Leadership lessons from Confucius: a common lexicon

common lexicon

子所雅言,詩、書、執禮,皆雅言也。
Occasions when Confucius used standard pronunciation: when reciting the Book of Songs and the Book of Documents, and when carrying out ritual ceremonies. On all these occasions, he used standard pronunciation.

Language provides a unifying force in the communities we live in, the institutions we learn in, and the organizations we work in. A common lexicon that everyone is fluent in is vital if we are to live harmoniously, learn effectively, and work efficiently with each other. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a common lexicon

Leadership lessons from Confucius: The Book of Changes

Book of Changes

子曰:「加我數年,五十以學易,可以無大過矣。」
Confucius said: “If I was given a few more years, I would devote fifty to the study of the Book of Changes so that I may be free from serious mistakes.”

Change is the only constant in life. Better to embrace it rather than to fight it. That means observing what is happening around you very closely and using every tool you have at your disposal to figure out how to ride the ride the waves that are rising from the oceans below and withstand the storms that are looming in the skies above. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: The Book of Changes

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: passing clouds

passing clouds

子曰:「飯疏食,飲水,曲肱而枕之,樂亦在其中矣。不義而富且貴,於我如浮雲。」
Confucius said: “Even if you have only coarse grain to eat, water to drink, and your bent elbow to use as a pillow, you can still find joy in these things. But wealth and honors obtained by improper means are like passing clouds to me.”

What compromises are you prepared to make in order to achieve fame and fortune? It’s all very well to wax lyrical about the simple pleasures of life like Confucius does in this passage, but they provide little or no joy at all when you are fighting to put food on the table to feed your family or keep your startup alive when it’s on the verge of collapsing. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: passing clouds

Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Boyi and Shuqi

Born in the early part of the 11th century BCE, Boyi (伯夷) and Shuqi (叔齊) were the sons of a ruler of the minor state of Guzhu (孤竹) during the time when the ruling Shang dynasty (商朝) was collapsing under the dissolute rule of its last emperor Di Xin (帝辛).

When their father chose the younger Shuqi his successor, Shuqi declined the offer. His elder brother Boyi then refused the throne as well, insisting that his younger brother take it. Rather than fight with each other over who was the rightful ruler, the two brothers fled to the nearby state of Zhou (周). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Boyi and Shuqi

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Chu of Wei

Duke Chu of Wei (衛出公) only became the ruler of the state because his father, the former crown prince Ji Kuaikui (姬蒯瞶), had been forced to flee the state after failing in an attempt to kill Nanzi (南子), the notorious consort of his father, Duke Ling (衛靈公), in 499 BCE. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Chu of Wei

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a tawdry tale

tawdry tale

冉有曰:「夫子為衛君乎?」子貢曰:「諾,吾將問之。」入曰:「伯夷、叔齊何人也?」曰:「古之賢人也。」曰:「怨乎?」曰:「求仁而得仁,又何怨?」出曰:「夫子不為也。」
Ran Qiu said: “Does the Master support the Duke of Wei?” Zigong said: “Well, I’m going to ask him.” Zigong went in and asked Confucius: “What sort of people were Boyi and Shuqi?” “They were virtuous men of old.” “Did they complain?” “They sought goodness and attained goodness. Why should they have complained?” Zigong left and said to Ran Qiu: “The Master does not support the Duke of Wei.”

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that other people will support you because you have a good relationship with them. Learn to accept that their opinions will differ from yours no matter how close you happen to be with them. In fact, the stronger the bond you have with someone, the greater the chance that they will free to voice their disagreement with you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a tawdry tale

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the power of music

power of music

子在齊聞韶,三月不知肉味,曰:「不圖為樂之至於斯也。」
When Confucius was in Qi, he heard Shao music. For three months, he didn’t know the taste of meat. He said: “I never imagined that music could reach such heights as this.”

Never underestimate the power of music to stir your senses and fuel your emotions. When you are in your darkest moments, it can help you to forget your worries and cares and bring you calm and comfort. When you are searching for inspiration, it can help you to elevate your ideas and imagination to ever greater heights. And when you are looking for escape from the daily grind, it can help you to relax and restore your zest for life. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the power of music

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: fasting; war; disease.

fasting

子之所慎:齊,戰,疾。
Confucius was cautious about these matters: fasting; war; disease.

Purification is the key to giving a great presentation. That means slimming down your narrative by removing all its extraneous threads and practicing until you know it so well that you can deliver it without having to look at your slides. Only then can you convey its full meaning and stir the emotions of the audience. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: fasting; war; disease.

Leadership lessons from Confucius: if wealth was worth pursuing

if wealth was worth pursuing

子曰:「富而可求也,雖執鞭之士,吾亦為之。如不可求,從吾所好。」
Confucius said: “If wealth was worth pursuing, I’d go after it even if it meant working as a lowly official. But if not, I’d rather follow my own interests.” (1) (2)

If you pursue a career or set up a business with the sole aim of making money, the chances are that you’ll end up feeling empty and disappointed. Even if you succeed in bringing in the moolah, you’ll be so focused on keeping the geyser gushing that you won’t have time to enjoy the comforts of the lifestyle it brings. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: if wealth was worth pursuing

Leadership lessons from Confucius: courage and recklessness

courage and recklessness

子謂顏淵曰:「用之則行,舍之則藏,惟我與爾有是夫。」子路曰:「子行三軍,則誰與?」子曰:「暴虎馮河,死而不悔者,吾不與也。必也臨事而懼,好謀而成者也。」
Confucius said to Yan Hui: “To take office when needed and to stay out of sight when dismissed: only you and I can do this.” Zilu said: “If you had command of the Three Armies, who would you appoint to help you?” Confucius said: “I wouldn’t choose someone who wrestles tigers barehanded or swims across rivers without fearing death. But I would choose someone who approaches difficulties with due caution and achieves victories through careful planning.” (1) (2)

There’s a huge difference between courage and recklessness. Courage means having the bravery and determination to bide your time until the right moment arrives for you to strike. Recklessness means diving in without thinking about the possible consequences of your action until it’s too late. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: courage and recklessness