Analects of Confucius: on the nature of a leader

Throughout the Analects, Confucius and his disciples regularly muse about the qualities required of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ), a term which has been variously translated as “gentleman”, “nobleman”, “superior man”, “man of superior order”, “man of virtue”, and “ideal man”. Confucius saw the leader as a pillar of society and the embodiment of all the moral values he espoused. There are numerous discussions of the nature of a leader in the Analects.

Book 1, Chapter I
Book 1, Chapter II
Book 1, Chapter VIII
Book 1, Chapter XIV
Book 2, Chapter XII
Book 2, Chapter XIII
Book 2, Chapter XIV
Book 3, Chapter VII
Book 3, Chapter XIX
Book 4, Chapter V
Book 4, Chapter X
Book 4, Chapter XI
Book 4, Chapter XVI
Book 4, Chapter XXIV
Book 5, Chapter III
Book 5, Chapter XVI
Book 6, Chapter IV
Book 6, Chapter XIII
Book 6, Chapter XVIII
Book 6, Chapter XXVI
Book 6, Chapter XXVII
Book 7, Chapter XXV
Book 7, Chapter XXX
Book 7, Chapter XXXII
Book 7, Chapter XXXVI
Book 8, Chapter II
Book 8, Chapter IV
Book 8, Chapter VI
Book 9, Chapter VI
Book 9, Chapter XIV
Book 10, Chapter VI
Book 11, Chapter XXI
Book 11, Chapter XXVI
Book 12, Chapter IV
Book 12, Chapter V
Book 12, Chapter VIII
Book 12, Chapter XVI
Book 12, Chapter XIX
Book 12, Chapter XXIV
Book 13, Chapter III
Book 13, Chapter XXIII
Book 13, Chapter XXV
Book 13, Chapter XXVI
Book 14, Chapter V
Book 14, Chapter VI
Book 14, Chapter XXIII
Book 14, Chapter XXVI
Book 14, Chapter XXVII
Book 14, Chapter XXVIII
Book 14, Chapter XLII
Book 15, Chapter II
Book 15, Chapter VII
Book 15, Chapter XVIII
Book 15, Chapter XIX
Book 15, Chapter XX
Book 15, Chapter XXI
Book 15, Chapter XXII
Book 15, Chapter XXIII
Book 15, Chapter XXXII
Book 15, Chapter XXXIV
Book 15, Chapter XXXVII
Book 16, Chapter I
Book 16, Chapter VI
Book 16, Chapter VII
Book 16, Chapter VIII
Book 16, Chapter X
Book 16, Chapter XIII
Book 17, Chapter IV
Book 17, Chapter VII
Book 17, Chapter XXI
Book 17, Chapter XXIII
Book 17, Chapter XXIV
Book 18, Chapter VII
Book 18, Chapter X
Book 19, Chapter III
Book 19, Chapter IV
Book 19, Chapter VII
Book 19, Chapter IX
Book 19, Chapter X
Book 19, Chapter XII
Book 19, Chapter XX
Book 19, Chapter XXI
Book 19, Chapter XXV
Book 20, Chapter II
Book 20, Chapter III

Book 1
Chapter I
Confucius said: “To learn something and apply it at the appropriate time: isn’t this wonderful? To have friends visit from afar: isn’t this delightful? To remain unconcerned when others don’t recognize your talents: isn’t this the mark of a leader?”

Chapter II
Youzi said: “A man who respects his parents and elders is not likely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the fundamentals; once these are established the Way appears. Respect for parents and elders constitutes the essence of goodness.”

Chapter VIII
Confucius said: “If a leader isn’t serious he will inspire no awe and lack a solid foundation for learning. Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal; and when you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”

Chapter XIV
Confucius said: “A leader eats without stuffing his belly; chooses a home without demanding comfort; is quick to act but careful in what he says; and keeps the company of others who possess the Way so that he can be corrected by them. This is what it means to truly love learning.”

Book 2
Chapter XII
Confucius said: “A leader is not a vessel.”

Chapter XIII
Zigong asked what constitutes a leader. Confucius said: “Someone who practices what he preaches.”

Chapter XIV
Confucius said: “A leader looks at a question from every perspective. A petty person looks at a question from their own perspective.”

Chapter XXI
Someone asked Confucius: “Sir, why don’t you enter government service?” Confucius replied: “In the Book of Documents it says: ‘If you look after your parents and are kind to your brothers, you will be contributing to the smooth running of the government.’ This is also a form of service; you do not necessarily need to be part of the government.”

