Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Illustrations of Leadership II

The second leadership tip is:
Be fair to all. A good leader shows no favorites.
Both positive and negative examples of this tip come from the reign of Xuanzong (玄宗) of the Tang dynasty (AD 712-756). The first part of his reign, Xuanzong avoided favoritism by keeping the eunuchs and consort families out of politics. He also enforced economy on the court. The Tang dynasty reached its pinnacle. About the time that he turned sixty, however, after his first wife died, he became enamored of one of his son's wives, Yang Guifei, and took her as a mistress. Economy went out the window, and her favoritism of a general, An Lushan (who was rumored to also be her lover) caused disastrous results. An Lushan used his position to amass power and try to usurp the throne (he did proclaim himself emperor). Xuanzong was forced to abdicate. The resultant wars, which lasted after Xuanzong's death, devastated China. The population fell from 53 million before the war to 17 million a decade later after its conclusion. The Tang dynasty never quite recovered in the century and a half that it lasted. So in a way, Xuanzong's favoritism was the Tang dynasty's swan song.