Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on reverence

Reverence

Reverence (恭/gōng) is one of the smaller stars in Confucius’s moral firmament, and can also be translated as “respectfulness”, “solemnity”, “gravity”, or simply “manners”. 

Reverence entails working hard at your studies and career and acting in a humble and serious manner when interacting with other people and attending ritual ceremonies. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on reverence

Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on love

Love

The sort of love (愛/ài) Confucius refers to in the Analects is driven by duty rather than emotion. When he advises in Chapter 5 of Book 1 that a ruler should “love your people”, he is essentially saying that the ruler has a responsibility to make sure that his subjects do not lack the basic necessities of life: nothing more and nothing less. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on love

Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on rightness

Rightness

Rightness (義/) means having the moral disposition to instinctively or spontaneously do the right thing or act in the right way in any given situation. Alternative translations include “righteousness”, “propriety”, “morality”, “appropriateness”, and “what is right”. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on rightness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: people’s flaws

people's faults

子曰:「人之過也,各於其黨。觀過,斯知仁矣。」
Confucius said: “People’s flaws reveal the type of person they are. By observing someone’s flaws, you’ll understand the true extent of their goodness.”

By all means listen to what other people have to say, but it’s only when you quietly observe what they actually do that you will understand their true character. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: people’s flaws

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a good rant

good rant

子曰:「我未見好仁者,惡不仁者。好仁者,無以尚之;惡不仁者,其為仁矣,不使不仁者加乎其身。有能一日用其力於仁矣乎?我未見力不足者。蓋有之矣,我未之見也。」
Confucius said: “I’ve never seen anyone who truly loves goodness and truly detests evil. Anyone who truly loves goodness would place nothing above it; anyone who truly detests evil would practice goodness in such a way that they would allow no evil to enter them. Is there anyone with the ability to devote all their strength to goodness for a single day? I’ve never seen anyone whose strength is insufficient. There may be people who don’t have even the small amount of strength it takes, but I’ve never seen them.”

There’s nothing wrong with having a good rant now and then to get things off your chest. Except of course you should realize that harsh words and blanket condemnations are more likely to have a counter-productive effect on the people you are trying to sway than persuade them to follow your way. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a good rant

Leadership lessons from Confucius: riches and rank

riches and rank

子曰:「富與貴,是人之所欲也,不以其道得之,不處也。貧與賤,是人之惡也,不以其道得之,不去也。君子去仁,惡乎成名。君子無終食之間違仁,造次必於是,顛沛必於是。」
Confucius said: “Riches and rank are what people desire; but if they can only obtain them through improper ways, they should not pursue them. Poverty and obscurity are what people detest; but if they can only escape from them through improper ways, they should accept them. If a leader abandons goodness, how can he live up to that name? A leader never abandons goodness, even for as long as it takes to eat a single meal; in moments of haste and confusion he still stays true to it.”

How to stick to your core values and beliefs through thick and thin? The lure of “riches and rank” and the fear of “poverty and obscurity” are too great for most mere mortals to resist. A true leader is as rare as a pearl in an oyster bed. Or perhaps one doesn’t really exist except as an ideal to aspire to. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: riches and rank

Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on trustworthiness

Trust

Trustworthiness (信/xìn) is another of the so-called secondary values promoted by Confucius. It means remaining true to your word and being a dependable support for others. In some contexts it can also be translated as “faithfulness”, “sincerity”,  “truthfulness”, or “honesty”. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on trustworthiness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the pursuit of goodness

pursuit of goodness

子曰:「苟志於仁矣,無惡也。」
Confucius said: “Dedicating yourself to the pursuit of goodness leaves no room for evil.”

Focus! Focus! Focus! There are no big secrets to the successful pursuit of goodness. Simply take a deep breath and put your best foot forward. The bright shiny objects that appear along the way will soon lose their luster as you build up your momentum. You’ll soon understand that they’re only there to distract you from your true purpose. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the pursuit of goodness

Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on loyalty

Confucius on loyalty

Loyalty (忠/zhōng) is one of what some commentators classify as the secondary values of Confucius. It is often mentioned together with trustworthiness (信/xìn). The first instance of this pairing can be found in Chapter 8 of Book 1 in which Confucius advised that a leader (君子/ jūnzǐ) should: “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on loyalty

Leadership lessons from Confucius: rush to judgement

rush to judgement

子曰:「惟仁者,能好人,能惡人。」
Confucius said: “Only a person who possesses goodness can love people and can hate people.”

Best not to rush to judgement about other people. Best not to idolize or demonize them either. Remain calm and dispassionate in evaluating what they do and what they say. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: rush to judgement