Book 3
Chapter VII
Confucius said: “A leader has no use for competitiveness. But if they can’t avoid it, they should compete at archery. As they bow and exchange courtesies before the contest and enjoy drinks after it, they still remain a leader even when competing.”

Chapter XIX
Duke Ding asked: “How should a leader treat their ministers? How should ministers serve their leader?” Confucius replied: “A leader should treat their ministers in accordance with the rites; ministers should serve their leader with loyalty.”

Book 4
Chapter V
Confucius said: “Wealth and status 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.”

Chapter X
Confucius said: “In dealing with the world, a leader has no prejudice or bias: he takes the side of what is right.”

Chapter XI
Confucius said: “A leader cherishes virtue; a small-minded man cherishes land. A leader cherishes respect for the law; a small-minded man cherishes exemptions from it.”

Chapter XVI
Confucius said: “A leader is concerned about what is right; a small-minded man is concerned about what is in his own interest.”

Chapter XXIV
Confucius said: “A leader should be slow to speak and prompt to act.”

Book 5
Chapter III
Confucius said of Zijian: “He is a true leader! If there were indeed no leaders in the state of Lu, how would he have reached this level?”

Chapter XVI
Confucius said of Zichan: “He had four essential qualities of a leader: in his private conduct he was courteous; in serving his superiors he was respectful; in caring for the people he was generous; in employing the people for public service he was just.”

Chapter XIX
Zizhang asked: “Ziwen was appointed prime minister three times, but he never showed the least sign of elation. He was dismissed three times, but he never showed the least sign disappointment. On each occasion, he briefed his successor on the status of the affairs of his office. What do you say of him?” Confucius said: “He was loyal.” Zizhang asked: “Was he a man of good character?” Confucius said: “I’m not sure; I don’t see this as reason for saying that he was a man of good character.”

“When Cui Zhi assassinated the ruler of the state of Qi, Chen Xuwu abandoned his large estate and left Qi. Having settled in another state, he said: ’They are no better than Cui Zhi,’ and left. Having settled in yet another state, he said once again: ‘They are no better than Cui Zhu,’ and left once again. What do you say of him?” Confucius said: “He was pure.” Zizhang said: “Was he a man of good character?” “I’m not sure; I don’t see this as reason for saying that he was a man of good character.”

Book 6
Chapter IV
When Gongxi Chi was sent on a mission to the state of Qi, Ran Qiu requested an allowance of grain for Gongxi’s mother. Confucius said: “She should receive a potful.” When he asked for more, Confucius said: “She should receive a measure.” Ran Qiu gave her five bundles. Confucius said: “Gongxi Chi is traveling to Qi with sleek horses and fine furs. I have always heard that a leader helps those in need; he does not make the rich even richer.”

Chapter XIII
Confucius said to Zixia: “Be a refined scholar, not a common pedant.”

Chapter XVIII
Confucius said: “When native substance wins out over cultural refinement, you get the coarseness of a peasant; when cultural refinement wins out over natural substance, you get the pedantry of a clerk. Only when native substance and cultural refinement are in balance do you get a leader.”

Chapter XXVI
Zai Yu asked: “If a good person was told that goodness lies at the bottom of a well, should he jump in after it?” Confucius said: “Why should he? A leader can be enticed down the wrong path, but he won’t allow himself to fall into a trap; he can be deceived, but not made a fool of.”

Chapter XXVII
Confucius said: “A leader expands his learning through culture and keeps his behavior in check through the rites; as a result, he is unlikely to go wrong.”

Book 7
Chapter XXV
Confucius said: “I have no hope of ever meeting a great sage; I suppose I would be content to meet a true leader.” Confucius said: “I cannot ever hope to meet a perfect person; I suppose I would be content to meet someone who sticks to their principles. Yet in an age when nothing masquerades as something, emptiness masquerades as fullness, and penury masquerades as affluence, it is hard enough just to stick to your principles.”

Chapter XXX
Chen Sibai asked: “Did Duke Zhao understand the rites?” Confucius said: “Yes, he understood the rites.” Confucius withdrew. With a bow, Chen invited Wuma Qi to come forward and said to him: “I have heard it said that a true leader is never biased. But isn’t your master biased after all? The Duke took a wife from the state of Wu, but since she belonged to his own clan he changed her name to Wu Mengzi. If the Duke understood the rites, who doesn’t understand them?” Wuma Qi reported this to Confucius. Confucius said: “I am fortunate indeed: whenever I make a mistake, there is always someone on hand to let me know about it.”

