Effective Leadership by Capabilities of Virtues:
A New Analysis of Power of Political Leadership in Confucian Perspective
University of Hawaii at Manoa,Chung-ying Cheng 成中英教授
In this paper I develop the theory of virtues as capabilities of a human person which integrates both the view of Confucian ethics and Aristotelian ethics. On the basis of this important insight I propose a theory of leadership (political leadership in particular) based on development and implementation of virtue-capabilities of wisdom, care and courage as maintained in the Confucian Analects. I argue for the Confucian insights into the depth structure of the human self in terms of feeling, thinking and willing which leads to the virtue-capabilities of zhi ren yong (wisdom, care and courage). I explain how these three virtue-capabilities form a unity of trinity which warrants effective political leadership. I also show how this model of political leadership will have to be effective on three levels of society at large, namely, community, business and government. I have made a suggestion on commenting on the Governance Principles of Caux Table from the trinity of zhi ren yong point of view in order to show how significant and valuable my approach is.
Virtues as Capabilities of Leadership
Political Leadership is leadership by power of both competence and performance. There cannot be competence if there is no performance as its articulation and there cannot be performance if there is no competence as its source. People may take leadership to be a skill to be learned, but the skill of leadership must still be rooted in one’s competence to master the skill and to apply the skill properly and successfully. In this sense, leadership, particularly political leadership, is a performance of a skill as grounded or rooted in the competence one has developed in reference to people, their circumstances, their needs and their purposes of life. It has to involve understanding and knowledge, judgments of value, and action of insight, incentive and fulfillment.
If we inquire into the substance of competence-performance model of leadership, we can easily identify competence with capabilities of doing and practicing and identify performance with actions issued from such capabilities. Once we get into capabilities, we may wonder what sort of capacities we have to bring out in order to speak of effective political leadership. The answer is actually provided by Confucius in his response to his disciples asking the same question. Confucius ‘s famous answer is simple and brief: “To have effective leadership one has to develop and apply virtues” (weizheng yi de) (Lunyu 2:1). In fact, it is because of virtues, people and others will surround and support the leader like all stars surrounding and supporting the North Star.
If leadership by Confucian virtues constitutes what Confucian leadership would mean, we have two main problems for understanding the nature of Confucian leadership or leadership by capabilities as virtues: how are virtues to be regarded as capabilities and how capacities are to be regarded as virtues? In order to be effective, how do we master the virtues as unity and system so that we can develop and use them systematically?
To answer the first question, we must see that a virtue is a power and capability which we can experience and cultivate so that we shall act right and achieve good by following it. In this sense a virtue is simultaneously a motivation, a consequence and ability, and power of action as well as a desirable performance. It is no doubt a disposition of one’s being human and can be said to manifest humanity at its best as it contributes to one’s own development, self-realization and flourishing and harmony of a community. In this sense a Confucian virtue is not just a motivated disposition of a human person, but a developed ability to cope with problems of a human situation. This virtuous disposition has to become an ability to make good judgment and right action which brings out concrete good such as meeting an obligation, protecting a right and contributing to a useful and meaningful transformation. In this sense Confucian virtues are like Aristotelian virtues, being a matter of excellent action of a dispositional trait of the human character and a matter of fulfilling the inner telos of a human being, and thus always an essential element constitutive of the well being of the human being or a community of human beings.
We must also note that an Aristotelian virtue (arête), being it moral or intellectual, is de facto a Confucian one, for each of virtues such as wisdom, justice, temperance and courage or friendship could meet the Confucian ideas of self-development in contributing to social ordering. Hence we can see virtues as well-defined by reflective insights of both Confucius and Aristotle. They can be said to be a matter of natural disposition, innate acquisition, reinforced by deliberative cultivation and practical judgment, and conducive to persistent character or habit formation of the human self. They can be also said to exhibit the ideal principle of the middle way or the mean which Confucius calls “zhong-yong”, the central and the constant, which should bring the best of action in any ordinary human situation.
