Leadership lessons from Confucius: a fine line

a fine line

子曰:「道不行,乘桴浮於海。從我者,其由與?」子路聞之喜。子曰:「由也好勇過我,無所取材。」
Confucius said: “If the way doesn’t prevail, I’ll take a raft and put out to sea. I’m sure Zilu will come with me.” When he heard this, Zilu was delighted. Confucius said: “Zilu is much braver than I am, but he brings no materials to make the raft with.” (1)

There’s a fine line between engaging in friendly banter and making a hurtful comment. Confucius just about manages to stay on the right side of it with his dig at Zilu for his impetuousness, but the margin is at best a very fine one. Surely, his faithful follower deserves at least a pinch of gratitude from the sage for his eagerness to give up everything he’s doing and accompany Confucius on a perilous voyage to almost certain death! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a fine line

Leadership lessons from Confucius: you can lead a horse to water

you can lead a horse to water

子使漆雕開仕。對曰:「吾斯之未能信。」子說。
When Confucius recommended that Qidiao Kai should seek an official position, he replied: “I’m not ready to be trusted for such a responsibility yet.” Confucius was delighted. (1)

How to react when a colleague, friend, or family member refuses to accept your advice? Do you urge them to reconsider their decision or are you happy to let them follow their own path? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: you can lead a horse to water

Followers of Confucius: Qidiao Kai

Although Qidiao Kai (漆雕開) only makes a single appearance in the Analects, he was a highly influential disciple who went to establish his own school, which became one of the eight branches of Confucianism identified by the philosopher Han Fei (韓非) in the third century BCE. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Qidiao Kai

Leadership lessons from Confucius: what use is eloquence?

what use is eloquence?

或曰:「雍也仁而不佞。」子曰:「焉用佞?御人以口給,屢憎於人。不知其仁,焉用佞?」
Someone said: “Ran Yong is good but not eloquent.” Confucius said: “What use is eloquence? A smooth tongue creates many enemies. I don’t know whether Ran Yong is good; but he definitely has no need for eloquence.” (1)

The ability to speak clearly and persuasively is vital for getting on in the world no matter what profession you are in. People who speak confidently are far more likely to be regarded more favorably than their shy or tongue-twisted counterparts even though they probably know a lot less about what they are talking about than the ones who sit quietly besides them. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: what use is eloquence?

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a precious sacrificial vessel

a precious sacrificial utensil

子貢問曰:「賜也何如?」子曰:「女器也。」曰:「何器也?」曰:「瑚璉也。」
Zigong asked: “What do you think of me?” Confucius said: “You’re a vessel.” “What sort of vessel?” “A precious sacrificial vessel.” (1) (2)

Just because someone asks you a straight question, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want you to give them a straight answer. Consider the possible reasons they may be raising the question before blurting out an answer and having to hastily correct yourself like Confucius does in this passage. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a precious sacrificial vessel

Followers of Confucius: Zijian

Zijian (子賤), also known by his courtesy name of Fu Buji (宓不齊), was born in 521 BCE in the state of Lu and was 49 years younger than Confucius.

After studying under the sage, he served as the chief magistrate (宰/zǎi) of Danfu (單父) in modern-day Shandong province and achieved such a good reputation that Confucius describes him as a true leader in 5.3 of the Analects. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zijian

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: nurturing leadership talent

nurturing leadership talent

子謂子賤,「君子哉若人!魯無君子者,斯焉取斯?」
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?” (1) (2)

Are great leaders born or made? While there’ll probably never be a definitive answer to that question, creating an environment that promotes personal growth and development can certainly help people to acquire the necessary skills and attributes for taking on a leadership role. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: nurturing leadership talent

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a sensible choice

sensible choice

子謂南容,「邦有道不廢,邦無道免於刑戮。」以其兄之子妻之。
Confucius said of Nan Rong: “In a well-governed state, he will not be overlooked for an official position. In a badly-governed state, he will avoid punishment and disgrace.” Confucius arranged for him to marry his niece. (1) (2)

What are the qualities you would prize in a business or life partner? Would you look for someone who is more outgoing and ambitious than you are to move things forward faster than you would be able to? Or would you go for someone who is calmer and more measured than you are who would bring more stability to the union? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a sensible choice

Followers of Confucius: Gongye Chang

Gongye Chang (公冶長), also known as Zichang (子長), Zizhi (子之), or Gongye Zhi (公冶芝), was born either in the state of Lu or the state of Qi. Even though he spent some time in prison, Confucius believed he was innocent and gave his daughter to him in marriage.

Gongye  appears to have justified the faith that Confucius showed in him, becoming a prominent teacher and scholar according to some sources. He is also believed to have been offered many opportunities to become a government official or minister because of his great virtue but declined them so that he could focus on his academic pursuits. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Gongye Chang

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a second chance

second chance

子謂公冶長,「可妻也。雖在縲絏之中,非其罪也。」以其子妻之。
Confucius said of Gongye Chang: “He would make a good husband. Although he has spent time in prison, he was innocent.” He gave him his daughter’s hand in marriage. (1) (2)

Everyone has said or done something dumb in the past. Does that mean that they should be denied the chance of a job or perhaps even have their current livelihood taken away from them because someone has dredged up a drunken post or image from the murky depths of the internet? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a second chance