Chapter XXXIII
Confucius said: “Although my commitment is as strong as anyone’s when it comes to cultural knowledge and refinement, I have not yet succeeded in becoming a true leader in my personal conduct.”

Chapter XXXVI
Confucius said: “A leader is calm and at ease; a small-minded man is always anxious and on edge.”

Book 8
Chapter II
Confucius said: “Reverence without the rites descends into indifference; cautiousness without the rites descends into timidity; boldness without the rites descends into disorder; frankness without the rites descends into hurtfulness. If a leader is devoted to his family, the people are inclined towards goodness; if he doesn’t forget about his old friends, the people will not shirk their obligations to others.”

Chapter IV
When Zengzi was ill, Meng Jingzi came to visit him. Zengzi said: “When a bird is about to die, his song is sad; when a man is about to die, his words are good. In following the Way, a leader cherishes three things: in his demeanor, he stays far from violence and arrogance; in his countenance, he invites trustworthiness; in his speech, he avoids vulgarity. As for the details of the ritual, these will be taken care of by the functionaries.”

Chapter VI
Zengzi said: “You can entrust him with the care of a teenage orphan; you can entrust him with the government of a small state; when faced with a serious crisis, he will remain steadfast in resolving it. Is he a true leader? He is a true leader, indeed.”

Book 9
Chapter VI
The Grand Steward asked Zigong: “Your master is a true sage, isn’t he? He is skilled in so many things.” Zigong replied: “Heaven indeed made him a sage, but he also happens to have many different skills.” When he heard of this, Confucius said: “What does the Grand Steward know about me? In my youth, I was poor; so I had to learn a number of lowly skills. Does a leader need to have so many different skills? No, he does not.”

Chapter XIV
Confucius wanted to live among the nine barbarian tribes of the East. Someone said: “It’s wild there. How would you cope?” Confucius said: “How could it be wild once a leader goes to live there?”

Book 10
Chapter VI
A leader does not wear purple or maroon decorations on his gown; red and purple should not be used for casual wear at home. During the summer, he wears a fine or coarse linen singlet, but never goes out without wearing a gown. With a black robe, he wears lamb skin; with a white robe, he wears fawn skin; and with a yellow robe, he wears fox skin. The fur robe he wears at home is long and has a shorter right sleeve. His nightgown is very long. Thick furs such as fox and badger are worn at home. Except when he is in mourning, he wears all the ornaments on his girdle. Apart from his ceremonial robe, the layers of his other robes are cut to different lengths. At funerals, he does not wear lamb skin or black caps. On New Year’s Day, he attends court dressed in full court attire.

Book 11
Chapter I
Confucius said: “Those of my disciples who were first to study the rites and music were rustics; those who came later to study the rites and music were members of the ruling class. If I had to employ them, I would opt for the ones who studied them first.”

Chapter XXI
Confucius said: “If a man seems solemn and sincere in his opinions, does this mean he is a leader or that he is only pretending to be one?”

Chapter XXVI

Zilu, Zeng Dian, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Chi were sitting with Confucius. Confucius said: “Forget for a moment that I am your elder. You often say: ‘People do not recognize our talents.’ But if you were given the opportunity, what would you wish to do?”

Zilu eagerly replied first: “Give me a middle-sized country wedged between powerful neighbors that is under attack from invading armies and gripped by drought and famine. If I were to govern it, within three years I would give its people courage and set them in the right direction.”

Confucius smiled at him: “Ran Qiu, what about you?” Ran Qiu replied: “If I was allowed to run a territory of sixty or seventy or, say, fifty to sixty li, within three years I would secure the prosperity of its people. As for the rites and music, they would have to wait for a true man of character to take over.”

“Gongxi Chi, what about you?” “I am not saying that I would be able to do this, but I would like to try: in the ceremonies at the Ancestral Temple, such as a diplomatic conference, wearing ceremonial cap and robes, I would like to act as a junior official.”

“And what about you, Zeng Dian?” Zeng Dian plucked one final chord of the zither he had been playing and put it down by his side. He replied: “My wish is very different than those of my three companions.” Confucius said: “What harm is there in that? After all, each one is simply speaking from his heart.”

