Leadership lessons from Confucius: good people

good people

子游為武城宰。子曰:「女得人焉爾乎?」曰:「有澹臺滅明者,行不由徑,非公事,未嘗至於偃之室也。」
When Ziyou became governor of Wucheng, Confucius asked him: “Have you managed to find any good people there?” He replied: “There’s one called Tantai Mieming. He takes no shortcuts and has never visited me at home except on official business.” (1) (2)

It’s never easy to take over the management of a team you’ve never worked with before. It takes time to get to know everyone and learn who the good people are. Even though you should of course be friendly towards your new staff, it also pays to draw a line and let them know the types of behavior that you will not tolerate. You need to make it clear that you’re their boss, after all, not their friend.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 14 of Book 6 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 6 here.

(1) Ziyou became a follower of Confucius when the sage was already an old man. Confucius had a high regard for his literary skills and praised him for the excellent work did as governor of Wucheng. You can read more about Ziyou here.

(2) There is some controversy over the exact identity of Tantai Mieming. According to the Records of the Historian (not always the most reliable of sources), he was so ugly that the first time Confucius met him he mistook him for being stupid. It was only later that the sage realized his error and grew to appreciate him for his exemplary moral conduct. You can read more about Tantai Mieming here.

I took this image at the Temple of Mencius in Zoucheng, a small town near to Qufu. You can read more about it here.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *