Confucius said that Duke Ling of Wei didn’t follow the way. Ji Kangzi said: “If this is the case, how come he hasn’t lost his state?” Confucius said: “He has Kong Wenzi looking after guests and foreign delegations, Zhu Tuo taking care of the ancestral temple, and Wangsun Jia in charge of defense. With such officials as these, how could he possibly lose his state?”
You’re only as good as the people you have around you. Be careful to ensure that you put the right person in each job and that their personalities and abilities mesh with each other. When you have everyone in place and the team is functioning smoothly, resist the temptation to take things easy. That’s the time to start planning how to take things to the next level and unleash everyone’s full potential. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: unleash everyone’s full potential
The steward of Gongshu Wenzi, Zhuan, was promoted together with him to the duke’s court. Confucius heard this and said: “Gongshu truly deserves to be called ‘the Refined.’”
If you’ve done your job right, there will inevitably come a time when a member of your team is ready for promotion to a position that’s the same level as yours or perhaps even a higher one. Don’t stand in their way when this happens. Take it as a positive affirmation of your leadership abilities and wish them the greatest of success in their new assignment. Your key responsibility is to develop talent for the good of the whole organization. You should be proud to have played a key role in enabling them to reach their full potential. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: ready for promotion
Zigong said: “Guan Zhong wasn’t a good person, was he? After Duke Huan had Prince Jiu put to death, he not only chose to live but also served as the duke’s chief minister.” Confucius said: “By serving as Duke Huan’s chief minister, Guan Zhong imposed his authority over all the states and brought order to the world; the people still reap the benefits of his actions until this day. Without Guan Zhong, we would still be wearing our hair loose and folding our robes on the wrong side. Or would you prefer it if he had drowned himself in a ditch like some wretched husband or wife in their petty fidelity and died with nobody knowing about it?”
No matter how many times you’ve been asked the same question, there’s no need to explode when someone raises it yet again. Sharp retorts and derisive comments may make you feel good at the time, but they add nothing to the conversation. At best they will only serve to discourage open discussion and debate among your staff and at worst they could end up destroying your career. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: sharp retorts and derisive comments
Zilu said: “When Duke Huan had Prince Jiu put to death, Shao Hu took his own life but Guan Zhong chose to keep his. Should we say that Guan Zhong was a man without goodness?” Confucius said: “Duke Huan was able to bring the rulers of all the states together nine times without having to resort to military force because of the power of Guan Zhong. Such was his goodness! Such was his goodness!”
Is it only when your organization’s very survival is at stake that you’re willing to break with convention? When everything’s humming along smoothly do you have the courage to make daring decisions on people or products that fly in the face of accepted wisdom? Or are you content to keep on steering the ship on its current course? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: break with convention?
Confucius said: “Duke Wen of Jin was crafty and improper; Duke Huan of Qi was proper and not crafty.”
Never underestimate the power of positioning to shape perceptions of you. It can make all the difference between being seen as a strong leader rather than a tyrannical bully or as a paragon of virtue rather than a grifting virtue signaler. Once you have crafted your story, be sure to remain authentic to it. A single rash deed or word can shatter your image in an instant. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the power of positioning
Confucius said: “Zang Wuzhong demanded that the city of Fang be acknowledged by the Duke of Lu as his hereditary fief. Although it’s said he didn’t coerce his ruler, I don’t believe it.”
When your back’s against the wall, you sometimes have no choice but to play hard ball. If you let other people walk over you, you’ll lose the respect of your colleagues and members of your team. No matter how much criticism you attract, hang tough and fight your corner. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: when your back’s against the wall
Confucius asked Gongming Jia about Gongshu Wenzi: “Is it true that your master never spoke, laughed, nor took anything?” Gongming Jia replied: “Whoever told you this exaggerated. My master spoke, but only at the right time, and so no one ever thought he spoke too much; he laughed, but only when he was happy, and so no one ever thought that he laughed too much; he took things, but only when it was right, and so no one ever thought that he took too much.” Confucius said: “How commendable! Assuming of course it is true.”
How to get yourself into the zone when everything you say, do, and touch turns to gold? Even the greatest athletes and artists in the world only manage to achieve a state of peak performance on the rarest of occasions. For most of the time, they are busy fine-tuning their skills, bodies, and minds in preparation for that magical moment when they hit the perfect home run or create their masterpiece. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: getting into the zone
Zilu asked how to define a “complete person”. Confucius said: “Take someone as wise as Zang Wuzhong, as free from desire as Gongchuo, as brave as Zhuangzi of Bian, and as cultured as Ran Qiu, as well as being accomplished in ritual and music, and they may be considered a complete person.” Then he added: “But must a complete person be exactly like this today? Someone who thinks of what is right at the sight of profit, who is ready to risk their life when faced with danger, and who can endure hardship without forgetting the teachings that have guided their daily life may also be considered a complete person.”
Nobody’s a complete person. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. That’s why assembling a strong team of people who complement each other in their abilities and personalities is so important. Nobody can do everything – and neither should they want to. A tight-knit and highly-motivated team can accomplish far more than even the most talented individual. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a complete person
There is extensive debate over the identity of Zixi (子西), who makes only one rather inglorious appearance in the Analects in which Confucius compares him less than favorably to Zichan, the illustrious chief minister of the small state of Zheng.
Some commentators believe Zixi to have been a fellow minister of the great man who went on to succeed him as chief minister after his death. A few go as far as to claim that he was a brother of Zichan with the courtesy name of Gongsun Xia. Sibling or not, Zixi doesn’t appear to have distinguished himself in the post – perhaps partly because he had to operate in his renowned predecessor’s shadow. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zixi
Confucius said: “Meng Gongchuo is more than qualified to serve as the steward for the Zhao and Wei families, but he is not qualified to serve as a minister in the states of Teng and Xue.”
What is the right platform for your development? A startup with plenty of potential to grow and give you exposure to a broad range of responsibilities or a large corporation that will give you an established stage to perform on and a clear future career path? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: qualified to serve?