Followers of Confucius: Youzi

Youzi (有子), or Zi Ruo (子若) or You Ruo (有若) to use his courtesy and given names, was regarded for a short period after the death of Confucius as his spiritual heir – mainly, it seems, because he bore a remarkable physical resemblance to the sage.

However, while Youzi’s looks may have been similar to those of Confucius, his talents came nowhere near to matching those of the sage, and he soon lost the confidence of the other followers. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Youzi

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: when times are tough

when times are tough

哀公問於有若曰:「年饑,用不足,如之何?」有若對曰:「盍徹乎!」曰:「二,吾猶不足,如之何其徹也?」對曰:「百姓足,君孰與不足?百姓不足,君孰與足?」
Duke Ai asked Youzi: “In years of famine when I don’t make enough to cover my expenses, what should I do?” Youzi replied: “Why not set the tax at ten percent?” Duke Ai said: “Even twenty percent wouldn’t be sufficient to meet my needs; how could I manage with ten percent?” Youzi replied: “If the people have enough to support themselves, how could their lord not have enough to meet his needs? If the people do not have enough to support themselves, how could their lord have enough to meet his needs?”

When times are tough, show you have confidence in your people by increasing their freedom to be more creative. Even if it means that you have to take a short-term hit, the long-term rewards for you and everyone you work with will be rich. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: when times are tough

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ji Zicheng

Nothing is known about Ji Zicheng (棘子成) except that he was a minister in the state of Wei. Ji makes only one appearance in the Analects when he questions the value of cultural refinement in a dialog with Confucius’s follower Zigong in 12.8.

Some commentators speculate that Ji was obliquely criticizing the ruling elite for their preference for vapid displays of rhetorical and sartorial excess over political and administrative substance with his attack on cultural refinement. Others suggest he may having been having a go at Zigong for his fastidious approach to bettering himself. Perhaps it was a bit of both. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ji Zicheng

Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance versus cultural refinement

cultural refinement

棘子成曰:「君子質而已矣,何以文為?」子貢曰:「惜乎,夫子之說君子也,駟不及舌!文猶質也,質猶文也;虎豹之鞹,猶犬羊之鞹。」
Ji Zicheng said: “Native substance determines whether or not you’re a leader. What use is cultural refinement?” Zigong said: “What a pity you’ve chosen to describe a leader in this way. ‘A team of horses cannot catch up with a tongue.’ Cultural refinement is native substance; native substance is cultural refinement. Without their hair, the pelts of tigers and leopards are just the same as those of a dog or a sheep.”

It takes much more than raw talent to become a leader. Native smarts and a raging fire in your belly can only get you so far. The larger and more complex your startup grows, the more you’ll need to develop your knowledge and skills to meet ever greater and more diverse challenges. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance versus cultural refinement

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the trust of the people

the trust of the people

子貢問「政」。子曰:「足食,足兵,民信之矣。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,於斯三者何先?」曰:「去兵。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,於斯二者何先?」曰:「去食。自古皆有死,民無信不立。」
Zigong asked about governance. Confucius said: “Enough food, enough weapons, and the trust of the people.” Zigong said: “If you had to go without one of these three, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Weapons.” Zigong asked: “If you had to go without one of the remaining two, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Food. From ancient times, death has been the fate of everyone. But without the trust of the people, the government cannot stand.”

It doesn’t matter how great the pay and office facilities are: people aren’t going to give their best if they don’t have any trust in you as a leader. There’s no reason why they should fully commit themselves to you if you don’t wholeheartedly commit yourself to them.
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the trust of the people

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: stick to your vision

stick to your vision

子張問「明」。子曰:「浸潤之譖,膚受之愬,不行焉,可謂明也已矣。浸潤之譖,膚受之愬,不行焉,可謂遠也已矣。」
Zizhang asked about vision. Confucius said: “If you’re soaked with slander and wounded by insults but still do not falter, you may be said to have vision. Indeed, you may also be said to be farsighted.”

Ignore all the doubters and critics with their petty insults and slanders. You only get one shot at life. Stick to your vision of what you want to accomplish with it. No point in wasting precious time and energy worrying about what others have to say.
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: stick to your vision

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: all men are brothers

all men are brothers

司馬牛憂曰:「人皆有兄弟,我獨亡!」子夏曰:「商聞之矣:『死生有命,富貴在天』。君子敬而無失,與人恭而有禮;四海之內,皆兄弟也。君子何患乎無兄弟也?」
Sima Niu was full of sorrow: “All men have brothers; I alone have none.” Zixia said: “I have heard this: life and death are ordained by fate; wealth and honors are assigned by heaven. A leader always shows respect and courtesy to others. Within the four seas all men are brothers. How could a leader complain that he has no brothers?”

No relationship is set in stone. Even the people you think you’re closest to move on and do other stuff. No need to become a drama queen if they do something you don’t approve of or leave for pastures new. Wish them all the best and get on with your own life. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: all men are brothers

Leadership lessons from Confucius: ignore your stage fright

stage fright

司馬牛問君子。子曰:「君子不憂不懼。」曰:「不憂不懼,斯謂之君子矣乎?」子曰:「內省不疚,夫何憂何懼?」
Sima Niu asked: “What makes a leader?” Confucius said: “A leader has no anxiety or fear.” Sima Niu said: “No anxiety or fear? That’s what makes a leader?” Confucius said: “When he looks inside himself and finds nothing wrong, what does he have to be anxious about or fear?”

It’s natural to suffer from stage fright when you’re about to embark on a major project. Of course your mind’s going to be filled with doubts about whether you have the ability to execute it, but as long as you know you’re doing the right thing ignore the butterflies in your stomach and move ahead with it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: ignore your stage fright

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: talk is cheap

talk is cheap

司馬牛問仁。子曰:「仁者,其言也訒。」曰:「斯言也訒,斯謂之仁矣乎?」子曰:「為之難,言之得無訒乎?」
Sima Niu asked about goodness. Confucius said: “A person who practices goodness is cautious in speech.” Sima Niu said: “Cautious in speech? Is that what you call goodness?” Confucius said: “When something is difficult to do, how is it possible not to be cautious in speaking about it?”

Talk is cheap. Better to wait until you have clarified your thoughts on a major decision before sharing them with others. The earlier you talk, the greater the risk you’ll end up confusing and perhaps even disappointing people – not mention getting yourself into unnecessary trouble. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: talk is cheap