Leadership lessons from Confucius: relaxing at home

relaxing at home

「子之燕居,申申如也,夭夭如也。」
When relaxing at home, Confucius was comfortable and leisurely and cheerful and agreeable.

How to balance our working and personal lives? This is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge thanks to the ubiquity of the smart phone and the globalized on-demand economy. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: relaxing at home

Leadership lessons from Confucius: asking yourself the tough questions

tough questions

子曰:「德之不修,學之不講,聞義不能徒,不善不能改,是吾憂也。」
Confucius said: “Failure to nurture my virtue, failure to discuss what I have learned, failure to follow what I know to be right, and failure to correct my faults: these are the worries that plague me.”

Self-reflection requires asking yourself the tough questions that you don’t necessarily want to find a correct answer to. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: asking yourself the tough questions

Leadership lessons from Confucius: purpose and meaning

purpose and meaning

子曰:「默而識之,學而不厭,誨人不倦,何有於我哉?」
Confucius said: “Quietly absorbing knowledge, learning and yet never growing weary, teaching and yet never becoming tired – how can any of these be difficult for me?”

Confucius was very fortunate in finding his passion early on in life. As a young boy he became fascinated by ritual objects and developed a lifelong love of learning the ways of the ancients and sharing this knowledge with anyone who showed even the slightest inclination to listen to him. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: purpose and meaning

Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Old Peng

The identity of Old Peng (老彭), who Confucius “dares” to compare himself with in Chapter 1 of Book 7 of the Analects, is the source of a great deal of controversy.

Some commentators suggest he was a high-ranking official of the Shang dynasty who was known for transmitting true historical facts without any fabrications or adornments. Confucius therefore invokes his name to show his own commitment to preserving the authenticity of ancient historical documents. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Old Peng

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a roadmap for the future

roadmap for the future

子曰:「述而不作,信而好古,竊比於我老彭。」
Confucius said: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past. In this respect, I dare to compare myself with Old Peng.”

The past provides a roadmap for the future. It shows us the glories that we should aspire to achieve and the horrors that we should seek to avoid. Without knowing where we come from, we have no idea where we should go to. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a roadmap for the future

Analects of Confucius Book 6: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 6 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. It includes interesting insights into the characters and abilities of many of Confucius’s followers plus other contemporary and historical figures.

Chapter 1
子曰:「雍也可使南面。」
Confucius said: “Ran Yong could take a seat facing south.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: new English translation

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a rising tide lifts all boats

a rising tide

子貢曰:「如有博施於民,而能濟眾,何如?可謂仁乎?」子曰:「何事於仁,必也聖乎!堯舜其猶病諸!夫仁者,己欲立而立人,己欲達而達人。能近取譬,可謂仁之方也已。」
Zigong said: “What about someone who acts generously towards the people and benefits the masses? Could that be described as goodness?” Confucius said: “Why stop at calling it goodness? It could be defined as perfection. Even Yao and Shun wouldn’t be able to match it! Good people help others get on their feet while establishing their own career; they help others to achieve their goals while achieving their own objectives. By standing in other people’s shoes, it can be said that they’re on the right track to goodness.” (1) (2)

A rising tide lifts all boats. Leadership is not just about improving your own effectiveness but also that of everyone around you. It requires building a platform that enables everyone to learn and grow. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a rising tide lifts all boats

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the golden mean

golden mean

子曰:「中庸之為德也,其至矣乎!民鮮久矣。」
Confucius said: “Achieving the golden mean is the highest level of virtue. It’s been rare among the people for a long time.”

How many mood swings do you experience in the course of a single day? When bad news hits, do you stay calm and collected or do you have to fight to control your rising anger? How about when good news comes? Do you punch your fist in the air and give everyone around you high-fives or do you stay focused on the task at hand? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the golden mean

Leadership lessons from Confucius: divine intervention?

divine intervention

子見南子,子路不說。夫子矢之曰:「予所否者,天厭之!天厭之!」
Confucius went to see Nanzi (the consort of Duke Ling of Wei). Zilu was not happy. Confucius swore: “If I have done wrong, may heaven punish me! May heaven punish me!” (1) (2) 

No matter how honorable your intentions are, it’s inevitable that there will come a time when someone views your words or actions in a less than favorable light. This can be particularly hurtful when your motives are questioned by a friend as close as Zilu was to Confucius. No wonder he begs heaven to punish him if he has erred! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: divine intervention?

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a creative ritual

creative ritual

子曰:「君子博學於文,約之以禮,亦可以弗畔矣夫!」
Confucius said: “A leader who expands their learning through culture and keeps their behavior in check through ritual is unlikely to go wrong.” (1)

Creativity doesn’t happen by accident. It requires cultural fuel to spark it. Creativity doesn’t happen in isolation either. Even a writer bashing out a novel alone in their room at the dead of night needs a well of cultural inspiration to draw from to build the plot, describe the settings, and mold the characters.
Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a creative ritual