Confucianism has remained a dominant social force in Asian society for over two thousand years, providing a useful construct for explaining modern internal business management in China as well as day-to-day private life. Fostering a work ethic consistent with Confucian values has been shown to be fruitful. Leadership under the Confucian tradition emphasizes a holistic concern for the welfare of employees, a concern for harmony in groups, teamwork and self-sacrifice.
What the Future Holds
In contrasting Western thought with Confucian thought, it was said to me by a friend that, “The Westerner strives to be a hero, while the Confucian strives to be a gentleman.” One can easily imagine the power as well as the conflicts of both (sometimes conflicting) characterizations.
Confucianism has been criticized for limiting innovation, since its heavy emphasis on respect for authority and hierarchy and what many may view as an “overly harmonious” approach may suppress healthy dissent, independent and critical thought, and individual creativity. This criticism is certainly valid, and we’ll explore ways in which to mange this limitation in Part 5 On the Ground.
Confucianism has evolved and has been expanded by many scholars over the years and will no doubt continue to evolve. With more and more companies crossing international borders and corporate cultures, it will be interesting to see how Confucianism engages and perhaps integrates Western concepts and how Western business approaches can capture the strong forces of Confucianism. Today’s era may turn out to be one of the most rapid periods of Confucian evolution.