Unity of Virtues as Unity of Capabilities in a Human Person
In describing the similarity of the Confucian and Aristotelian virtues, however, we should not forget an important difference between the two, namely for Confucius, the virtues though appear to be discrete, are highly organically related and in fact are regarded as derived and based from the root virtue of ren or benevolence toward others and the world. It is on reflection of ren we come to justice and propriety in treating others taking into considerations of time, place and natural relationship which generate sentiments of right and duty and consideration of appropriateness and trust. In order to have the right way of measuring to the situation and acting properly in relation to others, one has to have wisdom which requires knowledge and consideration of practical application and creative adaptation. In this manner we see that virtues could be one and yet its practice and application are many. Although Socrates may have stressed the idea of unity of virtues in his idea of moral knowledge, Aristotle may not have stressed enough on this matter. On the side of Confucianism, it is clear that virtues have an internal unity which requires a central perspective of reflective intelligence for application in light of understanding and knowledge which are to be conceived as particular understandings, not just conceptual universality. This is then the answer to the second problem of the systematic unity of virtues raised in the above.
To summarize what has been said, virtues are capabilities which are rooted in our nature and which can be developed into abilities to valuate, normalize and act. In this sense virtues are capabilities to know and deal with human problem and people just like our intellectual capacities which lead to knowledge of the world. They are capable of being refined and cultivated into abilities of adequate performance and hence can be said to be efficient and excellent. Furthermore, virtues have an internal consistence and coherence which gives rise to their organic unity and interdependence. It is in this latter understanding we come to see that virtues are originated from a fundamental source and aimed at a single ideal end.
Source of Virtues and Unity of Virtue-Capabilities
With regard to the problem of how to understand the Confucian virtues which are many and which appear to be separate and discrete, we may point out that although Confucian virtues include mainly benevolence, justice, propriety, wisdom and trustworthiness (ren yi li zhi xin) and also many others, depending on different human contexts, the idea of Confucian virtue as capability is always directed toward the one deep source capability for all virtues. In this connection we can point to the Confucian ren as that one single source of virtues which gives rise a variety of differentiated virtues. At the same time we may also point to the Confucian wisdom as a virtue which unifies all the virtues in their proper applications in virtue of ren . In this sense ren is both the source for both difference and identity of all virtues. This I take is the meaning and spirit of oneness in the Confucius’s saying : “My way is penetrated with oneness” (The Analects, 4.15)
For the relation between ren and zhi, perhaps, we may put it in a different way, ren unifies the different virtues by genesis whereas zhi differentiates virtues by application. But then we need also stress the importance of practice and application of virtues with regard to concrete action and performance so that we will be responsible for the action and performance in practice as well as for producing desirable results which transform a given situation and generate a new scenario. This means that we need to conceive wisdom as a capability which would lead to its being capable of realization in concrete and this implies that we must have the virtue of determined action which we shall identify with the virtue of courage or moral courage (yong): to wit, courage is the power of implementing the power of wisdom generated by the power of care and concern toward a human situation. It is the practical power of doing and working in difficult situations and crises. It is the executive power backed by insight and prudence and dedication to an ideal end.
With yong understood In this manner, we can now conceive the structure of virtues as organized and represented by the dynamical unity of concern / wisdom / courage as explained above. This unity is in fact the unity of feeling, thinking (reflection) and willing as ren is the best function of feeling, wisdom is the best function of wisdom and the willing is the best function of courage, each of which stands for a capability of the human nature, or we may simply identify the three cardinal virtues with capability of heart, mind and will.
This unity of capabilities of virtues in my view represents a model of political leadership which is included in any ideal political leadership model, which, however, often remains unarticulated so that virtuous powers of a political leadership also remain ungrounded and un-initiated and even un-sustainable. Here I want to bring this model of trinity of virtues or powers of humanity to the front for a better understanding and illustration of political leadership.
