Philosophy of Han Feizi. Must-see for business leaders.

Culture and History
引用元: Han Fei From Wikipedia

“Han Feizi” is also called a guidebook for business leaders. While many people refer to ‘’Sun Tzu Martial Arts’’ as the bible, not a few people also refer to “Han Feizi.” This is because the necessary mindset and attitude in order to lead people are written in the book. I would like to take an easy-to-understand look at what the philosophy of Han Feizi  and way of the thought.


Who is Han Fei ?

Han Fei is a philosopher and legalist who lived in the late Warring States period of China. He is the author of Han Feizi. Han Fei was a prince who was born in the country of current Korea area. As Han Fei had a severe stutter, he was not good at communicating with people. However, he was very talented in writing, and he began to express his thoughts by writing. Later, it led to the creation of “Han Feizi”.

At that time, Emperor Qin Shi Huang aims to unify all of China, and the war broke out in various places. The area of Korea was also caught up in the whirlpool, and Han Fei tried to use his wisdom to help his country, however, none of them didn’t adopt it. Ironically, his ideas and wisdom was recognized by the first emperor of Qin who destroyed his country.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor who ruled China by law. Although people said that he was a cruel and ruthless tyrant, in the recent research, his achievement is now re-evaluated.  Han Fei proposed the First Emperor to govern by law. Nowadays, constitutional country is well-known, however: it was the first challenge at this time to control people by law more than 2000 years. Han Fei was favored by the First Emperor.  He was surrounded by many clever and politically ambitious vassals who were aiming for a position of power. Li Si, who was a schoolmate with Han Fei, was one of them .

Li Si was afraid of smartness and talent of Han Fei. His existence threatens to Li Si.  Li reported to the First Emperor that Han Fei was plotting a rebellion, and Han Fei was imprisoned. It is said that there were secret maneuvers by spies from various countries, antipathy, wariness, and ostracism toward Han Fei’s career advancement. This type of incident have happened from past to present, from East to West all over the world.

Philosophy of Han Feizi

Han Feizi is a book written by Han Fei. To put it simply, his ideology is to doubt of others. People have their own thoughts. They sometimes tell a lie to protect the position, the fame or others. Therefore, a manager needs to confirm if their comment is correct or not even if it means deceiving the other people. It’s not only fact check. A manager must make their subordinates obey the rule/law.

What is the base of the thought

There are two types of theories for human nature, which is that human nature is good or bad. The former one is advocated by Chinese philosopher Xunzi. According to him, when we were born, our nature is bad. Therefore, we need effort and training to reach a goodness. The latter one is advocated by Mencius. According to him, when we were born, our nature is originally good. Even if someone commit a crime, we will be able to be back to a good person. Han Fei believed that men are originally bad nature.

How to use ideology of Han Feizi in the workplace

For a subordinate

If you preaches how to make a profit to your boss/leader nevertheless they want fame, they’ll dismiss you as a “useless guy”.  The leader may pretend to have picked up your thought, but actually he may not use it. If you teach how to make fame to a leader who wants to make a profit, he will dismiss you as “Pointless guy.” The leader pretends not to know and adopt you opinion secretly. It’s a common story in workplace and business world.

Subordinates must be aware of this. Simply, don’t trust the leader/manager. According to Han Feizi, if you want to persuade your leader, it is essential to praise what the leader is proud of, and to make him forget what he is ashamed of.

For a leader/manager

There are talented leaders who take charge based on their own ideas. However, in many cases, those type of leaders fail due to personal limitations and self-righteousness. Therefore, a leader takes advice and add other’s perspectives to implement for better policy. However, many leaders do not verify whether the measures were appropriate, and they reward the advocate before they succeed. Moreover, they do not punish them even if they fail.

When a subordinate declares, “I will do this,” the manager assigns a task based on the declaration. Then, if the result is the same as a subordinate mentioned, the manager gives them a prize. On the contrary, if the result did not come out, the manager will punish the subordinate.  Also, if the result was much better than his declaration, the manager punishes the subordinate. You may think that great result must be welcomed. However, the point is that he didn’t match his claims at the beginning. If the result was out of the range that he could do, even if he achieved it better than others, the leader will punish him. Because his result was not in the range he mentioned. This is the thought by Han Feizi.

Some subordinate have tendency to say exaggeratedly to want attention like kids. However, this is not professional in business world. Remember, leaders and managers must to report to board members and investors. The result which was out of range of declaration have impact on the stock movement.

Role of a manager is to manage and confirm if the subordinate follow what he/she declared in advance, if the subordinates do their work nothing more nothing less, if they have any obstacle or issues that they cannot achieve, how to support their achievement as a leader. A manager request them stable, logical businesses, not gambling business. Once you become a manager, the day will come when you realize how difficult to control it. Han Feizi realized how to manager people over 2000 years ago like this.


  • Ideology by Han Feizi is to govern people by rules without emotion.
  • Han Feizi is a bible for business leaders about how to manage people.
  • For subordinates, it’s practical guidebook about mindset to work in a company.

There were various thinkers such as Confucius, Laozi, Mencius, Xunzi, Zhuangzi, and Han Fei in Eastern countries, whereas there were Socrates, Plato, Aristotelēs in Western countries. Even after 2000 years, many business leaders learn from them, including The Art of War by Sun Tzu. This time, I looked at the thought of Han Feizi in an easy-to-understand manner, but this is only a part. People who lived 2,000 years ago also had the same concern and issues as we have now. We can learn from those wiser about how we should overcome difficulties, how to deal with issues beyond border. It is up to you to learn from predecessors.



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