Dao of Leadership

This Endeavor program explores paradigms of leadership in Early China, focusing on perceptions of the leader’s role as well as mechanisms to maintain it. We seek to understand how leaders, positioned at the center of society, could embrace the art of stillness through being neither seen nor heard. We investigate philosophies of wielding control and inspiring motivation through leading by example, inclusively caring, encouraging conformity, and emphasizing rewards and punishments. Special attention is given to the strategic use of ritual to harness connections to numinous powers. Through its comparative approach to Chinese leadership ethics, provocative classroom conversations across divergent viewpoints, and visits to local high schools to share this global perspective with students, the course provides an engaging route to learning principles of leadership.

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  • Coursework Overview

    The coursework for this Endeavor community involves taking a one-unit course in the fall and spring semester, both taught by Dr. Geaney.

    Fall 2024 Semester Spring 2025 Semester
    FYS 100: Dao of Leadership (1 unit) RELG Course: Ethics in Early China (1 unit)

    FYS 100 satisfies a general education requirement; students are required to take one first-year seminar (FYS)

  • Specific Course Information

    FYS 100: Dao of Leadership

    “Dao of Leadership” examines ancient Chinese texts on governance that continue to shape the leadership practices of modern-day Chinese leaders. Emphasizing the development of writing and reasoning skills, the course explores an array of leadership theories crafted in China two millennia ago. The course encourages students to cultivate their own perspectives on leadership methods recommended for rulers (c. 550-100 B.C.E), including techniques emphasizing punishments over rewards, modeling exemplary personal character, veiling one’s preferences and emotions, standardizing publicly accessible rules and measurements, employing laws, and conforming to patterns in the natural environment.

    RELG Course: Ethics in Early China

    In ““Ethics in Early China,” the Spring extension of “Dao of Leadership,” students will learn more broadly about the world of Early China by studying an array of moral theories associated with Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism, and Legalism. The theories will include military ethics, the uniquely Chinese ethics of “Non-Action,” and approaches that roughly resemble Virtue Ethics, Consequentialism, and Divine Command ethics. Throughout the semester, RELG 205 students will interact with students from the James River High School’s program in Leadership and International Relations. UR students will practice public speaking by giving presentations to the students in the Leadership and International Relations Program. In small group meetings, RELG 205 students will also share stories and knowledge they have gained during their first year of college. Class time will be set aside for students to frame their thoughts about these encounters, and ultimately (with help from the professor) students will compose a collective assessment of the experience.
  • Faculty Information

    Dr. Jane Geaney
    Dr. Jane Geaney
    is a Professor of Religious Studies.

  • Endeavor Short Course Information

    As part of the Endeavor program, you will participate in the popular Endeavor Pre-Orientation program, where you will take a short course led by Dr. Geaney.

    Short Course Description: Bruce Lee and Leadership in Early China

    Bruce Lee (1940 - 1973), a Hong Kong-American leader in both martial arts and film making, developed his own syncretic philosophy from North American, Buddhist, and Chinese traditions, among others. Since many of Lee’s best-known aphorisms are adaptations of sayings that originated in Early China, this short course will examine Lee’s visionary philosophy as a window into Daoist and Confucian ideas of leadership. We will consider, for instance, metaphors of leadership embedded in images of dragons, water, emergence from nothing, and adapting to time and circumstance. Participants will gain a unique perspective on early Chinese leadership by immersing themselves in Lee’s film clips and writings.