The Way Of A Leader
The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360
Be Respectful of Wise and Able Ministers
No country will enjoy everlasting peace and no common people will stay forever submissive. When the wise are recruited to serve in the government, the country will enjoy peace and prosperity. To lose them could mean an end to a government. From ancient times until today this recurring theme has not changed at all.
Scroll 43: Shuo Yuan
The ancients said: “An extraordinary leader will use the services of extraordinary ministers. Together with these extraordinary ministers they will attain extraordinary achievements in history.”
Scroll 26: Wei Zhi, Vol. 2
Confucius said: “A leader must respect his ministers because they are the representatives of the people. He must choose ministers close to him carefully because they are the role models for the people.”
Scroll 7: Li Ji
King Wen’s benevolence had helped him to revive a government that was beneficent to the people. When he obtained the services of virtuous people he paid great respect to them and continued to treat them in accord with the proper rites and protocols. Had he not treasured the virtuous people he would not have been able to gain their confidence, and enabled them to work in peace and maximize their potential to help him secure his objectives.
Likewise, the wise king of antiquity would respect the jurisdictions of his ministers, their stipends, and also take good care of them. He would regularly visit ministers who had been stricken ill. And when a minister passed away he would personally offer condolences to the minister’s bereaved family and attend the complete funeral rites conducted in three stages. A king would not drink wine or eat meat until the body of the deceased minister had been placed in the coffin. Neither would he entertain himself with music before the burial rites were done. If a minister passed away during an ancestral offering ceremony, the king would call off the ceremonial music as a sign of mourning for the deceased minister. Thus, the kings in ancient time did everything they could to live up to the requirements of the propriety, and their ministers would repay them with undying devotion.
Scroll 17: Han Shu, Vol. 5
The Duke of Zhou taught his son, Bo Qin, this lesson: “I am the son of King Wen, the younger brother of King Wu, and uncle to King Cheng. My position is therefore not lowly. However, there were times when I had to stop several times in the course of washing my hair; or stop several times in the course of eating, so that I could greet virtuous men who came by for a visit. Still, I am afraid that I might have overlooked any virtuous man. When you arrive at the state of Lu, you must remember this—Never regard your status as a king and look down on anybody.”
Scroll 11: Shi Ji, Vol. 1
There are Ten Hindrances that can render difficult the task of appointing virtuous and able people to a government position:
1. The inability to recognize an able person.
2. If such a person is recognized, no appointment is offered to him.
3. If such a person is appointed, his ability is under-utilized.
4. The service of this person is terminated before his term is over.
5. A person’s virtues are overlooked and his service is disregarded due to minor resentments from the leader.
6. This person’s outstanding contributions are dismissed because of some minor offenses he has committed.
7. This person’s overall excellence is concealed because of some minor flaws in his character.
8. This person’s integrity is hurt because of disparaging attacks waged against him by malicious parties.
9. Deviant beliefs have disrupted regular laws.
10. A virtuous and able person is dismissed because of unfounded accusations made by back-stabbers who are jealous of his presence.
If these Ten Hindrances are not eradicated, the able and virtuous ministers will not be able to serve and assert any influence within the government. And when good ministers are not put to good use, a country’s ability to survive will be challenged.
Scroll 46: Shen Jian
King Wen posed this question to his strategist Jiang Tai Gong: “A ruler is enthusiastic in recruiting the best of minds to work in the government but little has been gained. Social disruptions are on the rise and they are threatening the security of the country. How can this happen?” Tai Gong said: “If you select the best of minds but cannot put them in positions of influence, their presence is only useful in name but not useful in practice.” King Wen asked: “So who is at fault here?” Tai Gong replied: “These problems arose because a leader favors a so-called celebrity made famous by worldly standards and not somebody with any
ability to do the job properly.”
Scroll 31: Liu Tao
If a leader habitually humiliates his ministers and subjects, wise strategists will become reluctant to devise plans for him; eloquent people will become reluctant to embark on diplomatic missions for him; courageous men will become reluctant to engage in warfare for him. Without the advice from the wise strategists, the country will be trapped in danger. Without the services of eloquent diplomats, the relations with other countries will be put under strain. And without the dedication of brave men to fight gallantly, the frontiers will soon become targets of invasion.
Scroll 42: Xin Xu