Junzi virtues: a Confucian foundation for harmony within organizations

Asian Journal of Business Ethics 11 (1):183-226 (2022)
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The classical literature on Confucianism exhorted leaders to practice five core virtues as the basis for becoming a noble person and for sustaining harmonious communities built on trust and good example. We present a theory about how the senior management in modern corporations, by enacting the five Junzi virtues through virtuous environmental, social, and governance policies and practices, might inspire virtue-based relationships between superiors and subordinates and between employees. We argue that if middle managers and employees observe and experience that their firm’s ESG policies and practices are virtuous, they would feel encouraged to practice those virtues in their own behavior, and thus embody and promote interpersonal harmony. We provide three types of illustration for our theory. First, we map the five Junzi virtues to the content of a specimen ESG report. Second, we map seven subtypes of servant leadership behavior of middle managers to the five Junzi virtues. Third, we map seven types of employee organizational citizenship behavior to the five Junzi virtues.



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