A country is governed well because it has a wise leader. A country is in ruin because it has a foolish leader. A wise leader will listen and gauge opinions from all sides, but a foolish leader will only listen to opinions that echo his own mind. So if a leader is broad-minded and able to accept suggestions from all parties, his sagacity will increase day by day. On the contrary, if he insists on listening to the one-sided, sly, and fawning remarks, his foolishness will also increase day by day.
Scroll 44: Qian Fu Lun
We have heard that a good leader will not refuse to hear from the loyal and forthright ministers, and distance himself from the obsequious and the servile. However, government after government had fallen throughout history because forthright and loyal ministers were punished while obsequious ministers were rewarded and favored. Perhaps it is easier to accept flattery than to accept honest advice.
Scroll 23: Hou Han Shu, Vol. 3
A wise leader worries about being surrounded by flatterers, a situation that can isolate him from hearing the truth about his own mistakes. Hence he opens up the channels where people can speak their mind, and he listens to people who defy his wishes. As long as the proponents express their opinions out of loyalty and sincerity for the common good, he will gladly accept them even though their propositions may not be right all the time.
Scroll 49: Fu Zi
Emperor Shun said: “If I made a mistake you must help to correct me. Do not seem agreeable in front of me but stir up negative remarks against me behind my back.” Likewise, a good government will encourage people to submit their dissensions to the government and guide them to speak out truthfully. This way a government will be able to get to the bottom of things and draw up sensible policies.
Scroll 44: Qian Fu Lun
A leader who brings greatness to his nation welcomes criticism directed at him. A leader who brings chaos to his nation prefers praise that glorifies his name. For the former, good fortune will follow him because he will make fewer mistakes over time. But for the latter, misfortune will beset him as he sinks deeper into the false acclaim that is detrimental to his virtues.
Scroll 28: Wu Zhi, Vol. 2
On seeing men of integrity being dishonored and witnessing officials who dared to speak up being silenced, many ministers knew this was wrong but nobody dared to stand up and fight to remedy this situation. When everybody is wary of admonishing the government, this is indeed the greatest misfortune that besets a nation!
Scroll 19: Han Shu, Vol. 7
Confucius said: “Effective medicine is bitter but it can cure sickness. Truthful words are not enticing but they can help people to correct their mistakes. The nation enjoyed prosperity under King Tang and King Wu because they listened to admonitions extensively from all sides. On the contrary, the brutal King Jie and King Zhou preferred to listen to agreeable words that appealed to them, and this eventually led to their downfall.”
Scroll 10: Kong Zi Jia Yu