Trinity of Confucian Virtue-Capabilities: Wisdom /Care / Courage
onfucius has achieved an insight into how an individual person or human being functions in terms of his deep sense of human self: the human self wishes to realize itself in terms of its identity of humanity with difference of virtuous powers (capabilities). He comes to see unity of the self in terms of the unity of feeling heart, thinking mind and acting will and indicates how each function wishes to achieve an end which is essential for the realization of the human self: the human self should have no doubts, should have no misgivings and should have no fears. He expressed on two occasions these reflections of ends of the human self by associating the virtuous capabilities of zhi (wisdom), ren (care) and yong (courage). (The Analects 9:24; 14:28). For him the question is how one comes to develop these capabilities of nature so that one becomes resting in harmony and tranquility as he indicates in his remarks on how the wise enjoys water and the caring enjoys mountain, how the wise likes movement and enjoys life and the caring likes rest and enjoys longevity (The Analects 6:23). Let us articulate the structures of trinity of zhi ren and yong as follows:
Ren Zhi Yong
Zhi Yong Ren Yong Ren Zhi
For a deeper understanding of the role of the sense of self-realization in a human person for political leadership, I suggest to identify leadership with the self-directing and self-realizing autonomy of the human self as indicated in Confucian reflection of self-reflection and self-cultivation. The word for self is composed of two aspects, the aspect of self-origination and the aspect of self-completion, as we see in the term of zi-ji 自-己， zi being the former aspect and ji being the latter aspect. As such the human self is the creative integration of its source with its body-reality or experience of reality. The originative action of the self is to seek the other and the extended whole reality for one’s completion whereas the completive action of the self is to seek integration of one’s own self so that one can originate power of action again. This may appear to be a metaphysical statement of the dynamics of the human self, but it needs not to be so for it gives articulation of the capability of ren for extending oneself and the capability of zhi for restraining or constraining oneself. Thus we would be enabled in a better position to appreciate how ren and zhi become the outstanding capabilities of the humanity whose function is to create a state of no misgiving and no doubts so that one could act out in determination and freedom without fears. This is precisely how political leadership should be conceived and considered. We may conclude by saying that the creative autonomy of the human self represents the self-leadership of the human self whereas the political leadership by retrieval should therefore represent the creative autonomy of a group of people under the political leadership. What is required of the personal in terms of zhi and ren is consequently required of the political leader because these capabilities are what give identity and difference to the group and their sustaining and growth in the group as well as it is led by the leader.
We have seen how Confucius has envisioned a depth-moral psychological approach to effective leadership which is composed of capabilities of virtues of zhi ren yong. We have explained zhi and ren in detail. But then we can still ask why yong? The answer is that we need a virtue-capability which explicitly relates to action and implementation, especially when one has to confront many problems and obstructions. To have yong is to be able to meet challenges at certain times and to provide challenges at other times so that we will be able to transcribe one’s ideas and ideals into reality. Then we still have the task of identifying the functions of capability for yi and capability for li and capability for xin among all major virtues of Confucian leadership of the human self (or human mind). I shall do these as follows.
First, it is clear that yi is a matter of concretely conceiving and configuring the ren. It is because ren is the totalizing and holistic representation of yi whereas yi is the distributive and differentiating method of fulfilling the ren. In this sense yi represents the application of the function of zhi for sake of differentiation which is zhi itself. This is again true of li in so far as li deals with individual relations within a framework of values and virtues for the sake of identification of the whole humanity which is ren itself. In comparison we see yi being more objectively differentiating than li where li is more subjectively oriented to preserve the ren of the human self for what is related to li is related to the human self as an individual person. But for yi it is more a matter of rational distribution which requires sacrifice of the self as an individual and in this sense a more critical realization of the virtue-capability of ren.
One might even suggest that li gives a background expression to both ren and yi in providing and requiring a system of rules dealing with relationships and positions and thus obligations and rights. Hence we see a process of particularization of ren into li via the considerations of yi and of ren into yi via considerations of li. In fact, we can treat ren-yi and ren-li or li-yi as a matter of both benti and tiyong: ren is the root of yi and yi the body of ren. Similarly, we can see yi as the yong of the ren whereas ren remains the body of the yi. This is equally true for the relationship of ren and li where ren is the source of li and li is the realization of ren. One may also see that it is ren which gives rise to li and it is zhi which gives to yi. With this insight one can easily how the application and practice of ren-li and zhi-yi and hence ren-zhi and li-yi gives rise to xin or trust and trustworthiness via the exercise of the virtue-capability of yong. We may indeed express the complex structure of derived virtues in the following illustration:
Finally, we can take xin to be a result of developing yong for it is only on the basis of performance of action by yong we gain confidence and establish trust among people whether in market or in government by society at large. With confidence and trust established a political leader can lead much more efficiently than without them. But this does not take away the ability to overcome difficulties and crises when those arise in the process of implementation. Hence yong is a constant force for supporting and nourishing xin. Thus seen, we can go back to our triad of virtues which could lead to a networking of five and more virtues in the Confucian framework of political leadership.
