11 October 2021

Talents Management from Confucius

We will quote from “Doctrine of the Mean” 《中庸》where Confucius was asked about how to govern a state. His reply was:

a “故为政在人,取人以身,修身以道,修道以仁。
b 仁者,人也,亲亲为大。义者,宜也,尊贤为大。
c 亲亲之杀,尊贤之等,礼所生也。”

My translation:

a. Hence, governing is about people management.
Select people according to their character & behavior.
Character building is how they follow Dao(The Universal Way).
The Dao is cultivated through love/benevolence/compassion.

b. Love is about people. Loving those close to you takes priority.
Righteousness is about doing the right things and doing things rightly.
It is about respecting those with talents.

c. Preventing partiality due to loving your own, and preventing favoritism based on talents, requires the use of propriety (standards of proper behavior).


So we can see Confucius pick character before talents or abilities. Judge his character first and then judge his abilities. Does this person have a love for others? Does he love his family? If he cannot even love those that are close to him, there is no way he can love people in general. Hence, he cannot be a good governor. Government is for the people.

However, love and respect could go overboard, so one should guards against partiality and favoritism, and nepotism. We need to establish proper standards and policies to guide the management of people.

Propriety, a right balance, is the main teaching of Confucius.

For more on management and leadership principles by Confucius,
please see: 

  1. Management According to Confucius - 10 Keys
  2. Management According to Confucius 2 - 5 Good & 4 Bad
  3. Management According to Confucius 3 – Love & People-Centered

Lim Liat (c) 11 Oct 2021