Tag Archives: Analects Book 13

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: beating down the doors

beating down the doors

Lord She asked about governance. Confucius said: “If you make the people near to you happy others will come from afar.”
葉公問政。子曰:「近者說,遠者來。」

If you make your organization an attractive place to work for, you won’t have to pursue aggressive recruitment strategies to attract the right people. They’ll be beating down the doors to join you. Strict enforcement of petty regulations to impose greater discipline will just as easily drive them away again by causing resentment and resistance. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: beating down the doors

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: one single saying

one single saying

Duke Ding asked: “Is there one single saying that can ensure the prosperity of a state?” Confucius replied: “No single saying could have such an effect. There is a saying, however: ‘It’s difficult to be a ruler; it isn’t easy to be a minister.’ A saying that could make the ruler understand the difficulty of his task would come close to ensuring the prosperity of the state.” “Is there one single saying that can ruin a state?” Confucius replied: “No single saying could have such an effect. There is a saying, however: ‘There’s nothing I love more about being a ruler than never having to be contradicted.’ If you’re right and nobody contradicts you, that’s great; but if you’re wrong and nobody contradicts you, wouldn’t this come close to being a case of ‘one single saying that can ruin a state?’”
定公問:「一言而可以興邦,有諸?」孔子對曰:「言不可以若是其幾也!人之言曰:『為君難,為臣不易。』如知為君之難也,不幾乎一言而興邦乎?」曰:「一言而喪邦,有諸?」孔子對曰:「言不可以若是其幾也!人之言曰:『予無樂乎為君,唯其言而莫予違也。』如其善而莫之違也,不亦善乎?如不善而莫之違也,不幾乎一言而喪邦乎?」

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room just because you’re in charge. Your role is to bring the best minds together and listen to what they have to tell you. It’s only by hearing different perspectives on issues from people who aren’t afraid to challenge your thinking that you’ll be able to come to the best decision. Creating an open and trusting environment in which everyone feels comfortable about sharing their expertise and opinions is vital for ensuring the continued prosperity of your organization and preventing it from falling into ruin. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: one single saying

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: conflicts of interest

conflicts of interest

When Ran Qiu returned from court, Confucius said: “What kept you so long?” Ran Qiu replied: “Government affairs.” Confucius said: “Surely you mean private affairs. If it had been government affairs I would have heard about them, even though I’m not in office.”
冉子退朝,子曰:「何晏也?」對曰:「有政。」子曰:「其事也!如有政,雖不吾以,吾其與聞之!」

As technology blurs the boundaries between functions, disciplines, and businesses, how are you going to manage the conflicts of interest that will inevitably arise from this? What if a supplier decides to move into a market that you’re already active in based in part on the insights it’s gleaned from working with you? Or if an online distributor leverages the sales data it’s capturing to develop a product that competes directly with yours under its own brand? This is a murky new world that technology is moving us into with levels of ethical complexity that have never been seen before. Make sure you’re ready for it. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: conflicts of interest

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: deeds not words

deeds not words

Confucius said: “If you behave in the correct manner, what difficulties will you meet when in government service? If you are unable to behave in the correct manner, how can you possibly make sure that others behave in the correct manner?”
子曰:「苟正其身矣,於從政乎何有?不能正其身,如正人何?」

Deeds not words. This is the maxim you need to strictly adhere to if you are truly serious about bringing meaningful change to your organization. While your colleagues may be interested in hearing what you have to say about new ethical principles and caring values that are powering your groundbreaking new initiative, they’ll soon lose interest if you fail to exhibit them in your own actions and behavior. Better to not embark such a program at all unless you’re prepared to walk the new walk as well as talk the new talk. That’s the only way to inspire people to embrace meaningful change. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: deeds not words

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: digital transformation

digital transformation

Confucius said: “Even with a true king, it would still take one generation for goodness to prevail.”
子曰:「如有王者,必世而後仁。」

