In the first three chapters of Book 12 of the Analects, Confucius shows himself to be highly adept at defining the strengths and weaknesses of his followers Yan Hui, Ran Yong, and Sima Niu, and laying out the steps they need to take in order to progress further along the path towards goodness.
When it comes to the powerful political figures he engages with in the book, however, Confucius is nowhere near as effective as a communicator. Even though he is more than happy to reply to the questions raised by Ji Kangzi and Duke Jing of Qi, it’s almost as if he is talking at cross-purposes with them. While these powerful but insecure rulers are looking to the sage for immediate answers to pressing problems of the day, he chooses to lecture them on the general moral principles they need to follow rather than providing them with practical advice on how to address the specific issues they’re facing. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 12: practical solutions and high-minded principles
Zengzi said: “A leader attracts friends through their cultural refinement, and looks to their friends for support in nurturing their goodness.”
How many true friends do you really have? How many of them are willing to stick with you through thick and thin and are not afraid of being seen with you even though you have radically different political views? How many of them are friends with you because of your status and the social and business contacts that you bring? And how many of them would move on at the drop of a hat if someone with even greater wealth and prestige comes along? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: true friends
Zigong asked about friendship. Confucius said: “Advise your friends loyally and guide them tactfully. If that fails, stop: don’t disgrace yourself.”
It’s not your responsibility to tell your friends how to lead their lives or to intervene when they are facing a serious problem. Even if you don’t agree with the decisions or actions they’re taking, keep your lips buttoned unless they come to you for advice or support. Even then, don’t go overboard unless you’re prepared to risk becoming the target of their anger and resentment. There’s a fine line between helping someone and interfering in their affairs. When it comes to friendship advice, never forget the old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: friendship advice
Fan Chi was strolling with Confucius around the Rain Dance Terrace. He said: “May I ask how you can accumulate virtue, correct evil thoughts, and resolve confusion?” Confucius said: “An excellent question! Always put service before reward: isn’t this the way to accumulate virtue? Attack the evil in yourself rather than the evil in other people: isn’t this the way to correct evil thoughts? Forget yourself in a moment of anger and bring ruin upon yourself and your family: isn’t this is a case of confusion?”
It only takes a brief moment of anger for years of hard work and selfless dedication to go down the drain. The path to self-cultivation requires learning to control your emotions so that you’re not affected by externalities. Whenever you feel the mist begin to rise, stand up and take a deep breath. Focus on what you can control – not what you can’t. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a moment of anger
Ji Kangzi asked Confucius about governance, saying: “What would you think if I were to execute people who don’t follow the way in order to advance the people who do follow the way?” Confucius replied: “You are here to govern; what need is there to execute people? If you desire goodness, the people will be good. The virtue of a leader is like the wind; the virtue of the common people is like the grass. When the wind blows over the grass it will surely bend.”
Harsh measures may sometimes be necessary to restore order to your organization, but at best they can only provide short-term relief. The only way to build a strong and stable culture is for the leader to set the right example for everyone to follow. If the wind blows in the wrong direction, the grass will bend in the wrong direction as well. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: when the wind blows over the grass
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 12 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher.
Yan Hui asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Exercising self-discipline and returning to ritual constitute goodness. If you manage to exercise self-discipline and return to ritual for just one single day, goodness will prevail throughout the world. You can only achieve goodness through your own efforts. How can it come from anybody else?” Yan Hui said: “May I ask what specific steps I should follow?” Confucius said: “Don’t look at anything that goes against ritual; don’t listen to anything that goes against ritual; don’t say anything that goes against ritual; don’t do anything that goes against ritual.” Yan Hui said: “Although I may not be quick to understand it, allow me to live up to your guidance.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 12: new English translation