Chinese Philosophy Applied to Business
The Importance of Chinese Philosophy in the Workplace
Confucius says . . . know your place
Chinese leadership theory is based not on books by management gurus, but on the five main schools of Chinese philosophy.
■ Humane theory (Confucianism): This approach emphasises harmony and an organisation in which everyone knows their place and role. For the leader, the key value is rén — benevolence — which means focusing on relationships, including those outside the business sphere, and acting as a role model. Organisations are hierarchical, with clear boundaries between layers.
■ Altruistic theory (Mohism): Mozi’s theory is one that suits tough times, when everyone has to work together to make the most of scarce resources. The leader needs to be wise, strong and kind. He or she will run the organisation as a paternalistic dictatorship.
■ Naturalistic theory (Taoism): Harmony is important, as in humane theory, but it is driven by the environment and people rather than the leader. The organisational structure is flat and decentralised; the leader should be invisible.
■ Institutional theory (legalism): This emphasises authority, law and management techniques. Leaders must lead and be seen to lead — for example, by establishing rules and ensuring that workers stick to them.
■ Strategic theory (militarism): A pragmatic, moderate approach designed to conquer markets, while recognising that all-out war is best avoided. Leaders need to be brilliant strategists capable of dealing with both internal and external issues.