Leadership on Three Planes of Society
To recapitulate, in a broad sense, virtues are virtual abilities and disposition to act right and seek good in one’s action as leader and driving force in realizing oneself or the potential common identity of a group or community. Virtues are not merely moral virtues but virtues which achieve values which include moral values. Hence we can take virtues as powers of doing right and achieving good as it was understood by Confucius and Confucian scholars. In this regard, even though the Confucian understanding of virtues is different from the Greek understanding of virtues as defined by Aristotle, in speaking of seeking excellence as virtue or virtue as excellence arête Aristotelian virtue may be interpreted as acting right to seek happiness and well being of oneself with full control of one’s moral and intellectual capabilities. In this one may say that there is virtue implicitly understood as a power and a disposition to act well. Whereas Aristotle speaks of seeking one’s own happiness as the goal of virtues, Confucian scholars can see virtues as directed to wellbeing of all other people as one assumes the role of a political leader. In this sense the Aristotle view needs not to differ much from the Confucian view. For the Aristotle virtues can be so publically used and not to be confined to one private human individual. As a matter of fact, the moral virtues of prudence or practical wisdom, justice and temperance all becomes Confucian virtues for attaining the well being and harmony of the community and people which should include the personal self.
The intellectual virtue of reflection and rational thinking is no doubt a matter of knowledge leading to wisdom and hence considered a matter of end and a matter of means for the realization of the good for leadership or fellowership. What is lacking in Aristotle virtues is that of love, namely the Confucian ren. Again, as we have suggested, we can make sue of the Aristotle idea of friendship into ren, a concern with others. It is needless to say that ren is much more a dynamic and creative virtue and power of transformation and action than simply friendship.
Again as indicated above, in the Analects Confucius professed his observation that the wise has no doubts, the caring has no misgivings, and the courageous has no fears (The Analects 9.24;14.28). Does he intend that a good man (junzi) will not only lead himself by developing wisdom, care and will, but is capable of leading others by furthering his wisdom and vision, his care and concern , and his will and determination to achieve and act? The answer is absolutely positive, for being junzi is to become a person of self-ruling with his power of influence and leadership founded on a cultivated disposition and ability to achieve a better state of self-realization which would be at the same time a realization of intrinsic values of wisdom (knowledge), vision care and determined devotion of implementation. How do we know that these qualities are qualities of leadership? We have to see that in our experience of leadership in a community, a business and governance.
Community is a natural association of human individuals and families based on common desires and feelings of securing life and well being and harmony, without which a community can hardly survive and continue. Although we may count on individuals and family units to maintain their rhythm of life with natural adjustment, there could be many factors which could lead to tensions and conflicts among the members of the community, this is because new needs may arrive and different needs and views need communication and harmonization. It must take a leading force which would channel the harmonizing forces to effective results and curb disharmonizing forces to the minimum. What is most needed perhaps is the power of mediation which is required for communication and coordination. There must be also individuals who would maintain a state of rectitude which would function as umpire and moral observer for balancing opposing forces and integrating the useful and separate directions into synergetic purposes to be shared by all. This means that leaders for community must be able to relate to everybody else in the community so that he can create an atmosphere of cooperation and friendliness in general. Whether there is any major objective to be realized, this atmosphere is needed as the most basic condition for any project to take place or to shape up. Simply, it is a matter of playing the role of cohering and bridging.
Thus wisdom of understanding people is important, and it will no doubt reduce mistrust and senseless opposition. As to the care and concern they are to do with knowing the community and appreciating its forces of cohesion. Without care and concern which are required for giving rise to pragmatic assistance and support, no sense of interdependence and mutual trust will take place. The sense of will to action is equally important for it means vitality and willingness to seek the new and achieve the desirable. It is with this will to action that he community will not remain just in seclusion but move forward toward what is envisioned and therefore make progression and continuous improvement.
The second level of leadership with higher degree of transformation is the level of doing business as essential constitutive activities of economic development in a free market. A business leader cannot go without knowledge and wisdom of doing the right thing or making the right choice of objectives in the market place. There is always the question of ends and goals. In this requirement we see how knowledge is required as a necessary component of making relevant decisions. But to make correct decisions one needs interested and comprehensive knowledge which is tested and which could yield values for the potential customers and consumers. This means that we must come to know a situation where some needs are present and we also recognize that we see their relevant connection with our means and motivations of production. In this sense we need care and concern for we need to motivate others for acting toward accomplishment of the end and goal. The leading force no doubt comes from one who would commit himself to action under guidance of wisdom and yet relevantly related to the well being of all involved, namely the stakeholders of the producers, the market and the consumers. Hence the leadership based on capabilities of wisdom/ care / courage will become functional relative to the concrete ideals and goals of the business one has for development.
