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
When Ji Kangzi sent him some medicine, Confucius bowed as he accepted the gift but said: “Since I don’t know what this substance is, I dare not taste it.”
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Or, in the case of Confucius, a messenger arriving with a present from Ji Kangzi, the most powerful man in his home state of Lu who, at least in the estimation of the sage, was leading it into chaos because of his arrogant disregard for the conventions of ritual. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: beware of Greeks bearing gifts
When sending his greetings to someone in another state, he would bow twice before sending the messenger on his way.
Bowing even once before sending a message doesn’t make any sense in our world of instant ubiquitous connectivity where speed is prized above all else. But when it comes to less time-sensitive communications such as a thank you for a gift or invitation, why not send a handwritten note on the finest paper? In addition to showing how much you value your relationship with the recipient, you will have a much better chance of capturing their attention with such a thoughtful gesture. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a handwritten note
When the villagers carried out the ceremony to exorcize pestilent spirits and ghosts, he put on his court dress and stood on the eastern steps. (1) (2) (3)
Marvel at the color and spectacle of the ritual. Immerse yourself in the rhythm and sound of the music. Breathe in the fragrance of the incense. Lose yourself in the cacophony of drumbeats and the grace and power of the dancing. Celebrate the cleansing of the pestilent spirits and ghosts from the earth and air around you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: pestilent spirits and ghosts
When the villagers were drinking together, he didn’t leave until the elders had departed.
Show respect for other people and their customs. It’s not for you to question them. They’ve welcomed you as an honored guest. Enjoy their hospitality and observe their way of life. You’ll be sure to learn a lot from them – not least how to be a good host when others come and visit you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: respect for the elderly
He didn’t sit on a mat unless it was straight.
Take a look at your workspace. Is everything laid out neatly so that you can easily find what you need? Is the plant a colleague gave you a few months ago healthy or clinging on for dear life? And how about those photos you have displayed of your family? Can you see them clearly through the dust covering the frame? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: keeping your mat straight
Even if the food only consisted of coarse rice or vegetable soup, he made a sacrificial offering with the same level of respect as when he was fasting. (1) (2)
Be grateful for the meal in front of you even if it consists of coarse and unappetizing fare. Remember that it’s a gift from nature and everyone who worked to bring it to your table. Remember, too, that there are still billions of people in the world who struggle to fight hunger and diseases resulting from an inadequate diet. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: coarse and unappetizing fare
When eating, he did not talk. When retiring to bed, he did not speak.
Put your smartphone aside when you’re about to eat your lunch and turn off the alerts so that you won’t be distracted. Nothing urgent will happen while you are eating your food. Take time to enjoy the texture and flavor even (perhaps especially) if it’s only a sandwich. Reflect on the pleasure that it brings you. Immerse yourself completely in the magic of the moment. There will be plenty of time afterwards to deal with any messages that you may have received during the course of it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a restful sleep