It’s a relief to have some time over the Tomb Sweeping holiday to review progress on my Leadership Lessons from Confucius project. When you attempt to hit a cadence of one post per day, it can be easy to start missing the wood from the trees.
So far, I’ve completed all the content covering Book 1 and Book 2 of the Analects. You can find the links to all these pieces on the following two pages: Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: tomb-sweeping holiday update
Shen Cheng (申棖) is said to have come from Confucius’s home state of Lu and may possibly have been the follower called Shen Dang in the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian.
Shen is featured only once in the Analects. He was known for his love of argument and refusal to concede defeat even when he was on the losing side. Some of Shen’s peers saw this as a sign of strength and resoluteness, but Confucius saw his need to win at all costs as a sign of weakness because it demonstrated his inability to control his internal desires and compulsions.
Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Shen Cheng
Confucius said: “I’ve never seen a person who is truly resolute.” Someone replied: “How about Shen Cheng?” Confucius said: “Shen Cheng is a slave to his desires. How can he be called resolute?” (1)
It’s one thing to be resolute in working towards achieving a goal. It’s quite another to become so consumed by the goal that you pursue it regardless of the cost to you and the people around you. Once the adrenaline kicks in, you risk losing all sense of proportion in your obsessive desire to cross the winning line. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: truly resolute
Zai Yu was asleep during the day. Confucius said: “Rotten wood cannot be carved; dung walls cannot be troweled. What’s the point of scolding him anymore?” Confucius said: “There was a time when I used to listen to what people had to say and trusted that they would act on their word, but now I have to listen to what they say and watch what they do. It’s my dealings with Zai Yu that have forced me to change.”
Trust but verify. No matter how sophisticated your management systems are, you still need to keep your ear to the ground to make sure that your team members are meeting their deadlines. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: trust but verify
Confucius asked Zigong: “Who is better, you or Yan Hui?” Zigong replied: “How can I compare myself with Yan Hui? When he learns one thing, he gets to understand ten more things; but if I learn one thing, I only get to understand two more things.” Confucius said: “You’re certainly not his equal and neither am I.”
It’s unwise to play favorites among your team members. You’ll only end up putting unreasonable pressure on your anointed one to meet your heightened expectations and fueling resentment among everyone else. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: avoiding favoritism
Confucius said: “If the way doesn’t prevail, I’ll take a raft and put out to sea. I’m sure Zilu will come with me.” When he heard this, Zilu was delighted. Confucius said: “Zilu is much braver than I am, but he brings no materials to make the raft with.” (1)
There’s a fine line between engaging in friendly banter and making a hurtful comment. Confucius just about manages to stay on the right side of it with his dig at Zilu for his impetuousness, but the margin is at best a very fine one. Surely, his faithful follower deserves at least a pinch of gratitude from the sage for his eagerness to give up everything he’s doing and accompany Confucius on a perilous voyage to almost certain death! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a fine line
When Confucius recommended that Qidiao Kai should seek an official position, he replied: “I’m not ready to be trusted for such a responsibility yet.” Confucius was delighted. (1)
How to react when a colleague, friend, or family member refuses to accept your advice? Do you urge them to reconsider their decision or are you happy to let them follow their own path? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: you can lead a horse to water
Someone said: “Ran Yong is good but not eloquent.” Confucius said: “What use is eloquence? A smooth tongue creates many enemies. I don’t know whether Ran Yong is good; but he definitely has no need for eloquence.” (1)
The ability to speak clearly and persuasively is vital for getting on in the world no matter what profession you are in. People who speak confidently are far more likely to be regarded more favorably than their shy or tongue-twisted counterparts even though they probably know a lot less about what they are talking about than the ones who sit quietly besides them. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: what use is eloquence?
Book 5 is a very different beast to the previous four books of the Analects in that it features a compilation of Confucius’s opinions on a dozen of his followers plus no less than fourteen contemporary and historical figures. You can click on the links below to learn more about this colorful cast of characters and read Confucius’s acerbic comments on some of them. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 5: resources
Confucius said of Nan Rong: “In a well-governed state, he will not be overlooked for an official position. In a badly-governed state, he will avoid punishment and disgrace.” Confucius arranged for him to marry his niece. (1) (2)
What are the qualities you would prize in a business or life partner? Would you look for someone who is more outgoing and ambitious than you are to move things forward faster than you would be able to? Or would you go for someone who is calmer and more measured than you are who would bring more stability to the union? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a sensible choice