Finally, we come to the situation or level of political governance, particularly to do with governments of modern days. What is the purpose of political governance? The answer is that it is to maintain order among people relative to pursuits of basic values of life. It is at the same time to seek ways of development and innovative advance for the people at large. It also involves multiple perspectives in order to integrate multiple processes of achieving satisfaction and ordered well being for the people. As the political leadership involves more power than either community or business, it is exposed to many possibilities of competence and performance. This makes the political leadership position extremely dynamic and sensitive because of potential changes and transformations. The ideal is to maintain order without subscribing to any temptation of diversion for personal and selfish desires and this no doubt requires the wisdom of seeking good for the public and maintain an just and fair mind toward matters of profits and benefits to do with people and the public.
To be able to do so obviously requires a political leader to do constant reflection and careful watch over events of the public so that one will not lose sight of the common end of the people which often requires useful and wise guidance regarding problem-solving and resources utilization. For this a political leader needs far and clear vision as to what is to be needed and what is to be achieved and how he would achieve them. He also needs care and benevolence because it is what makes him being capable of relating to people. One’s wisdom is matter of making this care and benevolence available so that he can be close to people. It is also a matter of seeking improvement on all aspects of life of people with comprehensive understanding and insight. Finally, it is clearly a matter of motivation and dynamism in actually engaging issues, generating relevant ideas and implementing policies so that they can be effective and useful for people and with the people.
In conclusion, an effective leader is always one who acts on his words and show an example of doing and achieving. Take the example of controlling economic crisis since 2008, the problem on how to deal with crisis of this kind is obviously one of knowing what has happened and how to redress the situation. He has to show care enough to commit to real solutions and to act with knowledge and courage even it costs his own fortune or self-interests or those of his own group or party. This no doubt involves a decision and an ability to act out and to act out correctly and with perseverance.
My Comments on CAUX ROUND TABLE PRINCIPLES FOR GOVERNMENT from the point of view of political leadership based on trinity of Wisdom, Care and Courage.
1.Public power is held in trust for the community
It requires a public-mindedness (gongxin 公心) to develop and hold this power. But public-mindedness must be based on the deep sense of shared sense of humanity and a shared sense of human concern. This means that ren must be such a base.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES FOR GOVERNMENTS
2.Discourse ethics should guide application of public power
Discourse is a matter of intellectual and rational communication and it requires zhi to work out and to discern issues and explore solutions. The application of zhi in this sense is no doubt both derived from and directed to considerations of ren. The Civic Order shall serve all those who accept the responsibilities of citizenship
3.Public Servants shall refrain from abuse of office, corruption and shall demonstrate high levels of personal integrity
To exercise public power in the interest of people one should have the self-power to resist temptations and allurements of interests and desires abetted in situations and from one’s exposure to circumstances. It is matter of moral courage or yong to do so and one needs to make this task of yong a matter of self-cultivation toward more strenuous practice of ren and zhi.
4.Security of persons, individual liberty and ownership of property are the foundation for individual justice
Mencius would find these three values as essential requirements for providing a basis and surrounding for people not to willingly fall into crimes. To do this obviously a leader must be capable of making good plans for both political and economic well-being of the people. This again means that the leader must be able to combine his virtuous virtual powers of zhi ren yong into practical and useful actions.
5.Justice shall be provided
Again Mencius argues for the importance of yi ( 义rightness and righteousness) side by side with ren. It is clear that yi is a matter of intelligent and rational application of ren for concrete cases in the long term and overall interests of people as a community
6.General welfare contemplates improving the well-being of individual citizens
Both Confucius and Mencius consider improving the economic and social well-being as the top priority of acting on a way of governance by benevolence ren
7.Transparency of government ensures accountability
Government as wielded by a public-minded leader has nothing to hide from people and have every decision and action to be open the people under heaven. Again this is a wise principle of rulership advocated by Mencius in conformity with the implementation of ren and yi
8.Global cooperation advances national welfare
The ultimate goal for political governance under zhi ren yong is social harmony and inter-state productivity and peace. This is expressed in the statement of “harmonizing the numerous states” for the well-being of all peoples, an end for Confucian management of worldly affairs.
 In the first occasion Confucius is quoted to put the wisdom before care whereas on the second occasion he is quoted to put the care before wisdom. Each ordering has a significance: the first ordering suggests the differentiating function in practice and the second ordering suggest the unifying or integrating function in reflection. This suffices to indicate how ren and zhi have unique functions each of which is dispensable and is essentially related to the other in maintaining the leadership of the self as creative autonomy of the self. This point applies to the general explication of political leadership in the Confucian perspective in the paper.
 One can see that for music and arts there is the function of relaxing the differentiating functions of both li and yi in so far it could promote ren in the normal proceedings of life-world.