Sima Guang, a famous Chinese Historian and a former Primer of the Zong Dynasty, gave as two sets of three key principles, one on personal development and the other on running successful organization. This wisdom is distilled from the study of the rise and fall of nations and leaders in China from 403 BC to 959AD. It was written as a guide for the King to rule the country well.
The famous history book written by Sima Guang is The Zizhi Tongjian 资治通鉴, literally in English is, “Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance“, or in my translation, “The CEO Handbook”, since it was writtent as lessons for the rulers. It is published in 1084, in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 CE, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered Sima Guang (1019–1086) to lead with other scholars for the compilation of a universal history of China. The task took 19 years to be completed. It records Chinese history from 403 BCE to 959 CE, covering 16 dynasties and spanning across almost 1,400 years, and contains 294 volumes and about 3 million Chinese characters. Sima Guang gave his evaluation for the reasons for success or failures throughout the chronicles. Most kings through the Chinese dynasties had recommend the study of the book. Even Chairman Mao of China has recommended it as well.
Sima Guang listed 3 key qualities for being a leader and another 3 principles for ruling the country. Here is the mind-map that explains what these mean:
Character Development has 3 key qualities：
- Discernment &
- Benevolence is not raising children with indulgence. It is improving the politics, promoting education, raising all things, caring for people. This is the meaning of benevolence of a People’s King.
- Discernment is not critical and extensive fault finding. It is about knowing righteousness, understanding of security and danger, discernment of wise and fool, differentiating right and wrong.
- Decisiveness is not ruthlessness and brutality. It is deciding and sticking, without any doubt, to the principle(Dao) such that it cannot be tempted by evil, changed by flattery.
- Benevolence without discernment is like having fertile field and yet not ploughing them.
- Discernment without decisiveness is like seeing the weeds among the wheats and yet not removing them.
- Dicisiveness without love is like only wanting to harvest(cutting out) without planting.
- Having all three leads to a strong nation. Less one leads to decline. Less two leads to danger. Less three leads to death.
- Since the beginning of man, there is nothing before nor has changed.
Gain wealth to loose one conduct is not want I choose.
Choose to follow and do the good and kind things will bring beauty back to self.
The kind does not change with riches or poverty,
The righteous does not change for life or death.
Managing the Country – The Three Principles
Governing has 3 Principles:
- Assignment: Matching People to Job ie 知人善任 Know People & Assign Them Rightly
- The abilities of people differs. Different jobs have their specialization.
- During the ancient times of Yao and Xun, the capable people stayed in their specialty and changed not.
- If assign them here and there, change their jobs, then cannot reach excellence.
- Hence, leader with integrity can gain the best of the world and deploy them according to their strengths.
- Assess capabilities then Assign
- Rewards for Performance
- Heavily rewards those with accomplishments。
- Those that did well, rapidly reward them and don’t change their job.
- Punish in time. Severely punish those with wrong doings.
- This is like controlling the horses of a wagon, direction & speed.
- Demote or replace the under performers by able ones.
- Those with faults then punish or kill without mercy.
- If goodness is not rewarded and evil is not punished, the good ones will be lazy and the evil ones diligent.
Putting Things in Context:
Running a business or governing a country takes more than just leadership qualities and management skills. One must watch and make sense of the external environments, the non-controllable, the influence-able and controllable factors in the them. Sun Zi’s Art of War gives a more comprehensive framework for understanding, adapting and exploiting the external environment. But basically, life is about changes and good life is about knowing how to adapt and make good use of the changes. The best on this is the Book of Change, the root of all Chinese Philosophies, including Art of War. Here is a mind-map that put the study of Sinology in proper context:
In the above mind-map, we can see that “The CEO Handbook” is just part of a larger framework, covering only the ‘People’ factor. There are other factors listed by the Art of War. On the left side, we see the origin of Chinese Philosophies, the Book of Change, also known as I-Ching.
Lim Liat (c) 21 Jan 2015