Tag Archives: Analects Book 2

Leadership lessons from Confucius: words or actions?

words or actions?

子貢問君子。子曰:「先行其言,而後從之。」
When Zigong asked about leadership, the Master said: “First accomplish what you want to say and then say it.”

Which comes first: words or actions? If you take your cue from Silicon Valley, the answer is to shout from the rooftops that your brilliant idea is going to transform the world as we know it so that you can suck in enough investors to kickstart your dream and keep it going until one fine day it stops bleeding cash and finally starts to make money (or gets bought by a bigger company that wants to get their hands on your technology and people or at least prevent the emergence of a potential competitor. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: words or actions?

Leadership lessons of Confucius: not a mere receptacle

not a mere receptacle

子曰:「君子不器。」
The Master said: “A leader is not a mere receptacle.”

How can I add value? This is the key question that you need to repeatedly ask yourself as you go about your daily work. As Confucius points out in this well-known passage, a leader is much more than a utensil or receptacle such as a cooking pot in the kitchen or a vessel on an altar. Your role is not to passively absorb information and experience but to actively sift and share it with the members of your team so that they can develop their abilities more effectively. Continue reading Leadership lessons of Confucius: not a mere receptacle

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: creative and critical thinking

critical and creative thinking

子曰:「溫故而知新,可以為師矣。」
The Master said: “Bringing new meaning to the old to understand the new makes you fit to be a teacher.”

As AI proliferates, it won’t just be blue-collar jobs like driving that will be replaced by algorithms that never sleep. White-collar positions in legal, accounting, finance, and other professions will also be under threat from super AIs that are way more efficient at specific tasks like sifting through mountains of documents at the speed of light. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: creative and critical thinking

Leadership lessons from Confucius: look, listen, and learn

Temple of Yan Hui: look, listen, and learn

子曰:「視其所以,觀其所由,察其所安。人焉廋哉?人焉廋哉?」
The Master said: “Watch what they do, observe how they do it, and examine what makes them feel content. How then can they conceal their true self? How then can they conceal their true self?”

Take a close look at the people you work with. Their actions and demeanor speak much louder than the words they speak. Are they approaching their jobs with genuine enthusiasm and passion or are they simply going through the motions? Are they trying to impress you so that they can get ahead or are they truly focused on the task at hand? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: look, listen, and learn

Leadership lessons from Confucius: deep listening

Temple of Yan Hui: deep listening

子曰:「吾與回言終日,不違如愚。退而省其私,亦足以發,回也不愚。」
The Master said: “I can talk to Yan Hui all day without him ever arguing with me, as if he is slow. But when I observe how he behaves in private after he has retired from my presence, I can see that he’s learned everything I’ve taught him. Indeed, Hui isn’t slow at all.”

When was the last time you really listened to someone speak without sneaking a surreptitious glance at your smart phone or even just around the room? Think carefully before you give an answer. By “really listened” I mean that you gave them your full and undivided attention – not just taking in every word they said but also observing the expressions that appeared on their faces and the movements their bodies made? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: deep listening

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: it’s the attitude that counts

Beijing Confucius Temple: it's the attitude that counts

子夏問孝。子曰:「色難。有事,弟子服其勞;有酒食,先生饌,曾是以為孝乎?」
When Zixia asked about filial devotion, the Master said: “It’s the attitude that counts. If young people just offer their help when there is a job to do or serve their elders wine and food when they need to drink and eat, how could this ever be considered as filial devotion?”

Even in the most seemingly mundane situations, there is always an opportunity to make a difference if you are mindful of what is happening around you and are willing to go that extra centimeter. As Confucius points out, it’s the attitude that counts! Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: it’s the attitude that counts

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: lip service

Beijing Confucius Temple: lip service

子游問孝。子曰:「今之孝者,是謂能養。至於犬馬,皆能有養;不敬,何以別乎。」
When Ziyou asked about filial devotion, the Master said: “These days filial devotion simply means keeping your parents fed. But that’s also how dogs and horses are looked after. Unless you treat your parents respectfully, what’s the difference?”

While it’s important to meet people’s material needs by providing them with a good salary, benefits, and working environment, showing them appreciation and respect for their abilities and contribution to the organization is even more vital for building a strong and harmonious culture. People don’t come to work simply to make money; they also want to feel that they are a valued member of a team and forge close connections with the people they engage with both inside and outside the office. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: lip service

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the demeanor effect

Beijing Temple of Confucius

孟武伯問孝。子曰:「父母唯其疾之憂。」
Meng Wubo asked about filial devotion. The Master said: “The only time a son should make his parents worried is when he is sick.” (1)

As a leader, you need to be aware of the effect that your demeanor has on the people around you. If you appear to be in a bad temper, they will instantly be on their guard and may even become concerned that you’re angry because of something they’ve done when it’s entirely unrelated. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the demeanor effect

Leadership lessons from Confucius: context is king

personal development path

孟懿子問孝。子曰:「無違。」樊遲御,子告之曰:「孟孫問孝於我,我對曰,『無違。』」樊遲曰:「何謂也?」子曰:「生,事之以禮;死,葬之以禮,祭之以禮。」
Meng Yizi asked the Master about filial devotion. Confucius said: “Never disobey.” While Fan Chi was driving him in his chariot, the Master told him: “Meng Yizi asked me about filial devotion and I replied: ‘Never disobey.’” Fan Chi asked: “What does that mean?” Confucius replied: “When your parents are alive, serve them according to the rites. When they die, bury them according to the rites and make sacrifices to them according to the rites.”

Context is king. This is the lesson from the two exchanges that Confucius has in the fifth chapter of Book 2 of the Analects. In the first one he keeps his answer to the question from Meng Yizi (孟懿子) about filial devotion as curt as possible with his admonishment to “never disobey.” Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: context is king