Category Archives: Confucius

Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance and cultural refinement

natural substance

子曰:「質勝文則野,文勝質則史。文質彬彬,然後君子。」
Confucius said: “When native substance wins out over cultural refinement, you get the coarseness of a peasant; when cultural refinement wins out over natural substance, you get the pedantry of a clerk. Only when native substance and cultural refinement are in balance do you get a leader.”

There’s no doubt that weight-training is great for making you healthier. A regular program enables you to build up both physical and mental strength through exercise and discipline and can provide a platform for achieving more than you imagined possible in your personal and professional life. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance and cultural refinement

Leadership lessons from Confucius: reaching the point of despair

point of despair

子曰:「誰能出不由戶?何莫由斯道也?」
Confucius said: “Who would leave a house except through the gateway? Why is it that nobody follows the way?” (1)

It’s inevitable that there’ll be times when you reach the point of despair when you are leading a challenging new project. If there aren’t, then it probably means that you aren’t pushing yourself far enough out of your comfort zone. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: reaching the point of despair

Followers of Confucius: Tantai Mieming

There is a lot controversy over the exact identity of Tantai Mieming (澹臺滅明). According to the Records of the Historian (not always the most reliable of sources), Tantai 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. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Tantai Mieming

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Meng Zhifan

Meng Zhifan (孟之反) was a minister of the state of Lu who was known for his modesty and self-deprecating humor. 

According to an account in the Chronicle of Zuo (左傳/ Zuǒzhuán), in 485 BCE he led an army that was soundly defeated by a force from the state of Qi in a battle that took place near to Qufu, the capital of Lu. During the retreat he showed great valor by fighting off the enemy in an effective rearguard action that allowed his surviving soldiers to escape. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Meng Zhifan

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Song Chao

Song Chao (宋朝) was a minister of the state of Wei who was famous for his good looks. He is said to have used his appearance in order to attract the favor of Nanzi (南子), the (allegedly) scheming and promiscuous consort of the notorious Duke Ling of Wei (衛靈公).

Indeed, according to some of the more lurid rumors that circulated about Song and Nanzi, the couple were brother and sister and Nanzi had specifically invited Song to serve in her husband’s court so that they could become lovers. There is no evidence to prove that these rumors were true – though that didn’t stop them from spreading like wildfire and further damaging Nanzi’s dubious reputation. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Song Chao

Leadership lessons from Confucius: an unfair advantage

unfair advantage

子曰:「不有祝鮀之佞,而有宋朝之美,難乎免於今之世矣。」
Confucius said: “It’s difficult to survive in an age like ours without the smooth tongue of Zhu Tuo and the good looks of Song Chao.” (1) (2)

There are always going to be other people around who seem to enjoy an unfair advantage over others – whether it be an amazing talent, stunning looks, or a silken tongue. Rather than bemoaning your bad luck in the genetic lottery, why not spend your time and energy figuring out how you, too, can build your own unfair advantage that will enable you to get ahead in life? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an unfair advantage

Leadership lessons from Confucius: when the chips are down

when the chips are down

子曰:「孟之反不伐,奔而殿,將入門,策其馬,曰:「『非敢後也,馬不進也。』」
Confucius said: “Meng Zhifan isn’t given to boasting. When he and his soldiers were in retreat, he stayed with the rearguard. It was only when they reached the city gate that he spurred his horse and said: ‘It wasn’t courage that kept me at the rear. My horse wouldn’t run.’” (1)

If you’re willing to put yourself in the firing line, your people will be more than happy to fight the good fight alongside you. They’ll be even more willing to support you if you refuse to play the hero and downplay any contribution you make with a self-deprecating joke or two. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: when the chips are down

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. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: good people

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: take a break

take a break

子謂子夏曰:「女為君子儒!無為小人儒!」
Confucius said to Zixia: “Be a refined scholar, not a common pedant.” (1) (2)

Take a break from the daily data deluge. Turn your phone off, place it on your desk, and go for a walk. There’s a chance that you’ll be a little anxious to begin with at being cut off from civilization as you know it, but that feeling of isolation will soon wear off. Your mind will get accustomed to the lack of interruptions. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: take a break

Leadership lessons from Confucius: just do it

just do it

冉求曰:「非不說子之道,力不足也。」子曰:「力不足者,中道而廢。今女畫。」
Ran Qiu said: “It’s not that I don’t enjoy the way of the Master, but I don’t have the strength to follow it.” Confucius said: “If you don’t have enough strength you can always give up halfway. But you’ve already given up before you’ve even started.” (1)

You’ll never know what you’re truly capable of unless you commit yourself wholeheartedly to a project. That means putting aside all your doubts and in the words of a sage sneaker company “Just do it.” Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: just do it