Confucian Open Leadership

April 1, 2022 Open Leadership No Comments

In my view, Confucian Leadership is about Open Leadership after transcending some inconsistency.

Allow me at first to transcend. Then – some patience needed – I will come back to Confucianism itself.


Any theorizing about ‘heaven’ as if it is conceptually graspable is not Aurelian. It denotes a direction toward the ungraspable, a direction that goes vertically toward the inside ― deeper self, the inner universe of mental-neuronal patterns. This doesn’t say where it ends. It is a direction.

Stating that it’s about specific things outside oneself – for instance, looking for heaven on a cloud – is crucially different. Confucianism simultaneously transcends this and then it doesn’t. It accommodates but, in doing so, remains inconsistent.

This is also cultural, in a good sense.

Something may be poetic when embedded in a respectable culture, while straightforwardly transplanting it toward another respectable but less evidently poetic culture may take out the zest. These differing cultures may be separated in time or space or both.

The poetry may be very nice and carry tons of wisdom ― excellent!

Still, it may be unsustainable in the long term to keep the poetry without simultaneously seeing what it’s about from a conceptually rational viewpoint. The latter is like the heaviest hammer. It’s a pity to have poetry as the enemy of such. It shouldn’t happen, and it’s not necessary.

This is the age of cultures coming together. Therefore, Confucianism – like many other things – should be purified of what can only in the past be exclusively poetic.

Open Leadership looks like purified Confucianism.

Translate heaven to the deeper self. That is straightforward.

Then let’s look at two main Confucian concepts – rén and yi – and see how they can also be translated.

Translating rén

Benevolence or, say, compassion. With ancient wisdom and modern insights into human depth, this becomes Compassion ― the virtue-form of heaven.

Translating yi

Yi is the moral disposition to do good. In essence, this is the overflowing of the bucket of Compassion.

After this, two more concepts: Li and Zhi

Li is a communal system of behavior according to the above. This may be culturally dependent and evolving.

Zhi is the insight into what is good in the behavior of others and oneself.

People are fundamentally good and can grow toward their human potential.

This doesn’t come automatically. It needs support and can be supported by personal and societal efforts.

This support is what Open Leadership is about, bringing together poetry and rationality, past and present, and hopefully East and West, into Worldwide Compassion.

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