When he saw someone in mourning clothes, he adopted a solemn expression on his face and remained distant even if he knew them well. When he saw someone wearing a ceremonial cap or a blind person, he was courteous even if he was familiar with them. When he came across someone in mourning garments while riding in his carriage, he leaned over the stanchion to greet them; he would do the same when he encountered someone carrying official documents. When he was served rich delicacies at a banquet, he adopted a gracious expression on his face and rose to his feet to show his appreciation. When he heard a sudden clap of thunder or a ferocious wind an awe-struck expression came over his face.
Every day is full of encounters with other people in different contexts – from the person you sit next to on the bus or train to work and the barista who serves you coffee to your colleagues in the office and the friend you meet for lunch. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: lessons in etiquette
In bed, he didn’t lie stiffly like a corpse; at home, he was informal and relaxed. (1)
We are living at a time when the distinction between our working and personal lives has never been more blurred. Thanks to ubiquitous connectivity, we are increasingly expected to be available at all times – no matter what day or time it is. Even if we aren’t answering email, our minds are still busy spinning over work issues in the background like the cogs and wheels of a clock. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the blurring of the lines
When receiving a gift from a friend, he wouldn’t bow even if it was a horse and carriage. The only gift he would bow for was one of sacrificial meat.
Customs change along with the times. Long-established conventions like wearing a suit and tie to the office give way to more casual forms of dress and behavior. Centuries-old church services are spiced up to appeal to younger audiences. Do you stick to the old ways and decry the loss of age-old traditions? Or do you keep up with the times and celebrate the latest social innovations? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a horse and carriage
When a friend died and there was no one to take care of his funeral, he said: “Let me look after it.”
Ritual is a form of automation. It provides you with the script and stage directions to follow when carrying out interpersonal interactions such as meeting another person or attending an event or religious ceremony. Memorizing and internalizing these conventions enables you to get through your day much more smoothly because you don’t have to think about how to behave or what to say in most common situations. When you meet someone for the first time, for example, you automatically shake their hand. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: beyond the ritual script
Whenever he visited the Grand Ancestral Temple, he asked about everything that was happening there.
Never stop asking questions. There are always new things to find out even if you’ve already been to the place you’re visiting many times before and know its geography and history. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: visiting the Grand Ancestral Temple
Whenever his ruler summoned him, he would set off without waiting for the horses to be harnessed to his carriage.
There’s no denying the importance of keeping your boss happy, but that doesn’t mean you have to leap at his or her every command. If you’re not delivering real results, all the effort you put in to impress the higher-ups will quickly go to waste. Focus on what’s important for the organization in order to get ahead rather than trying to look good in front your superiors.
Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: misdirected energy
Here is a list of resources covering Book 10 of the Analects of Confucius. You can click on the links below to learn more about the main themes of the book:
Analects of Confucius Book 10: translation
Here is a list of articles I have written about each chapter in the book. Again, click on the links to learn more. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 10: resources
When he fell ill and his ruler came to visit him, he had himself laid with his head facing the east and his body covered by his court dress with a sash laid across it. (1) (2)
Even at times of great personal discomfort or distress, do your best to put on a brave face when people come to visit you. This not only helps you to preserve your own personal dignity, but it also enables you to show your respect for them taking the time to come and see you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: putting on a brave face
When his ruler sent him a gift of pre-cooked food, he straightened his mat and was the first person to taste it. When his ruler sent him a present of raw meat, he cooked it and made an offering to his ancestors. When his ruler gave him a livestock, he reared it. When dining with his ruler, he was the first one to taste the food after the ruler had performed the sacrificial offering. (1)
Trust is the key to a successful relationship. The stronger it is between two people, the easier it becomes for you to work together and understand each other’s thinking. Continue reading Leadership lessons from China: a trusting relationship
When the stables caught fire, Confucius returned from court and asked: “Was anyone hurt?” He didn’t ask about the horses. (1) (2)
How do you decide what’s truly important to you? Your family? Your friends? Your job? The beautiful house you were finally able to purchase after years of hard work and scrimping and saving? Or perhaps even your pets? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: when the stables caught fire