Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Wise Leader

Personal relationships, such as father and son, ruler and citizen, among others, are important and often mentioned in Korean culture. Writing in the Peace Weekly, a columnist gives us two understandings of the ruler and citizen relationship. Han Fei, an ancient Chinese philosopher, is quoted as saying: When the ruler is not virtuous, citizens will work hard not to be wicked but will be deceitful and and look out for themselves. Confucius said that when the ruler governs citizens with etiquette, they will respond with service and loyalty.

Confucius considered the relationship between ruler and ruled as based on etiquette and loyalty. Han Fei saw it as based on a shared understanding that each would be looking out for their respective self-interests. Each sage stressed different aspects of the relationship. 

The columnist applies this ancient understanding of the ruler/ruled relationship to the political realities of today: a president and civil servants. It is obviously not a father and son relationship, he points out, but a relationship in which each is looking after their own interests. This can be easily seen in the business world, with its management team on one side and the workers on the other.

"People around you determine everything."  Words of wisdom that have come down from the past and the columnist uses these words to describe what is going on in our society. When a capable person leaves a job, and another person not as capable takes over, serious problems frequently arise. That is why, the columnist says, those in a leadership position, both in a country or in business, have to think long before assigning someone to an important  position.
In Korea there have been persons who have been forced to resign  for inappropriate behavior. Some of those who have resigned  made decisions for their own good and have not been interested in service and loyalty.

Confucian recommendations are more important for some; others see Han Fei's recommendations as proper. Though Fei says that when the ruler is not virtuous there will be problems among the citizens, it is also true, he says, that when the ruler thinks he is always right and doesn't admit when he's mistaken, we will have citizens acting similarly.

When the ruler selects those for positions in government who are calculating and not looking for truth but what can benefit themselves or the party, the common good suffers. Lack of virtue of those in government will negatively influence much of society, and give rise to many problems, says the columnist. The article ends with the dire statement that not only do those around a leader determine everything that is likely to issue from that leader, but they also can be the reason very little is ever accomplished under that leader.

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