Purpose – This paper aims to examine whether and to what extent the practical wisdom contained in classical Confucianism can provide conceptual and ethical resources for ethical leadership for Chinese companies in the twenty‐first century. The objectives of the paper are: to reconstruct the core elements of Confucianism; to account some major issues confronting corporate China; to identify the attributes of the Confucian ethical leadership through those of Junzi against such a backdrop; to identify some major challenges for Junzi leadership in today's business environment in China; and to consider some implications of this analysis for management development and management education. Design/methodology/approach – The paper adopts a normative analysis. Findings – A critical articulation of the concept of ethical leadership based on the Confucian notion of Junzi is presented, and the concept is examined against the context of problems confronting business in China. The challenges for Confucian ethical leadership are identified in the conclusion. Research limitations/implications – The paper presents a critical reference for managers who adopt or intend to adopt Confucian ideas in management. Social implications – The paper provides a critical reference for those in society who assume leadership positions to learn about Chinese ethical leadership. Originality/value – Few works in the literature have made the connection between Confucian ethical leadership and the Chinese corporate context with a critical approach and rigorous analysis to help reveal the inherent challenges.
Journal of Management Development – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 19, 2011
Keywords: Confucianism; Ethical leadership; Leadership; China; Junzi