Look behind the hype of digital transformation. While there’s no doubt that new technologies like big data, deep learning, and artificial intelligence have the potential to improve how we live and work in hugely beneficial ways, they do carry inherent risks if they’re not developed and implemented in a wise and responsible manner. Creating trillions of dollars of new wealth will only lead to greater social instability and polarization if it all ends up in the hands of a miniscule minority to the exclusion of the many. Even with far-sighted leadership, digital transformation will be an extremely messy and risky process. Are you and your organization ready for the social, economic, and business disruption that will inevitably accompany it? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: digital transformation

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a step-by-step approach

step-by-step approach

Confucius said: “‘When the most able people govern a country for a hundred years, cruelty can be overcome and killing eliminated.’ How true this saying is!”
子曰:「『善人為邦百年,亦可以勝殘去殺矣。』誠哉是言也!」

When it comes to implementing meaningful change, you need to recognize that it’s not going to happen overnight – no matter how hard you may try to will it or enforce it. A step-by-step approach is required. The key is to set an ambitious yet achievable timeframe featuring clear and concrete milestones for measuring progress. Of course there will be times when you find yourself wondering whether you’ll ever be able to accomplish it. On such occasions, don’t give up. Just brush yourself down and get on with it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a step-by-step approach

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: driving meaningful change

meaningful change

Confucius said: “If a ruler were to employ me, I would have everything under control in one year and in three years the results would show.”
子曰:「苟有用我者,期月而已可也,三年有成。」

Never underestimate how challenging it is to drive meaningful change. Stirring vision statements and pretty PowerPoint slides are just the starting point. It takes a huge amount of time, effort, and commitment to make sure that everyone not only accepts and understands the new direction you’re leading the organization in but also embraces and implements it. If you don’t actively lead from the front, nobody will get behind you. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: driving meaningful change

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuous learning

continuous learning

Confucius traveled to Wei, with Ran Qiu driving his carriage. Confucius said: “There are so many people!” Ran Qiu said: “When there are so many people, what should be done next?” “Enrich them.” “When they are rich, what should be done next?” “Educate them.”
子適衛,冉有僕。子曰:「庶矣哉!」冉有曰:「既庶矣,又何加焉?」曰:「富之。」曰:「既富矣,又何加焉?」曰:「教之。」

Recruiting the right talent is just the first step in building a vibrant organization. Once you have everyone onboard, the next step is to make sure that they have the opportunity to constantly upgrade their capabilities through continuous learning. Although rich online resources in diverse multimedia formats have made access to knowledge more convenient than ever before, building a culture that actively encourages and rewards continuous learning is essential if everyone in the organization is to keep on growing. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuous learning

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: enjoy your wealth

enjoy your wealth

Confucius commented that Prince Jing of Wei knew how to manage the finances of his household well: “When he began to accumulate some wealth, he said ‘this is truly an ideal fit.’ As his wealth increased, he said ‘this is truly complete.’ When his wealth became considerable, he said ‘this is truly beautiful.’”
子謂衛公子荊善居室:「始有,曰『苟合矣』;少有,曰『苟完矣』;富有,曰『苟美矣。』」

Enjoy your wealth. You’ve deserved it. Just be sure to manage it responsibly. Don’t go overboard with the accumulation of possessions that you’ll never have any use of or get caught up in competitive displays of ostentation with others to prove that you’ve truly made it. No matter how massive and luxurious your yacht is, it won’t be long before somebody else comes along with something even grander and even more tasteless. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: enjoy your wealth

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: ready for the challenge?

ready for the challenge

Confucius said: “In their form of government, the states of Lu and Wei are like older and younger brothers.”
子曰:「魯衛之政,兄弟也。」

The older and larger an organization gets, the more difficult it is for leaders maintain its vitality and sense of purpose. Internal politics and out-of-date processes and procedures can all too easily slow it down and lead to missed opportunities and a bureaucratic, perhaps even toxic, culture. With the acceleration of new technologies like AI, it is becoming even more critical for the leadership to take immediate steps not just to reverse the slide but to transform their organization so that it can take full advantage of the huge new opportunities that are emerging. Take a deep look inside and ask yourself if you and your organization are ready for the challenge. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: ready for the challenge?