Tag Archives: Analects of Confucius Book 5

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Kong Wenzi

Kong Wenzi (孔文子) was the posthumous name given to Kong Yu (孔圉) a minister of the state of Wei (魏)) who died about a year before Confucius in about 480 BCE.

Kong’s posthumous name literally means Kong-the-Refined or Kong-the-Cultured. Some people considered this to be rather ironic given that he was said to have been rather an unsavory character notorious for his disloyalty and dissoluteness. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Kong Wenzi

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zichan

Zichan (子產) was the courtesy name of Gongsun Qiao (公孫僑), who was renowned for the brilliance of his leadership as the chief minister of the state of Zheng (鄭) from ca. 544 BCE until his death in ca. 521 BCE.

As chief minister, Zichan managed to expand the territory of Zheng even though it was bordered by the much larger and more powerful states of Chu (楚) and Jin (晉). At the same time, he was successful in carrying out a series of legal, political, economic, and social reforms that strengthened the state and solidified the rule of law. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zichan

Leadership lessons from Confucius: dealing with life’s ups and down

ups and downs

子張問曰:「令尹子文三仕為令尹,無喜色;三已之,無慍色。舊令尹之政,必以告新令尹。何如?」子曰:「忠矣。」曰:「仁矣乎?」曰:「未知,焉得仁!」「崔子弒齊君,陳文子有馬十乘,棄而違之。至於他邦,則曰,『猶吾大夫崔子也。』違之,之一邦,則又曰:『猶吾大夫崔子也。』違之。何如?」子曰:「清矣。」曰:「仁矣乎?」子曰:「未知,焉得仁?」
Zizhang asked: “Ziwen was appointed chief minister three times, but he never showed the least sign of elation. He was dismissed three times, but he never showed the least sign of disappointment. On each occasion, he briefed his successor on the status of the affairs of his office. What do you think of him?” Confucius said: “He was loyal.” Zizhang asked: “Was he a good person?” Confucius said: “I’m not sure; how can he be said to be a good person?”

“When Cuizi assassinated the ruler of the state of Qi, Chen Wenzi abandoned his large estate of ten chariots and left Qi. Having settled in another state, he said: ‘They are no better than Cuizi,’ and left. Having settled in yet another state, he said once again: ‘They are no better than Cuizi,’ and left once again. What do you think of him?” Confucius said: “He was pure.” Zizhang said: “Was he a good person?” “I’m not sure; how can he be said to be a good person?”

How do you deal with success and failure? Do you break out the champagne when you get a major promotion or win a big and lucrative deal? Do you cry into your empty wine glass when you lose your job or miss out on a huge business opportunity? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: dealing with life’s ups and down

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the thin end of the wedge

thin end of the edge

子曰:「藏文仲居蔡,山節藻梲,何如其知也?」
Confucius said: “Zang Wenzhong kept a giant tortoise in a pavilion featuring pillars patterned with mountains and posts above the rafters decorated with duckweed motifs. What does this say of his wisdom?” (1) (2)

Organizations that reach a certain age have rules and conventions that have accumulated like dust even though they are well past their sell-by dates. Do you simply ignore them, or do you make a concerted effort to update or remove them? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the thin end of the wedge

Leadership lessons from Confucius: special relationships

special relationships

子曰:「晏平仲善與人交,久而敬之。」
Confucius said: “Yan Pingzhong was adept at cultivating relationships with other people: the longer he knew them, the greater the respect they would show towards him.”

When you start doing business in China, chances are that it won’t be long before you meet someone who claims to have special relationships or connections (关系/guānxì) with important people in the government, universities, and major companies who can help speed up the wheels of bureaucracy or help give you undreamed access to the domestic market. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: special relationships

Leadership lessons from Confucius: your four strongest personal qualities

personal qualities

子謂子產有君子之道四焉:其行己也恭,其事上也敬,其養民也惠,其使民也義。
Confucius said of Zichan: “He had four essential qualities of a leader: in his personal conduct he was gracious; in serving his superiors he was respectful; in caring for the common people he was generous; in employing them for public service he was just.”

What are your four strongest personal qualities? This is an important – if perhaps uncomfortable – question to ask yourself. Do you conduct yourself with grace and courtesy? Are you respectful not just towards your bosses but to everyone you come into contact with – including the harried witness who is slow in bringing your dinner to you in a crowded and noisy restaurant? Are you generous in both spirit and material support to people in your community? And care to make sure that your staff don’t feel they have to sacrifice their family and social life to meet your exacting demands? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: your four strongest personal qualities

Leadership lessons from Confucius: words of tribute

words of tribute

子貢問曰:「孔文子何以謂之文也?」子曰:「敏而好學,不恥下問,是以謂之文也。」
Zigong asked: “Why was ‘Kong-the-Refined’ given the posthumous name of ‘Refined’?” Confucius said: “He was smart, fond of learning, and wasn’t ashamed to listen and learn from people of a lower social status: that is why he was given the name.” (1) (2)

What would you like to be remembered for after you shuffle off this mortal coil? What words of tribute would you like to hear at your funeral or chiseled into your gravestone? That you were a beloved parent, loving spouse, or faithful friend? Or perhaps all three? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: words of tribute

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: fake knowledge

fake knowledge

子路有聞,未之能行,唯恐有聞。
Whenever Zilu learned something new but hadn’t had the chance to put it into practice, he was afraid that he might learn something else before he did so. (1)

How to stay focused when the next shiny pearl of wisdom is just a click of a mouse or swipe of a finger away? How to truly master a new topic or skill when you can easily delude yourself into believing that you already understand it after watching a few videos on YouTube or skimming a few articles furnished with attractive graphs and alarmist statistics based on dubious models? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: fake knowledge

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the teachings of the master

teachings of the master

子貢曰:「夫子之文章,可得而聞也;夫子之言性與天道,不可得而聞也。」
Zigong said: “The teachings of the master can be learned; but his views on the nature of things and the way of heaven can’t be learned.” (1)

What’s the purpose of education? Is it to teach people how to think or what to think? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the teachings of the master

Leadership lessons from Confucius: beyond your reach?

beyond your reach

子貢曰:「我不欲人之加諸我也,吾亦欲無加諸人。」子曰:「賜也,非爾所及也。」
Zigong said: “I wouldn’t want to do to others what I wouldn’t want them to do to me.” Confucius said: “Ah, Zigong! That’s beyond your reach.” (1) (2)

There’s a huge gap between words and action. In theory, it shouldn’t be that difficult to follow the so-called Golden Rule by treating others in the same way you expect to be treated yourself. In practice, however, even the most virtuous among us fail to live up to the standards we set ourselves. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: beyond your reach?