Reflection on my personal leadership opportunity around Confucius learning

Throughout this wonderful personal learning journey, I learnt that education was the secret to changing people. Some of his famous sayings in this regard include:

“Education breeds confidence, confidence breeds hope, hope breeds peace”

“It is not possible for one to teach others who cannot teach his own family”

And I managed to integrate the following Confucius learning in the daily lives of young kids (start with my two daughters):

  • importance of “ren,” or loving others. He taught people to treat each other as they would like to be treated. 
  • children should love their parents (in return of unconditional love from their parents).
  • all people can succeed if they study/ work hard and develop character.
  • leaders should be self disciplined and humble. They should lead with kindness
  • Remember other famous sayings of Confucius such as “Do not do unto others, what you would not want others to do to you.” / “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, that is called a mistake” / “when I walk along with two others, from at least one I will be able to learn” / “by three methods, we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Few months ago, I switched my elder daughter from a local school to an international school in Hong Kong.

Thereafter, I observed some dilemma arising from the principles set by the first private teacher in ancient China about 2,500 years ago.

For instance, Confucius believed in rules and regulations. His rules were fixed; they never changed. He had a rule for almost everything. His many rules dictated the way individuals should behave so they did not behave in the incorrect way. His students had to learn his many rules and regulations and always comply with them.

However, in an international school environment, teachers will encourage students to speak up and be more open-minded and creative and its perfectly fine for students to deviate from the rules and regulations sometimes. Ironically, if a student is highly disciplined, the student could be perceived as rigid and even stubborn and might be incapable of thinking outside-the-box.

From the “teaching” perspective, Confucius also has a famous saying of “If the mat is not straight, the teacher will not sit.” Apparently, teachers at present world are expected to be flexible, inspirational and innovative. Again, this expectation could contradict the model teacher in the mind of Confucius.

Owing to the aforesaid, I believe the ideal education model for our next generation should be a delicate blending of Confucius learning and the best-in-class learning model (eg Finland) from the Western world.

In Analects 16.7, Confucius says:

“The gentleman has three things to be careful about: when he is young, when his energy and blood are not yet settled, he must be cautious about sex. In his middle age, when his energy and blood are still strong, he must be cautious about fighting. In his old age, when his energy and blood are weak, he must be cautious about greed.” Some people think President Trump violates all these Confucius norms. I’m hopeful that, after the Trump administration, the global community (especially our future leaders) will increasingly value the Confucian emphasis of family, order, and hierarchy, which is a cornerstone of Chinese culture. 


One thought on “Reflection on my personal leadership opportunity around Confucius learning

  1. Hi Ronald, thanks so much for sharing your reflections. It’s amazing how some of the Confucius teachings continue to apply through the ages, and even now. These days everyone thinks they are a philosopher or a ‘guru’ of something – just look at the number of books written on self help! But when you scratch beneath the surface, a lot of new theories are based on ancient wisdoms that have been around for centuries – just applied to a modern context. These old philosophies came from a place of deep reflection and observation of society, behaviours that few have time for nowadays. In many ways I feel that people have lost their way because they have forgotten how to apply such common wisdoms (and even common sense) in a world that is just so distracted and constantly in search of ‘answers’.

    I also love how you bring to light this idea of ‘hybridising’ Asian and Western ideals to build new models, for example in education. Would love to chat more about some of these thoughts when we next meet. I think there’s a lot that the west can learn from this side of the world – but we have to do it before we overly dilute the essence of these teachings in an increasing globalised Asia!


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