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Structure and evolvement of leadership: a study based on Book of Changes

Yan‐nan Gou (School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University, Shanghai, China)
Jing Dong (School of International Business Administration, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




By the re‐interpretation of the Book of Changes (I Ching), this article aims to build a framework for analyzing the structure and the evolvement of leadership.


There are 64 hexagrams in Book of Changes. This article focuses the discussion on Qian hexagram, which is the first and the most important one in all the hexagrams. By using metaphysical concepts, this article builds a dynamic leadership system. This leadership system is composed of the four virtues of Qian (with the meaning of heaven, force), which are as follows: Yuan (creation and origination), Heng (cooperation and development), Li (achievement and sharing), and Zhen (firmness and perseverance). Based on this framework, by using the metaphor of dragon, this article develops an evolvement route of leadership according to the six situations set by the Qian hexagram, which are humble stage, emerging from hiding, trying your best, going up or down, reaching excellence, and starting to fall, and discusses the proper leadership in different situations.


There are four elements or virtues in leadership. The importance of each virtue and the key points in each of them change as an organization or a venture evolves from one situation to another. Leaders should match their leadership with the specific situation they are in.


According to the knowledge of the authors, this article is the first one in the world trying to set up a leadership system based on Book of Changes, especially Qian hexagram. The implications provided by this article would be very valuable for leaders to more successfully evaluate their situations and change their leaderships according the different challenges they may face.



Gou, Y. and Dong, J. (2011), "Structure and evolvement of leadership: a study based on Book of Changes", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 30 No. 7/8, pp. 766-777.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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