Tag Archives: Confucius on leadership

Leadership lessons from Confucius: too good to be true

too good to be true

子曰:「大哉堯之為君也,巍巍乎,唯天為大,唯堯則之,蕩蕩乎,民無能名焉。巍巍乎,其有成功也,煥乎,其有文章。」
Confucius said: “What a great ruler Yao was! Absolutely majestic! Only heaven is great, and only Yao was able to emulate it. His virtue was so great that the people could find no words to describe it. How stunning were his achievements, and how brilliant the culture was that he created!” (1)

If someone sounds too good to be true, then they probably are. No matter how great the praises heaped on them, there’s always bound be some hidden weakness or dark secret beneath the beautifully constructed façade. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: too good to be true

Leadership lessons from Confucius: selfless devotion to duty?

selfless devotion

子曰:「巍巍乎,舜禹之有天下也,而不與焉。」
Confucius said: “Shun and Yu were so majestic! They reigned over the world but never profited from it.” (1)

There’s always more than one side to every story. Before you decide whether to buy in to the version of it that someone is telling you, take some time to understand their motives in bringing it to your attention. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: selfless devotion to duty?

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a covetous glance

covetous glance

子曰:「不在其位,不謀其政。」
Confucius said: “Don’t concern yourself with the affairs of an office that you don’t hold.”

Concentrate on your own job rather than casting a covetous glance at your boss’s chair. Even though you’re performing your responsibilities well, there are always plenty of ways in which you can improve and multiple gaps in your knowledge and experience that you can fill. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a covetous glance

Leadership lessons from Confucius: an unwinnable battle

unwinnable battle

子曰:「篤信好學,守死善道。危邦不人,亂邦不居,天下有道則見,無道則隱。邦有道,貧且賤焉,恥也,邦無道,富且貴焉,恥也。」
Confucius said: “Commit yourself sincerely to the love of learning. Defend the great way with your life. Do not enter an unstable state or live in a country that is in chaos. Take office when the way prevails in the world; withdraw from office when it disappears. In a state that has adopted the way, be ashamed if you remain poor and obscure; in a state that has lost the way, be ashamed if you become rich and achieve high rank.”

There’s no point in working with a leader without a clear ethical sense. No matter how honorably you act, you will inevitably get dragged into the morass and emerge with a sullied reputation or perhaps even worse. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an unwinnable battle

Leadership lessons from Confucius: relentless demands

relentless demands

子曰:「好勇疾貧,亂也。人而不仁,疾之已甚,亂也。」
Confucius said: “If people with a courageous streak find themselves trapped in poverty, chaos will ensue. If people without a trace of goodness decide their sufferings are too great, chaos will ensue.”

The harder you push people, the likelier they are to push back either by voting with their feet or openly rebelling against the system. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: relentless demands

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the invisible line

invisible line

子曰:「恭而無禮則勞,慎而無禮則葸,勇而無禮則亂,直而無禮則絞。君子篤於親,則民興於仁。故舊不遺,則民不偷。」
Confucius said: “Reverence unregulated by ritual descends into indifference; cautiousness unregulated by ritual descends into timidity; boldness unregulated by ritual descends into disorder; frankness unregulated by ritual descends into hurtfulness. If a leader is devoted to their family, the people are inclined towards goodness; if a leader doesn’t forget about their old friends, the people will not shirk their obligations to others.”

Nobody’s an island. If you focus solely on improving your own performance without any form of external mediation, the law of unintended consequences will inevitably kick in and you’ll find the strengths you’ve worked so hard to hone becoming weaknesses. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the invisible line

Leadership lessons from Confucius: calm and at ease

calm and at ease

子曰:「君子坦蕩蕩,小人長戚戚。」
Confucius said: “A leader is calm and at ease; a petty person is anxious and on edge.”

Leadership is about being comfortable with yourself and confident in your ability to handle whatever comes flying at you in this rapidly changing world. At its base is a strong ethical foundation that enables you to lead a productive personal and family life and contribute to your community and society at large. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: calm and at ease

Leadership lessons from Confucius: room for improvement

room for improvement

子曰:「文,莫吾猶人也。躬行君子,則吾未之有得。」
Confucius said: “Although my commitment is as strong as anyone’s when it comes to cultural knowledge and refinement, I haven’t yet hit the target of becoming a true leader in how I conduct myself.”

No matter how accomplished and successful you are, there’s always room for improvement. That doesn’t mean that you should constantly beat yourself up for your inevitable failings, but that that you should be able to reflect calmly on them and take concrete steps to address them in the future. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: room for improvement

Leadership lessons from Confucius: stick to your principles

stick to your principles

子曰:「聖人,吾不得而見之矣,得見君子者,斯可矣。」子曰:「善人,吾不得而見之矣,得見有恒者,斯可矣。亡而為有,虛而為盈,約而為泰,難乎有恒矣。」
Confucius said: “I have no hope of ever meeting a great sage; I suppose I would be content to meet a true leader.” Confucius said: “I cannot ever hope to meet a perfect person; I suppose I would be content to meet someone who sticks to their principles. Yet in an age when nothing masquerades as something, emptiness masquerades as fullness, and penury masquerades as affluence, it is hard enough just to stick to your principles.”

Even if the world is going to hell in a handbasket, that doesn’t mean you have a free pass to give up your own principles. Just because you have no role models around you to inspire you, it doesn’t mean that you can give up on striving to do better. Indeed, their very absence it makes it all the more important that you stick to your principles and values so that you can provide the example that others long to follow. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: stick to your principles

Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance and cultural refinement

natural substance

子曰:「質勝文則野,文勝質則史。文質彬彬,然後君子。」
Confucius said: “When native substance wins out over cultural refinement, you get the coarseness of a peasant; when cultural refinement wins out over natural substance, you get the pedantry of a clerk. Only when native substance and cultural refinement are in balance do you get a leader.”

There’s no doubt that weight-training is great for making you healthier. A regular program enables you to build up both physical and mental strength through exercise and discipline and can provide a platform for achieving more than you imagined possible in your personal and professional life. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance and cultural refinement