Leadership lessons from Confucius: kindness and respect

kindness and respect

或謂孔子曰:「子奚不為政?」子曰:「書云:『孝乎惟孝,友于兄弟,施於有政。』是亦為政,奚其為為政?」
Someone asked Confucius: “Sir, why don’t you take part in government?” Confucius replied: “In the Book of Documents it says: ‘By being filial to your parents and being kind to your brothers, you’re already contributing to the smooth running of the government.’ Since I’m already doing this, why do I need to take part in government?” (1)

You don’t need to have an official title in order to assume a leadership position in your organization or community. By being kind and considerate towards the people around you, you will soon be able to gain their trust and confidence. The more you show that you appreciate the suggestions and feedback they give you, the more they will appreciate the suggestions and feedback you give them. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: kindness and respect

Leadership lessons from Confucius: position power

Temple of Yan Hui: position power

季康子問:「使民敬忠以勸,如之何?」子曰:「臨之以莊則敬,孝慈則忠,舉善而教不能則勸。」
Ji Kangzi asked: “What should I do to make the people respectful, loyal, and diligent? Confucius said: “Treat them with dignity, and they will be respectful. Be filial to your parents and kind to the young, and they will be loyal. Promote those who are capable and teach those who are not, and they will be diligent.” (1)

Position power will only get you so far. No matter how grand your title is, people will only show you respect if you treat them in the same way. They will only show you loyalty if you act in the same manner. They will only work hard if you reward high performance and provide opportunities for everyone to achieve the same level. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: position power

Leadership lessons from Confucius: on integrity

Temple of Yan Hui: integrity

哀公問曰:「何為則民服?」孔子對曰:「舉直錯諸枉,則民服;舉枉錯諸直,則民不服。」
Duke Ai asked: “What should I do to win the support of the people?” Confucius replied: “Promote the upright and place them above the crooked, and the people will support you. Promote the crooked and place them above the upright, and the people will not support you.” (1) (2)

What criteria do you use to select people for leadership positions in your organization? Talent is critical of course. So too is a strong track record of delivering results. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are also vital. The list is endless. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: on integrity

Leadership lessons from Confucius: on mentoring

mentorship

子張學干祿。子曰:「多聞闕疑,慎言其餘,則寡尤。多見闕殆,慎行其餘,則寡悔。言寡尤,行寡悔,祿在其中矣。」
Zizhang was studying with the aim of securing an official position. Confucius said: “Listen for as much information as possible, ignore anything that is suspect, and be cautious when talking about the rest; that way you will only rarely say anything out of place. Observe as much as possible, ignore anything that is dangerous, and carefully apply the rest to your actions; that way you will rarely have reason for regret. By speaking cautiously to avoid mistakes and acting carefully to avoid regrets, your career is set.” (1)

How to mentor raw talent? Do you directly criticize their weaknesses, or do you indirectly encourage them to improve certain aspects of their behavior? Confucius takes the latter approach with his bright but brash young follower Zizhang. Rather than taking a stick to him for his rashness and arrogance, Confucius dangles a carrot in front of him by counseling him to adopt a more low-key approach if he wants to get secure a government job. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: on mentoring

Leadership lessons from Confucius: dumb questions

dumb questions

子曰:「由!誨女知之乎!知之為知之,不知為不知,是知也。」
Confucius said: “Zilu, let me tell you what knowledge means. Knowing what you know and what you don’t know. That is what knowledge means.”

It can be very tempting to pretend that you understand what someone is droning on about during a meeting or presentation out of fear of looking stupid in front of everyone else. Tempting but stupid, because the likelihood is that if you don’t have the foggiest idea of what the person is talking about then most of the other people in the room don’t either! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: dumb questions

Leadership lessons from Confucius: between the two extremes

Temple of Yan Hui

子曰:「攻乎異端,斯害也己。」
Confucius said: “Focusing your attention only on the extremes will lead to nothing but harm.” (1)

How to make sense of what is really happening on the ground when our media and social media channels are filled with loud screeching voices proclaiming the end of the world as we know it and demanding instant solutions to an infinite number of “existential” crises? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: between the two extremes

leadership Lessons from Confucius: learning without thinking

learning without thinking

子曰:「學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆。」
Confucius said: “Learning without thinking leads to perplexity. Thinking without learning leads to trouble.”

We live at a time when knowledge has never been more abundant or accessible to everyone. With a few taps on the screen of our phone or a few clicks of our mouse, we can find out just about any information that we require. Continue reading leadership Lessons from Confucius: learning without thinking

Magical and mystical Longhushan: Part 1

magical and mystical longhushan

One of the great benefits of China’s High Speed Train network is that it makes it so much easier to visit places that not so many years ago were a long way off the beaten track.

After three hectic days at the 2018 World Conference on VR Industry in Nanchang (南昌), it was a huge pleasure to be able to wind down by taking the short train ride to Yingtan (鹰潭) and head out to Longhushan (龙虎山/Dragon Tiger Mountain), one of the birthplaces of Daoism. Continue reading Magical and mystical Longhushan: Part 1

Leadership lessons from Confucius: creating unity

Temple of Yan Hui: unity

子曰:「君子周而不比,小人比而不周。」
Confucius said: “A leader creates unity without taking sides. A petty person takes sides without creating unity.” (1)

There are always going to be naysayers sniping away in the background when you implement a new initiative, but that shouldn’t discourage you from going ahead with it. Your role as a leader as a leader is to rise above the negativity and generate unity around your plan. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: creating unity

Leadership lessons from Confucius: words or actions?

words or actions?

子貢問君子。子曰:「先行其言,而後從之。」
When Zigong asked about leadership, Confucius said: “First accomplish what you want to say and then say it.”

Which comes first: words or actions? If you take your cue from Silicon Valley, the answer is to shout from the rooftops that your brilliant idea is going to transform the world as we know it so that you can suck in enough investors to kickstart your dream and keep it going until one fine day it stops bleeding cash and finally starts to make money. Or gets bought by a bigger company that wants to get their hands on your technology and people or at least prevent the emergence of a potential competitor. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: words or actions?