Zeng Dian said: “In late spring, after all the spring clothes have been made, I would like to go out together with five or six companions and six or seven boys to bathe in the River Yi, enjoy the breeze on the Rain Dance Terrace, and then return home singing.” Confucius let out a wistful sigh and said: “I am with Dian.”

After the other three disciples had left, Zeng Dian stayed behind and said: “What did you think of their wishes?” Confucius said: “Each was indeed speaking from his heart.”

Zeng Dian asked: “Why did you smile at Zilu?” Confucius said: “You should govern a state according to the rites, but his words showed no such restraint. That is why I smiled.”

“Ran Qiu was actually talking about running an independent country, wasn’t he?” “Of course. Have you ever seen ‘a territory of sixty to seventy, or fifty to sixty li?’”

“And Gongxi Chi? Wasn’t he also talking about running a country as well?” “A diplomatic conference in the Ancestral Temple! What could this be but an affair of state?” And if Gongxi Chi were there merely to act as junior official, who could possibly be qualified to act as the senior one?”

Zilu, Zeng Dian, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Chi were sitting with Confucius. Confucius said: “Forget for a moment that I am your elder. You often say: ‘People do not recognize our talents.’ But if you were given the opportunity, what would you wish to do?”

Zilu rushed to reply first: “Give me a medium-sized country squeezed between powerful neighbors that is under attack and in the grip of drought and famine. Put me in command and within three years, I would revive the courage of the people and guide them in the right direction.”

Confucius smiled: “Ran Qiu, what about you?”

Ran Qiu replied: “Give me a domain of sixty or seventy – or, say, fifty to sixty li (miles); within three years I would secure the prosperity of its people. As regards the rites and music, I would have to wait for the intervention of a true man of character.”

“Gongxi Chi, what about you?”

Gongxi Chi replied: “I’m not saying that I would be able to do this, but I’m willing to learn! During the ceremonies at the Ancestral Temple, such as a conference for instance, I would like to serve as a junior assistant wearing a dark square robe and black linen cap.”

“And what about you, Zeng Dian?”

Zeng Dian, who had been softly playing his zithern, plucked one last chord and put his instrument aside. He replied: “I’m afraid my wish is not up to the same level as the wishes of my three companions.” Confucius said: “What is the harm in that? After all, each is simply expressing his own personal wishes.”

“In late spring, when the making of the of the spring clothes has been completed, together with five or six friends and six or seven boys, I would like to bathe in the River Yi, and then enjoy the breeze among the rain dance altars and return home singing.” Confucius heaved a deep sigh and said: “I am with Dian.”

After the three others had left, Zeng Dian remained behind and said: “What did you think of their wishes?” Confucius said: “Each simply confided his own personal wishes.”

Zeng Dian asked: “Why did you smile at Zilu?”

Confucius said: “You should govern a state according to the rites; yet his words weren’t humble.”

“As for Ran Qiu, wasn’t he in fact talking about a real state?”

“Indeed. I have never heard of ‘a domain of sixty to seventy, or fifty to sixty li (miles)’”

And Gongxi Chi? Wasn’t he also talking about a state?”

“A conference in the Ancestral Temple! What could it be but a major gathering?” And if Gongxi Chi were there just to serve as a junior assistant, who would be qualified to be in charge of it?”

Book 12
Chapter IV
Sima Niu asked: “What makes a leader?” Confucius said: “A leader has no anxiety or fear.” Sima Niu said: “No anxiety or fear? That’s what makes a leader?” Confucius said: “When he looks inside himself and finds nothing wrong, what does he have to be anxious about or fear?”

Chapter V
Sima Niu was full of sorrow: “All men have brothers; I alone have none.” Zixia said: “I have heard this: life and death are ordained by Fate; wealth and honors are assigned by Heaven. A leader always shows respect and courtesy to others. Within the four seas all men are brothers. How could a leader complain that he has no brothers?”

Chapter VIII
Ji Zicheng said: “Nature determines whether or not you are a leader. What use is culture?” Zigong said: “What a pity you have chosen to describe a leader in this way. ‘A team of horses cannot catch up with a tongue.’ Culture is nature, nature is culture. Without their hair, the pelts of tigers and leopards are just the same as those of a dog or a sheep.”

Chapter XVI
Confucius said: “A leader brings out the good in people – not the bad. A petty person does exactly the opposite.”

