The main reason for my interest in the Analects and the Daodejing is that they focus on providing practical solutions to real-world problems.
Unlike many of the works in the Western philosophical cannon, they don’t feature any agonized searches for a universal “truth” or any promises of eternal salvation for ascribing to the “right” set of values or behaving in the “correct” manner. Instead, they are concerned with dealing with the challenges of the here and now, exploring how you can improve your character to make a greater contribution to the stability and prosperity of your family, community, and society overall.
Continue reading Situational leadership in the Analects and the Daodejing
The best leader is one whose presence is unknown to his people;
The next best is one who is loved and praised;
The next is one who is feared;
The worst is one who is despised;
When a leader has no trust in his people,
The people have no trust in him.
The best leader reflects and chooses his words carefully.
When his objective is achieved and the work is done,
The people all say, “We did it ourselves.”
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 17: the best leader
The highest good is like water;
Water brings good to all things without contending with them;
It settles in places that people disdain;
Thus, it’s close to the Dao.
In choosing your home, it’s the location that counts;
In cultivating your mind, it’s depth that counts;
In dealing with others, it’s goodness that counts;
In speaking, it’s good faith that counts;
In governing, it’s order that counts;
In handling affairs, it’s ability that counts;
In action, it’s timing that counts.
By not contending with others,
You won’t be singled out for reproach.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 8: like water
Do not single out the gifted for praise,
To ensure that the people never contend;
Do not prize rare goods,
To ensure that the people never steal;
Do not display objects of desire,
To ensure that the people’s hearts will never be restless.
That’s why the sage rules his people by:
Emptying their minds;
But filling their stomachs;
Weakening their ambitions;
But strengthening their sinews.
Always keeping the people free from knowledge and desires,
To ensure that those with knowledge will never dare act.
By acting with effortless action,
There is nothing that he cannot govern.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 3: leadership through effortless action
When the whole world knows to regard beauty as beauty, there is ugliness.
When the whole world knows to regard good as good, there is evil.
Thus, something and nothing nurture each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short give form to each other;
High and low depend on each other;
Note and sound harmonize each other;
Front and rear follow each other.
That’s why the sage:
Conducts his affairs with effortless action;
Spreads his teaching without words;
Lets all things unfold without initiating them;
Lets them grow without claiming possession of them;
Gets things done without expecting any gratitude;
Achieves his goals without claiming any credit.
It is precisely because he does not claim any credit,
That it stays with him forever.
The Dao doesn’t place any arbitrary labels on anything. It draws no false distinctions between beauty and ugliness and good and evil. It simply allows everything to unfold, without ever attempting to intervene, in the knowledge that opposing natural forces will remain in balance. Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 2: effortless action
The ability to assess a given situation objectively and take the most appropriate action based on the facts of it is one of the key leadership qualities that Confucius highlights in Book 4 of the Analects. Continue reading Analects Book 4: on leadership
Book 4 of the Analects begins with an exploration of the meaning of goodness. Only people who practice it constantly in their daily lives without a desire for personal profit are able to enjoy true satisfaction and contentment. “Small-minded men” who only pursue it for personal gain will never be truly fulfilled and happy. Continue reading Analects Book 4: Overview
“A leader avoids competing with others.” This is the advice that Confucius gives in Chapter VII of Book 3 of the Analects. He forges his own path rather than just trying to outdo other people. Continue reading Analects Book 3: on leadership and archery
In Book 2 of the Analects, Confucius continues his exploration of the nature of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) with a series of comments on the intellectual capabilities required by one. Continue reading Analects Book 2: on leadership
There are a lot of great quotes from Confucius in Book 4 of the Analects. There’s no doubt in my mind that if he were alive today, he would have been able to more than hold his own as political pundit on TV with his strong opinions and (in Classical Chinese at least) snappy sound bites. Continue reading Confucius in his own words: Analects Book 4