Tag Archives: Confucius on history

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the good old days

good old days

子曰:「齊一變,至於魯;魯一變,至於道。」
Confucius said: “With a single reform, the state of Qi could reach the level of the state of Lu; with a single reform, the state of Lu could reach the way.”

There’s no going back to the good old days! They were never that great anyway. They just look better from a distance using the rose-tinted glasses that nostalgia gives you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the good old days

leadership lessons from Confucius: a follower of Zhou!

follower of Zhou

子曰:「周監於二代,郁郁乎文哉!吾從周。」
Confucius said: “The Zhou dynasty modeled itself upon the two previous dynasties. What a great civilization! I am a follower of Zhou!”

Look to the past as well as the future. Respect its great traditions and draw on its well of great wisdom. Learn from the mistakes that were made to avoid repeating them. Continue reading leadership lessons from Confucius: a follower of Zhou!

Leadership lessons from Confucius: sufficient evidence

sufficient evidence

子曰:「夏禮,吾能言之,杞不足徵也;殷禮,吾能言之,宋不足徵也。文獻不足故也。足,則吾能徵之矣。」
Confucius said: “I could talk about Xia Dynasty ritual, but the state of Qi hasn’t preserved sufficient evidence. I could talk about Yin Dynasty ritual, but the state of Song hasn’t preserved sufficient evidence. There aren’t enough written records and learned men; if there were, I could obtain evidence from them.” (1) (2)

In an age when information is so abundant and accessible, it can be very tempting to voice an opinion on a subject after carrying out a cursory Google search and scanning a few secondary sources. If you choose to do that at least have the courtesy to let people know that your views are based on limited evidence, or better still keep your lips pursed while the real experts do the talking. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: sufficient evidence

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuity and change

continuity and change

子張問:「十世可知也?」子曰:「殷因於夏禮,所損益可知也;周因於殷禮,所損益可知也。其或繼周者,雖百世,可知也。」
Zizhang asked: “Can we predict the future ten generations from now?” Confucius said: “The Yin Dynasty adopted the rites of the Xia Dynasty; we know what was dropped and what was added. The Zhou Dynasty borrowed from the rites of the Yin Dynasty: we know what was dropped and what was added. If the Zhou Dynasty has successors, we know what they will be like, even a hundred generations from now.”

How to manage continuity and change? This is a key challenge for any leader. What elements do you need to add to your organization so that it’s ready to meet the challenges of the future? What elements do you need to drop that are holding it back? Perhaps most important, what are the core values you need to retain to ensure its long-term resilience? Without such an anchor, your organization will undoubtedly veer off course and crash into the rocks. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: continuity and change

Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Sage King Shun

Shun (舜) was one of the five legendary sage kings of ancient China in the 23rd or 22nd century BCE. He reportedly ruled for nearly fifty years after the previous ruler Yao (堯) had abdicated in favor of him because of his higher virtue. Prior to his death, reputedly at the age of 100, he is said to have relinquished his throne to his successor, Yu (禹), who went on to establish the first recorded dynasty in China’s history, the Xia Dynasty (夏朝). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Sage King Shun