Chapter XIX
Ji Kangzi asked Confucius about governance, saying: “What would you think if I were to execute people who don’t follow the Way in order to help the people who do follow the Way?” Confucius replied: “You are here to govern; what need is there to execute people? If you desire goodness, the people will be good. An exemplary person’s virtue is like the wind; the virtue of the common man is like the grass. When the wind blows over the grass it will surely bend.”

Chapter XXIV
Zengzi said: “A leader attracts friends through his cultural refinement, and looks to his friends for support in nurturing his goodness.”

Book 13
Chapter III
Zilu asked: “If the Duke of Wei were to entrust you with the government of his state, what would be your first priority? Confucius said: “It most definitely would be to rectify the names.” Zilu said: “Really? Isn’t that a little strange? How would that make things right?” Confucius said: “How dense can you get! If a leader doesn’t understand what he is talking about, he should remain silent. If the names are not correct, language does not accord with the truth of things. When language does not accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully. When nothing can be carried out successfully, the rites and music will not flourish. When the rites and music don’t flourish, punishments and penalties miss their mark. When punishments and penalties miss their mark, the people do not know where to place their hands and feet. Therefore, a leader must be able to give the appropriate name to whatever he wants to talk about, and must also make sure he does exactly as he says. When it comes to speaking, a leader doesn’t allow any carelessness.”

Chapter XXIII
Confucius said: “A leader strives for harmony but not conformity. A petty person strives for conformity but not harmony.”

Chapter XXV
Confucius said: “A leader is easy to work for but hard to please. If you try to please him without following the proper way he will not be happy, but he will only give you tasks you have the ability to carry out. A petty person is hard to work for, but easy to please. If you try to please him, even without following the proper way, he will be happy, but he demands that you have the ability to do anything.”

Chapter XXVI
Confucius said: “A leader is confident but never arrogant. A petty person is arrogant but never confident.”

Book 14
Chapter V
Nangong Kuo asked Confucius, saying: “Yi was a great archer, and Ao a great sailor, but neither died a natural death. Yu and Ji toiled on the land, but they came to own the world.” Confucius made no reply. Nangong Kuo left. Confucius said: “He is a true leader! This man truly prizes virtue!”

Chapter VI
Confucius said: “Although a leader may not always achieve goodness, a petty person never achieves it.”

Chapter XXIII
Confucius said: “A leader reaches up. A petty person reaches down.”

Chapter XXVI
Confucius said: “Do not concern yourself with the policies of an office that you do not hold.” Zengzi said: “A leader would never consider overstepping the bounds of his position.”

Chapter XXVII
Confucius said: “A leader is ashamed if his actions don’t match his words.”

Chapter XXVIII
Confucius said: “A leader adheres to three principles that I have been unable to live up to: the good are never anxious; the wise are never perplexed; the brave are never afraid.” Zigong said: “Master, you have just described yourself.”

Chapter XLII
Zilu asked what makes a leader. Confucius said: “Rigorous self-cultivation.” Zilu asked: “Is that all there is to it?” Confucius said: “He cultivates himself to bring comfort to the people. He cultivates himself to bring comfort to the people: this is something even Yao and Shun would have found very difficult.”

Book 15
Chapter II
In Chen, the food supplies were exhausted. His disciples became so weak that they could not rise to their feet. Zilu came to him and said indignantly: “How is it possible for a leader to be brought to such dire straits?” Confucius said: “A leader stays resolute in even the direst of straits but only a petty person loses his cool about it.”

Chapter VII
Confucius said: “Shi Yu is truly a man of principle! When the Way prevails in the state, he is as straight as an arrow; when the Way doesn’t prevail in the state, he is as straight as an arrow. Qu Boyu is a true leader! When the Way prevails in the state, he serves as an official; when the Way doesn’t prevail in the state, he folds up his principles and hides them in his breast.”

Chapter XVIII
Confucius said: “A leader takes rightness as his essence, practices it in conformity with the rites, enacts it with humility, and faithfully brings it to fruition. This is how a leader behaves.”

Chapter XIX
Confucius said: “A leader is distressed by his own lack of ability; he is never distressed at the failure of others to recognize him.”

Chapter XX
Confucius said: “A leader hates the thought of leaving this world without having made a name for himself.”

Chapter XXI
Confucius said: “A leader makes demands on himself; a petty person makes demands on others.”

