Tag Archives: Analects Book 4

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the golden rule

golden rule

子曰:「參乎!吾道一以貫之。」曾子曰:「唯。」子出。門人問曰:「何謂也?」曾子曰:「夫子之道,忠恕而已矣。」
Confucius said: “Shen, my way is woven into a single thread.” Zengzi replied: “Indeed.” After Confucius had left, the other followers asked: “What did he mean?” Zengzi said: “The way of the Master is based on loyalty and reciprocity; that and nothing more.” (1) (2)

Do you have a Golden Rule that you follow: a core ethical principle that guides all your actions? For Confucius, this could be boiled down to reciprocity. As he explains in Chapter 14 of Book 15 of the Analects, this means: “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” In other words, put yourself in other people’s shoes before you say or do something to them.

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Leadership Lessons from Confucius: pursue your passion

pursue your passion

子曰:「不患無位,患所以立;不患莫己知,求為可知也。」
Confucius said: “Don’t care about not having an official position; care about making sure you have what it takes secure one. Don’t care about not being acknowledged; focus on what can make you acknowledged.”

It’s never been easier to gain the paper qualifications required for a prestigious, well-paid position in government or business thanks to the massive expansion of higher education that has taken place over the past few decades. But that also means competition for the plummest posts has never been fiercer.

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Leadership Lessons from Confucius: observing ritual and showing deference

ritual and deference

子曰:「能以禮讓為國乎,何有!不能以禮讓為國,如禮何!」
Confucius said: “If a ruler is able to govern a state by observing ritual and showing deference, what more does he need to do? If a ruler fails to accomplish this, what use is ritual to him?”

A while ago, we signed an agreement to participate in an industry event in the US. This was the first time we had done business with this company, and I was impressed with the efficiency of the rep that we were dealing with. That is until she suggested almost immediately after we’d signed the document that we take part in another event half-way across the world in a location that was not a strategic priority for us.

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Leadership lessons from Confucius: self-interest and great resentment

self-interest

子曰:「放於利而行,多怨。」
Confucius said: “People who act out of self-interest cause great resentment.” (1)

Whenever you are about to make a difficult decision, take a step back and examine your motives before pulling the trigger. Have you chosen a particular course of action because it is the right thing to do or because it is in your self-interest?

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Leadership lessons from Confucius: the path to virtue

path to virtue

子曰:「君子懷德,小人懷土;君子懷刑,小人懷惠。」
Confucius said: “A leader pursues virtue; a petty person pursues land. A leader pursues justice; a petty person pursues favors.”

What is your goal in life? To accumulate material comforts or to pursue a higher path?

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Leadership lessons from Confucius: a strong moral compass

moral compass

子曰:「君子之於天下也,無適也,無莫也,義之於比。」
Confucius said: “In dealing with the world, a leader has no prejudice or bias: he goes with what is right.”

Approach your day with an open mind. There will inevitably be problems that you need to address and differences of opinion that you have to resolve.

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Leadership lessons from Confucius: threadbare clothes and coarse food

threadbare clothes

子曰:「士志於道,而恥惡衣惡食者,未足與議也!」
Confucius said: “A scholar who pursues the way but is ashamed of his threadbare clothes and coarse food is not worth talking to.” (1)

Follow the path that you believe in – not the one that you think will help you make the most money and bring you the greatest fame. That might mean making some minor sacrifices to begin with, but you will be much happier and more fulfilled over the long term because you are following your passion and doing something worthwhile.

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Leadership lessons from Confucius: know the way at dawn

know the way at dawn

子曰:「朝聞道,夕死可矣!」
Confucius said: “Know the way at dawn; die without regret at dusk.”

Don’t jump to conclusions! Take some time to think before rushing to judgment – no matter how tempted you are to open your mouth or tap away at your keyboard to enlighten the world with the brilliance of your insights.

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Leadership lessons from Confucius: people’s flaws

people's faults

子曰:「人之過也,各於其黨。觀過,斯知仁矣。」
Confucius said: “People’s flaws reveal the type of person they are. By observing someone’s flaws, you’ll understand the true extent of their goodness.”

By all means listen to what other people have to say, but it’s only when you quietly observe what they actually do that you will understand their true character. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: people’s flaws

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a good rant

good rant

子曰:「我未見好仁者,惡不仁者。好仁者,無以尚之;惡不仁者,其為仁矣,不使不仁者加乎其身。有能一日用其力於仁矣乎?我未見力不足者。蓋有之矣,我未之見也。」
Confucius said: “I’ve never seen anyone who truly loves goodness and truly detests evil. Anyone who truly loves goodness would place nothing above it; anyone who truly detests evil would practice goodness in such a way that they would allow no evil to enter them. Is there anyone with the ability to devote all their strength to goodness for a single day? I’ve never seen anyone whose strength is insufficient. There may be people who don’t have even the small amount of strength it takes, but I’ve never seen them.”

There’s nothing wrong with having a good rant now and then to get things off your chest. Except of course you should realize that harsh words and blanket condemnations are more likely to have a counter-productive effect on the people you are trying to sway than persuade them to follow your way. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a good rant