the world. He resisted the temptation to live apart from the human community, opting instead to try to transform the world from within.” 

When I read this story, I see someone who would have had some struggles with others, who didn’t hold the same belief system. The chapter goes on to say that Confucius left a political position that he held, because his superiors were not as committed to doing the right thing as he was. He actually travelled to another country, where he tried to be a force for good, and by this stage, Confucius was gaining quite the following. He had gathered ‘students’ (team members) who were also committed to the cause. 

Sounds like, Confucius was inspirational. The history books show that at the time of his death, at the ripe old age of 73, 72 of his students mastered the “six arts,” and those who claimed to be his followers numbered 3,000. 

I feel like it is easy to follow a leader who is high on integrity. Who not only does the right thing, but also who says what they are going to do, and then does it. Even it that thing is unpopular. If you want your team to follow you, be high on integrity, and be like Confucius. 

In summary, Confucius lived nearly 3,000 years ago. And is in the top 100 most influential people who have ever lived (according to Britannica). He is remembered, and revered, because for his whole life, he was a continuous learner. He sought out mentors to help him with that journey, and then he shared that knowledge with others. And he was willing to stand up for what he believed in. A good leader to be like, in my books. 

It will take some effort, but the effort is well and truly worth it! 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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