Chapter XXII
Confucius said: “A leader is proud without being contentious and sociable without taking sides.”

Chapter XXIII
Confucius said: “A leader doesn’t promote someone simply because of what they say, nor does he dismiss what is said because of the person who said it.”

Chapter XXXII
Confucius said: “A leader is devoted to seeking the Way – not just a living. Even if you plough the fields there’s a chance you may still go hungry. If you apply yourself to learning, there’s a chance you may find an official position. A leader is concerned about finding the Way; he isn’t concerned about poverty.”

Chapter XXXIV
Confucius said: “A leader is incapable of focusing on minor matters but can be trusted to undertake great tasks. A petty person cannot be entrusted to undertake great tasks, but is capable of focusing on minor matters.”

Chapter XXXVII
Confucius said: “A leader is principled but not pedantic.”

Book 16
Chapter I
The head of the Ji family was preparing to attack Zhuanyu. Ran Qiu and Zilu went to see Confucius and said: “Ji Kangzi is going to intervene in Zhuanyu.”

Confucius said: “Qiu, this is your fault, isn’t it? In the past, our ancient kings gave Zhuanyu the responsibility of offering sacrifices to Mount Dongmeng; moreover it lies in the heart of our borders and is paying tribute to us. Why attack it?”

Ran Qiu said: “It is the wish of our master; it is not the wish of either of us.”

Confucius said: “Qiu! Zhou Ren had a saying, ‘he who has strength stands firm; he who lacks strength withdraws.’ What sort of assistant is one who cannot steady his master when he stumbles or stops him when he falls? In any case, what you said is mistaken. If a tiger or rhinoceros escapes from its cage or if a tortoise shell or a jade amulet is broken in its casket who should be responsible?”

Ran Qiu said: “But Zhuanyu has strong defenses and is close to our master’s stronghold at Bi. If he does not take it today, in the future it is sure to become a threat to his children and grandchildren.”

Confucius said: “Qiu! A leader detests those who invent excuses for their actions instead of simply saying: ‘I want this.’ I have heard it said that a head of a state or the chief of a clan worries not about having a small population but inequality, and not about poverty but instability. For if there is equality there will be no poverty, if there is harmony there will be no lack of population, and if there is stability there will be no unrest. It is for this reason that if people from afar still resist joining you, you must cultivate your virtue to attract them; and then, once they have come, you must ensure they are content with it. But, with you two as his ministers, people from afar are unwilling to join your master and won’t come; his state is racked with divisions and unrest, and he cannot hold it together any longer; but he still plots to wage war within the borders of the state itself! I’m afraid that for Ji Kangzi, the real threat does not come from Zhuanyu, but lies within the walls of his own palace!”

Chapter VI
Confucius said, “When you are in the presence of a leader, you risk making three mistakes. To speak about something before the appropriate time is to be impetuous; to fail to speak about something at the appropriate time is to be evasive; to speak without observing the expression on their face is to be blind.”

Chapter VII
Confucius said: “There are three tendencies that a leader should guard against. When he is young and his blood and spirit are still unstable he should guard against lust. When he is in the prime of life and his blood and spirit have reached their full strength, he should guard against aggressiveness. When he is old and his blood and spirit have weakened, he should guard against greed.”

Chapter VIII
Confucius said: “There are three things that a leader stands in awe of. He is in awe of the Will of Heaven. He is in awe of great men. He is in awe of the words of the sages. Since a petty person is ignorant of the Will of Heaven, he does not stand in awe of it. He has no respect for great men and treats the words of the sages with disdain.”

Chapter X
Confucius said: “A leader focuses his thoughts in nine ways: when looking he focuses on seeing clearly; when listening he focuses on hearing properly; in his facial expression, he focuses on looking friendly; in his demeanor, he focuses on being respectful; in his speech, he focuses on sincerity; when at his duties, he focuses on being respectful; when he has doubts, he focuses on asking questions; when angry, he focuses on the negative consequences; when faced with an opportunity for profit, he focuses on rightness.”

