Someone asked Confucius: “Master, why don’t you take part in government?” Confucius replied: “In the Book of Documents it says: ‘By being filial to your parents and being kind to your brothers, you are contributing to the smooth running of the government.’ Since I’m already doing this, why do I need to take part in government?” (1)
You don’t need to have an official title in order to assume a leadership position in your organization or community. By being kind and considerate towards the people around you, you will soon be able to gain their trust and confidence. The more you show that you appreciate the suggestions and feedback they give you, the more they will appreciate the suggestions and feedback you give them. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: kindness and respect
Ji Kangzi asked: “What should I do to make the people respectful, loyal, and diligent? Confucius said: “Treat them with dignity, and they will be respectful. Be filial to your parents and kind to the young, and they will be loyal. Promote those who are capable and teach those who are not, and they will be diligent.” (1)
Position power will only get you so far. No matter how grand your title is, people will only show you respect if you treat them in the same way. They will only show you loyalty if you act in the same manner. They will only work hard if you reward high performance and provide opportunities for everyone to achieve the same level. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: position power
Meng Yizi asked Confucius about filial devotion. Confucius said: “Never disobey.” While Fan Chi was driving him in his chariot, Confucius told him: “Meng Yizi asked me about filial devotion and I replied: ‘Never disobey.’” Fan Chi asked: “What does that mean?” Confucius replied: “When your parents are alive, serve them according to ritual. When they die, bury them according to ritual and make sacrifices to them according to ritual.”
Context is king. This is the lesson from the two exchanges that Confucius has in the fifth chapter of Book 2 of the Analects. In the first one he keeps his answer to the question from Meng Yizi (孟懿子) about filial devotion as curt as possible with his admonishment to “never disobey.” Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: context is king
Confucius said: “When the father is alive, observe his son’s intentions. When the father is dead, watch his son’s actions. If after three years he has not deviated from his father’s path, then he may be called a filial son.”
One of the most dangerous risks you can take as a leader is to surround yourself with people who think and act the same way as you do. This not only shuts out diversity of opinions and thoughts, but it also leads to a “yes-man” culture in which the path to career advancement is built on keeping the boss happy.
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: mini-clones
Confucius said: “A young man should be devoted to his parents at home and respectful to his elders outside it. He should be cautious and truthful, love everyone, but only develop close relationships with good people. If he still has energy to spare after all this, he should study the classics.”
How to prepare the young generation for a fast-moving and turbulent world? This was just as daunting a challenge in Confucius’s day as it is in ours due the politically and socially unstable times that he lived in. Finding suitable jobs in the bureaucracy or estates of the hereditary ruling class was just as tough as it is nowadays for educated young people without family connections, and there was probably a much greater chance of them being caught up in violence and wars as the different states in China vied with each other for supremacy.
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: character counts