Analects Book 1: Confucius on relationships

One of the most important themes of Book 1 of The Analects is that the focus of learning is on practical applications rather than dry academic theory. Its main objective was to ensure that a young man was inculcated with the right values and behaviors to ensure that he made a positive contribution to society by interacting positively with its other members. Continue reading Analects Book 1: Confucius on relationships

Analects Book 1: Confucius on motivation

Confucius never promised a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for people who followed his way. He regarded it as everyone’s duty to cultivate their learning and behavior in line with his teachings. It probably never occurred to him to offer them any encouragement or incentives to help them along this lonely and difficult path. Continue reading Analects Book 1: Confucius on motivation

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: cultural appropriation and cowardice

cultural appropriation

子曰:「非其鬼而祭之,諂也。見義不為,無勇也。」
The Master said: “Sacrificing to spirits that don’t belong to your ancestors is presumptuous. Doing nothing when rightness demands action is cowardice.” (1)

Cultural appropriation: this is the phrase that immediately sprang to mind when I read Confucius’s opening comment in the final chapter of Book 2 of The Analects. And yes, “sacrificing to spirits that don’t belong to your ancestors” is indeed “presumptuous.” The best way to respect another culture is to learn as much as you can about it and only take part in its traditional ceremonies and festivities when you are invited to do so. There’s no excuse for insensitivity. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: cultural appropriation and cowardice

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuity and change

continuity and change

子張問:「十世可知也?」子曰:「殷因於夏禮,所損益可知也;周因於殷禮,所損益可知也。其或繼周者,雖百世,可知也。」
Zizhang asked: “Can we predict the future ten generations from now?” The Master said: “The Yin dynasty adopted the rites of the Xia dynasty; we know what was dropped and what was added. The Zhou dynasty borrowed from the rites of the Yin dynasty: we know what was dropped and what was added. If the Zhou dynasty has successors, we know what they will be like, even a hundred generations from now.”

How to manage continuity and change? This is a key challenge for any leader. What elements do you need to add to your organization so that it’s ready to meet the challenges of the future? What elements do you need to drop that are holding it back? Perhaps most important, what are the core values you need to retain to ensure its long-term resilience? Without such an anchor, your organization will undoubtedly veer off course and crash into the rocks. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuity and change

Analects Book 1: Confucius on affectation

Throughout The Analects, Confucius repeatedly raises his concerns about people who fail to back up their promises with meaningful actions and behave in superficial ways designed to impress their peers with their morality and kindness rather than out of any genuine desire to follow the principles that they purportedly ascribe to. Continue reading Analects Book 1: Confucius on affectation

Analects 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 Book 1: Confucius on reverence