Chapter XIII
Chen Gang asked Confucius’s son Boyu: “Has your father given you any special teaching?” Boyu replied: “No, he hasn’t. Once, when he was standing on his own and I was hurrying across the courtyard, he asked me: ‘Have you studied the Book of Songs?’ I replied: ‘Not yet.’ He said: ‘If you don’t study the Book of Songs, you won’t be able to speak.’ I retired and studied the Book of Songs. On another day, when he was again standing on his own and I was hurrying across the courtyard, he asked me: ‘Have you studied the rites?’ I replied: ‘Not yet.’ He said: ‘If you don’t study the rites, you won’t be able to take your place in society.’ I retired and studied the rites. These are the two lessons I received from him.” Chen Gang left delighted and said: “I asked one thing and learned three. I learned about the Book of Songs, I learned about the rites, and I learned how a leader keeps his distance from his son.”

Book 17
Chapter IV
Confucius went to Wucheng. When he heard the sound of stringed instruments and singing, he was amused and broke out into a smile: “Why use an ox cleaver to kill a chicken?” Ziyou replied: “Master, in the past I have heard you say: ‘A leader who has been instructed in the Way loves all people; common people who have been instructed in the Way are easy to govern.’” Confucius said: “My friends, Ziyou is right. The remarks I made a moment ago were just a joke.”

Chapter VII
Bi Xi summoned Confucius. Confucius was tempted to go. Zilu said: “Master, in the past I have heard you say, ‘A leader does not enter the domain of those who commit evil.’ Bi Xi is using his stronghold of Zhongmou as the base of a rebellion. How can you contemplate going to join him?” Confucius said: “It’s true I said that. But hasn’t it also been said, ‘so tough that it can withstand grinding; so white that it can withstand black dye’. Am I no more than a bitter gourd that is hung on a piece of string instead of being eaten?”

Chapter XXI
Zai Yu asked: “Three years of mourning for your parents: this is a long time. If a leader doesn’t practice the rites for three years, the rites are sure to decay; if he doesn’t practice music for three years, music is sure to collapse. As the grain from last year’s crop is used up, grain from this year’s crop ripens, and the flint for lighting the fires is changed with each season. One year of mourning is surely enough.” Confucius said: “Would you be comfortable eating your fine food and wearing your fine clothes then?” “Absolutely.” “In that case, go ahead! When a leader is in mourning fine food is tasteless to him, music offers him no pleasure, and the comforts of home give him no peace, so he prefers to do without these pleasures. But if you think you will be able to enjoy them, go ahead.” Zai Yu left. Confucius said: “Zai Yu has no goodness! During the first three years after a child is born, he doesn’t leave the arms of his parents. Three years of mourning is a custom that is followed throughout the world. Didn’t Zai Yu receive three years of love from his parents?”

Chapter XXIII
Zilu said: “Does a leader prize courage?” Confucius said: “A leader prizes rightness above all else. A leader who is courageous but lacking in rightness could create chaos; a petty person who is courageous but lacking in rightness could become a bandit.”

Chapter XXIV
Zigong said: “Does a leader have things that he can’t stand?” Confucius said: “Yes. He can’t stand those who point out the evils in others. He can’t stand those in inferior positions who slander their superiors. He can’t stand those whose courage is not tempered by the rites. He can’t stand those who are impulsive and stubborn.” Confucius continued. “Do you have things that you can’t stand?” “I can’t stand those who pretend to be learned by plagiarizing. I can’t stand those who pretend to be brave by acting arrogant. I can’t stand those who pretend to be frank by being malicious.”

Book 18
Chapter VII
Zilu fell behind while traveling with Confucius. He met an old man who was carrying a basket hanging from his staff over his shoulder. Zilu asked him: “Have you seen my master?” The old man said: “You don’t toil with your four limbs, and you can’t even distinguish between the five types of grain. Who is your master?” He planted his staff in the ground and started weeding. Zilu stood respectfully, his hands clasped in front of him. The old man invited him to stay with him overnight, killed a chicken and cooked some millet for him to eat, and introduced his two sons to him. The next day, Zilu resumed his journey and reported to Confucius. Confucius said: “The man you met is a hermit.” He sent Zilu back to see the old man, but when he reached his place Zilu found that the old man had gone. Zilu said: “It is wrong to withdraw from public life. The codes that govern the rightful relationship between the old and young cannot be discarded. How can the rightful relationship between ruler and subject be discarded? You cannot disrupt the most basic human relationships just to preserve your purity. A leader takes office and performs his rightful duties even if he already knows that the Way will not prevail.”

Chapter X
The Duke of Zhou said to his son, the Duke of Lu: “An exemplary person does not neglect their relatives, nor do they give their ministers the opportunity to complain that their advice is not heeded. They do not dismiss old retainers without serious cause, nor do they demand all-round perfection in a single individual.”

