Tag Archives: Confucius on leadership

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

Leadership lessons from Confucius: when the chips are down

when the chips are down

子曰:「孟之反不伐,奔而殿,將入門,策其馬,曰:「『非敢後也,馬不進也。』」
Confucius said: “Meng Zhifan isn’t given to boasting. When he and his soldiers were in retreat, he stayed with the rearguard. It was only when they reached the city gate that he spurred his horse and said: ‘It wasn’t courage that kept me at the rear. My horse wouldn’t run.’” (1)

If you’re willing to put yourself in the firing line, your people will be more than happy to fight the good fight alongside you. They’ll be even more willing to support you if you refuse to play the hero and downplay any contribution you make with a self-deprecating joke or two. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: when the chips are down

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a precious sacrificial utensil

a precious sacrificial utensil

子貢問曰:「賜也何如?」子曰:「女器也。」曰:「何器也?」曰:「瑚璉也。」
Zigong asked: “What do you think of me?” Confucius said: “You’re a utensil.” “What sort of utensil?” “A precious sacrificial utensil.” (1) (2)

Just because someone asks you a straight question, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want you to give them a straight answer. Consider the possible reasons they may be raising the question before blurting out an answer and having to hastily correct yourself like Confucius does in this passage. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a precious sacrificial utensil

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: nurturing leadership talent

nurturing leadership talent

子謂子賤,「君子哉若人!魯無君子者,斯焉取斯?」
Confucius said of Zijian: “He is a true leader! If there were indeed no leaders in the state of Lu, how would he have reached this level?” (1)

Are great leaders born or made? While there’ll probably never be a definitive answer to that question, creating an environment that promotes personal growth and development can certainly help people to acquire the necessary skills and attributes for taking on a leadership role. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: nurturing leadership talent

Analects of Confucius Book 4: overview

The Analects of Confucius Book 4 begins with an exploration of the meaning of goodness. Only people who practice it constantly in their daily lives without a desire for personal profit are able to enjoy true satisfaction and contentment.

Even though Confucius claims that he has never seen “anyone whose strength is insufficient” to devote themselves to goodness for a single day, he despairs that he hasn’t ever seen anyone who “truly loves goodness and truly detests evil” either. The path to goodness that he urges everyone to follow is indeed a lonely and difficult one! Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: overview

Analects of Confucius Book 4: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 4 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. Its main themes include goodness, leadership, filial devotion, and the need for restraint.

Chapter 1
子曰:「里仁為美。擇不處仁,焉得知?」
Confucius said: “It’s beautiful to live in a neighborhood that’s filled with goodness. How can someone be wise if they choose to live in a place that lacks goodness?”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: new English translation

Leadership lessons from Confucius: be slow to speak and prompt to act

slow to speak

子曰:「君子欲訥於言,而敏於行。」
Confucius said: “A leader should be slow to speak and prompt to act.”

Instead of talking about that great idea you have in your head, why not just go ahead and carry it out? Even if you don’t manage to succeed in achieving your original goal, you will learn a huge amount in the process and be better equipped to take on your next big challenge. After all, given that it’s never been cheaper and easier to prototype an idea for a business, product, or creative endeavor thanks to ubiquitous connectivity and myriad online tools and communities, what have you got to lose? Except perhaps some time that you would probably have spent lamenting the opportunities that you’ve missed in your life.

Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: be slow to speak and prompt to act

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: tuning your pitch

tuning your pitch

子曰:「君子喻於義,小人喻於利。」
Confucius said: “A leader is concerned about what is right; a petty person is concerned about what is in his own interest.”

When you’re preparing a proposal, take some time to understand the needs and motivations of the person you’re going to pitch it to.

Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: tuning your pitch

Leadership lessons from Confucius: self-interest and great resentment

self-interest

子曰:「放於利而行,多怨。」
Confucius said: “People who act out of self-interest cause great resentment.” (1)

Whenever you are about to make a difficult decision, take a step back and examine your motives before pulling the trigger. Have you chosen a particular course of action because it is the right thing to do or because it is in your self-interest?

Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: self-interest and great resentment