Leadership lessons from Confucius: room for improvement

room for improvement

子曰:「文,莫吾猶人也。躬行君子,則吾未之有得。」
Confucius said: “Although my commitment is as strong as anyone’s when it comes to cultural knowledge and refinement, I haven’t yet hit the target of becoming a true leader in how I conduct myself.”

No matter how accomplished and successful you are, there’s always room for improvement. That doesn’t mean that you should constantly beat yourself up for your inevitable failings, but that that you should be able to reflect calmly on them and take concrete steps to address them in the future.

Maintaining a positive yet humble attitude that enables you to stay open to new ideas and experiences is also vital. The daily grind can make it all too easy for you to become stale and cynical. But there are always new challenges around the corner offering you the opportunity to freshen your mood and restore your zest for life – if only you take the time to look for them and summon the courage to embrace them.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 32 of Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 7 here.

(1) Learning by doing was one of the central tenets of Confucius’s teachings. Throughout the Analects, we find him emphasizing to his students and followers the critical importance of applying theoretical knowledge gained through the study of the classics to the practical situations and problems they encountered in their daily lives.

(2) Confucius was just as critical of himself as others, if not more so. See Book 7, Chapter 3 for another example of his awareness of his own weaknesses and frailties.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.

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