Book 19
Chapter III
The disciples of Zixia asked Zizhang about social relations. Zizhang said: “What did Zixia tell you?” They replied: “Zixia said: ‘Associate with the right sort of people; avoid the wrong sort of people.” Zizhang said: “I heard something different: ‘A leader respects the wise and is tolerant of the ordinary; he praises the good and shows compassion to the incapable.’ If I am superior, whom should I not be tolerant of? If I am inferior, then others will avoid me; why would I need to avoid them?”

Chapter IV
Zixia said: “Although there’s a lot to see when you stroll along the byways, you risk getting get stuck in the mud if you have to travel far. That is why a leader should avoid them.”

Chapter VII
Zixia said: “Artisans of all types live in their workshops to master their trade. A leader learns to master the Way.”

Chapter IX
Zixia said: “An exemplary person has three different aspects: from a distance, they look stern; close up, they look warm; when you hear their voice, they sound serious.

Chapter X
Zixia said: “An exemplary person only mobilizes the people for labor after earning their trust. If they haven’t earned their trust, the people will feel they are being exploited. They only offer criticism to their lord after earning his trust. If they haven’t earned their trust, the lord will feel he is being slandered.”

Chapter XII
Ziyou said: “Among the students of Zixia the younger ones are well trained for sprinkling and sweeping the floor, responding to instructions, and greeting guests. But these are only details. When it comes to the fundamentals, they are totally lost. How is this possible?” When Zixia heard this he said: “No! Ziyou is badly mistaken! When it comes to the way of the leader, who is to decide what should be taught first and what should be taught last? Students should be taught according to their characteristics in the same way plants and trees are sorted. How can it be the way of the leader to turn them into fools? Only a sage, however, would be able to master everything from the beginning to the end.”

Chapter XX
Zigong said: “Zhouxin can’t have been as evil as people say. That is why a leader hates to dwell downstream. All the world’s effluent finds its way to him.”

Chapter XXI
Zigong said: “The errors of a leader are like an eclipse of the sun or the moon. When he makes an error, everyone notices; when he corrects his error everyone looks up to him in admiration.”

Chapter XXV
Chen Ziqin said to Zigong: “Sir, you are just being polite; how could Confucius be considered to be your superior?” Zigong said: “A leader can reveal his wisdom with a single phrase, and can betray his ignorance with a single phrase. That is why he must be careful about what he says. The Master’s achievements cannot be equaled, just as there are no steps that you can climb to reach the sky. If the Master been entrusted with running a country or a family estate, he would have lived up to the old adage: ‘If he helps them to stand they will stand up; if he leads them they will march; if he gives them peace they will flock to him; if he mobilizes them to work they will follow his call. In life, he is glorified; in death, he will be mourned.’ How can his achievements ever be equaled?”

Book 20
Chapter II
Zizhang asked Confucius: “What qualities must you have in order to be fit to take part in government?” Confucius said: “If you cultivate the five virtues and cast out the four vices you are fit to govern.”

Zizhang asked: “What are the five virtues?” Confucius said: “A leader is generous without having to spend anything; he inspires people to work hard without complaining; he is ambitious without being greedy; he is confident without being arrogant; he is imposing without being frightening.”

Zizhang said: “How can you be ‘generous without having to spend anything’?” Confucius said: “If you let the people take advantage of what is beneficial for them, aren’t you being generous without having to spend anything? If you assign the people to work on tasks that are reasonable, who will complain? If your ambition is to be good and you accomplish it, how can you be greedy? If a leader treats everyone equally no matter whether they are many or few or humble or great, he is confident without being arrogant. If a leader wears his robe and cap correctly, his gaze is straight, and he carries himself with a dignified air that inspires the people’s awe, he is imposing but not frightening.”

Zizhang said: “What are the four vices?” Confucius said: “If you execute people without attempting to reform them you are being cruel; if you carry out an inspection of a public works project without giving a prior warning you are being tyrannical; if you expect the immediate completion of a project after being slow to approve it, you are acting like a thief; if you are tight-fisted in paying people what is rightfully theirs, you are being bureaucratic.”

Chapter III
Confucius said: “If you don’t understand fate you cannot become a leader. If you don’t understand the rites, you cannot become a complete person. If you don’t understand the meaning of words, you cannot understand people.”

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