All posts by Richard Brown

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: character counts

character counts

子曰:「弟子入則孝,出則弟,謹而信,汎愛眾,而親仁。行有餘力,則以學文。」
The Master said: “A young man should be filial at home and fraternal outside it. He should be cautious and truthful, love everyone, but only develop close relationships with good people. If he still has energy to spare after all this, he should study the classics.”

How to prepare the young generation for a fast-moving and turbulent world? This was just as daunting a challenge in Confucius’s day as it is in ours due the politically and socially unstable times that he lived in. Finding suitable jobs in the bureaucracy or estates of the hereditary ruling calls was just as tough as it is nowadays for educated young people without family connections, and there was at least an equal chance of being caught up in violence and wars as the different states vied with each other for supremacy.

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Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a steady hand

steady hand

子曰:「道千乘之國,敬事而信,節用而愛人,使民以時。」
The Master said: “The way to rule a thousand-chariot state(1) is to devote yourself to its affairs and fulfill your commitments; be economical in expenditure and love your subordinates; and mobilize the common people for labor at the right time of the year.”(2)

No matter how large the group or organization you lead is, the principles you should follow in order to create a productive and harmonious culture remain the same: show a strong work ethic and live up to the promises you make; keep operational costs to minimum and care for the people you work with; and don’t make unnecessary demands on them unless it is absolutely necessary.

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Leadership Lessons from Confucius: self-reflection

self-reflection

曾子曰:「吾日三省吾身,為人謀而不忠乎?與朋友交而不信乎?傳不習乎?」
Zengzi said: “I examine myself three times every day. Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf? Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends? Have I practiced what I have been taught?”(1)

Introspection or self-reflection is critical for a leader. It can be all too easy to lose touch with reality when you’re in your cocoon surrounded by people whose careers and livelihoods depend on making sure you’re satisfied. Very few people have the courage to call you out if they think you’re making the wrong decision or going beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.

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Leadership Lessons from Confucius: smooth talk and an affected manner

子曰:「巧言令色鮮矣仁。」
The Master said: “Smooth talk and an affected manner are seldom signs of goodness.” (1)

How do you deal with the sycophants that inevitably gravitate towards you like bees to a honeypot when you reach a leadership position? It’s easy enough to dismiss them for their “smooth talk” and “affected manner” as Confucius does in Chapter 3 of Book 1 of the Analects, but much more challenging to create a culture around you that doesn’t stand for such behavior in the first place.

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When the travel gods smile on you

Taipei Songshan Airport

If you’re flying from Taipei to a major city in China, Japan, or South Korea, Songshan Airport is far closer and more convenient than the main one in Taoyuan. The check-in, security, and immigration processes usually take me less than fifteen minutes thanks to the lower number of flights that go from there and the cheerful and friendly staff.

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From Shanghai to Hangzhou: China International Industry Fair and Alibaba Empower Digital China

VIA ARTiGO A920

I’m looking forward to leaving for Shanghai tomorrow to attend the China International Industry Fair at the National Exhibition and Convention Center before hopping over to Hangzhou for Empower Digital China being held by Alibaba.

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Leadership Lessons from Confucius: succession management

Temple of Yan Hui, Qufu
Temple of Yan Hui, Qufu

有子曰:「其為人也孝弟,而好犯上者,鮮矣;不好犯上,而好作亂者,未之有也。君子務本,本立而道生。孝弟也者,其為仁之本與!」
Youzi said: “A man who shows filial and fraternal devotion is unlikely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the root; once this takes hold the way appears. Filial and fraternal devotion is the root of goodness.”

Confucius was a master of talent development, training hundreds if not thousands of followers (1) who went on to take official positions and run businesses in the patchwork quilt of states that comprised China during his lifetime.

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Leadership lessons from Confucius: never give up

Leadership Lessons from Confucius

子曰:「學而時習之,不亦說乎?有朋自遠方來,不亦樂乎?人不知而不慍,不亦君子乎?」
The Master said: “Isn’t it a pleasure to study and repeatedly apply the lessons you’ve learned? Isn’t it a joy to have friends visit from afar? Isn’t it the mark of a leader to go unacknowledged without letting it annoy you?”(1)

How do you become a leader? This is the central theme of the teachings of Confucius as recorded in The Analects. The answer is by studying the core principles hard and iterating the lessons you have learned from them so enthusiastically that they become an unconscious part of who you are and how you conduct yourself. There are no magical shortcuts in this process, though that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be an enjoyable one. There are no guaranteed earthly or heavenly rewards for following it either. You pursue this path because it is the right thing to do, not because there is a pot of gold at the end of it or any likes or retweets along the way. (2)

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China coffee market: the quest for novel experiential offerings

Alibaba have published an interesting overview of the Chinese coffee market on their Alizila website, even if it somehow neglects to mention the potential impact of emerging local players such as Luckin.

The key takeaway for me wasn’t so much the big numbers that the report throws around, but the two key consumption trends that it identifies: namely, the move to “premium artisan products” and the quest for “novel experiences.”

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