Tag Archives: Confucius on governance

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: don’t try to rush things

don't try to rush things

When Zixia was governor of Jufu he asked about governance. Confucius said: “Don’t try to rush things. Ignore matters of minor advantage. If you try to rush things, you won’t achieve success. If you pursue matters of minor advantage, you won’t succeed in major affairs.”
子夏為莒父宰問政。子曰:「無欲速,無見小利。欲速則不達,見小利則大事不成。」

Don’t try to rush things. That’s not just the easiest way to make silly mistakes. It also increases the risk that you’ll miss what’s really important. Take some time to analyze the situation and talk to everyone involved. Look behind the numbers and reams of emails and reports to find out what’s really going on. By rushing in to show you’re in charge, you’ll more likely make things worse than better. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: don’t try to rush things

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: beating down the doors

beating down the doors

Lord She asked about governance. Confucius said: “If you make the people near to you happy others will come from afar.”
葉公問政。子曰:「近者說,遠者來。」

If you make your organization an attractive place to work for, you won’t have to pursue aggressive recruitment strategies to attract the right people. They’ll be beating down the doors to join you. Strict enforcement of petty regulations to impose greater discipline will just as easily drive them away again by causing resentment and resistance. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: beating down the doors

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: one single saying

one single saying

Duke Ding asked: “Is there one single saying that can ensure the prosperity of a state?” Confucius replied: “No single saying could have such an effect. There is a saying, however: ‘It’s difficult to be a ruler; it isn’t easy to be a minister.’ A saying that could make the ruler understand the difficulty of his task would come close to ensuring the prosperity of the state.” “Is there one single saying that can ruin a state?” Confucius replied: “No single saying could have such an effect. There is a saying, however: ‘There’s nothing I love more about being a ruler than never having to be contradicted.’ If you’re right and nobody contradicts you, that’s great; but if you’re wrong and nobody contradicts you, wouldn’t this come close to being a case of ‘one single saying that can ruin a state?’”
定公問:「一言而可以興邦,有諸?」孔子對曰:「言不可以若是其幾也!人之言曰:『為君難,為臣不易。』如知為君之難也,不幾乎一言而興邦乎?」曰:「一言而喪邦,有諸?」孔子對曰:「言不可以若是其幾也!人之言曰:『予無樂乎為君,唯其言而莫予違也。』如其善而莫之違也,不亦善乎?如不善而莫之違也,不幾乎一言而喪邦乎?」

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room just because you’re in charge. Your role is to bring the best minds together and listen to what they have to tell you. It’s only by hearing different perspectives on issues from people who aren’t afraid to challenge your thinking that you’ll be able to come to the best decision. Creating an open and trusting environment in which everyone feels comfortable about sharing their expertise and opinions is vital for ensuring the continued prosperity of your organization and preventing it from falling into ruin. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: one single saying

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuous learning

continuous learning

Confucius traveled to Wei, with Ran Qiu driving his carriage. Confucius said: “There are so many people!” Ran Qiu said: “When there are so many people, what should be done next?” “Enrich them.” “When they are rich, what should be done next?” “Educate them.”
子適衛,冉有僕。子曰:「庶矣哉!」冉有曰:「既庶矣,又何加焉?」曰:「富之。」曰:「既富矣,又何加焉?」曰:「教之。」

Recruiting the right talent is just the first step in building a vibrant organization. Once you have everyone onboard, the next step is to make sure that they have the opportunity to constantly upgrade their capabilities through continuous learning. Although rich online resources in diverse multimedia formats have made access to knowledge more convenient than ever before, building a culture that actively encourages and rewards continuous learning is essential if everyone in the organization is to keep on growing. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuous learning

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: ready for the challenge?

ready for the challenge

Confucius said: “In their form of government, the states of Lu and Wei are like older and younger brothers.”
子曰:「魯衛之政,兄弟也。」

The older and larger an organization gets, the more difficult it is for leaders maintain its vitality and sense of purpose. Internal politics and out-of-date processes and procedures can all too easily slow it down and lead to missed opportunities and a bureaucratic, perhaps even toxic, culture. With the acceleration of new technologies like AI, it is becoming even more critical for the leadership to take immediate steps not just to reverse the slide but to transform their organization so that it can take full advantage of the huge new opportunities that are emerging. Take a deep look inside and ask yourself if you and your organization are ready for the challenge. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: ready for the challenge?

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the correct manner

correct manner

Confucius said: “If a leader behaves in the correct manner everything will operate smoothly even if they don’t issue orders. If a leader doesn’t behave in the correct manner, nobody will listen even if they do issue orders.”
子曰:「其身正,不令而行;其身不正,雖令不從。」

If you’re not taking the right path, how can you expect others to follow you along it? If you don’t conduct yourself in the correct manner, how can you expect others to act in the right way? As so many autocrats have learned to their cost during the course of history, no amount of force is strong enough to compel people to blindly follow you. Even if repression works in the short term, it will ultimately result in your downfall – not to mention untold harm to everyone who has suffered from your hubris. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the correct manner

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: achieving the greatest impact

greatest impact

Fan Chi asked to learn about cultivating grain. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old farmer.” Fan Chi asked to learn about raising vegetables. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old gardener.” After Fan Chi had left, Confucius said: “What a petty person! When a ruler loves ritual, the people don’t dare to be disrespectful. When a ruler loves rightness, the people don’t dare to be disobedient. When a ruler loves trustworthiness, the people don’t dare to be deceitful. If such a ruler existed, people would flock to them from everywhere with their children strapped to their backs. What need would there be to learn about farming?”
樊遲請學稼,子曰:「吾不如老農。」請學為圃,曰:「吾不如老圃。」樊遲出,子曰:「小人哉,樊須也!上好禮,則民莫敢不敬;上好義,則民莫敢不服;上好信,則民莫敢不用情。夫如是,則四方之民,襁負其子而至矣;焉用稼!」

Your time and talent are precious. Focus them on where you’ll achieve the greatest impact. If you manage a team concentrate on making sure that you have the right people, culture, and processes in place to make sure it operates successfully. Leave the technical questions for the appropriate experts. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: achieving the greatest impact

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: set the right tone

set the right tone

When Ran Yong was serving as a steward of the Ji Family, he asked about governance. Confucius said: “First appoint your senior officials. Forgive small mistakes. Promote people of talent.” Ran Yong asked: “How do I recognize that someone has talent and deserves to be promoted?” Confucius said: “Promote those you know. Those you don’t know won’t be passed over.”
仲弓為季氏宰,問「政」。子曰:「先有司,赦小過,舉賢才。」曰:「焉知賢才而舉之?」曰:「舉爾所知,爾所不知,人其舍諸!」

As a leader, your role is to set the right tone for how your team operates by selecting the best talent and letting them get on with their work without attempting to micromanage them. Quite apart from demonstrating a lack of confidence in everyone’s ability to carry out their assignments, you’ll go crazy trying to keep up with everything they’re doing in any case! Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: set the right tone

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: lead the people by example

lead the people by example

Zilu asked about governance. Confucius said: “Lead the people by example. Work hard for them.” Zilu asked him for further instruction. Confucius said: “Tirelessly.”
子路問「政」。子曰:「先之,勞之。」請益。曰:「無倦。」

The only way you can expect others to perform miracles is to achieve them yourself. If you’re not leading from the front, they’re not going to be running to keep up with you. If you’re not showing passion for your work, their faces aren’t exactly going to be filled with enthusiasm. You have to prove yourself to them before they’ll feel the need to start proving themselves to you. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: lead the people by example

Analects of Confucius Book 12: practical solutions and high-minded principles

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