Tag Archives: Confucius on leadership

Analects Book 14: Confucius on how government officials should act

One of the key themes of Analects Book 14 is how government officials should act. Confucius gets the ball rolling in 14.1 when he defines shamefulness as “caring only about your salary no matter whether good or bad government prevails in the state” to his follower Yuan Xian.

In 14.2, he emphasizes the point that officials should care about more than securing a cozy sinecure by commenting that “a scholar-official who cherishes their material comfort isn’t worthy of the name.” They should devote themselves to fulfilling their responsibilities towards their ruler and the common people without concern for personal enrichment or career advancement. Continue reading Analects Book 14: Confucius on how government officials should act

Analects Book 14 themes: leadership for the common good

Analects Book 14 themes

Leadership is one of the most important Analects Book 14 themes. In addition to seven mentions of the term 君子 (jūnzǐ), the text is littered with related passages exploring how a ruler or official should act.

One of Confucius’s favorite followers Nan Rong, named Nangong Kuo in the book, sets the ball rolling in 14.5 by comparing the fates of Yi the Archer and Ao the Sailor, two great martial heroes from antiquity, with those of the benevolent sage king Yu and Hou Ji, the inventor of new farming techniques that led to an explosive growth in agricultural productivity. Continue reading Analects Book 14 themes: leadership for the common good

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: easy to manage

easy to manage

Confucius said: “When their rulers love ritual, the common people are easy to manage.”
子曰:「上好禮,則民易使也。」

The rot starts at the top. If you don’t respect the rules that you set for your team, you have no right to expect your staff to follow them either. No amount of self-righteous blather and bluster will be sufficient to persuade them that they should place their confidence and trust in you. Just as you pretend to lead, they’ll pretend to work. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: easy to manage

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: overstepping the bounds

power of positioning

Confucius said: “Don’t concern yourself with the affairs of an office that you don’t hold.” Zengzi said: “A leader would never consider overstepping the bounds of their position.”
子曰:「不在其位,不謀其政。」曾子曰:「君子思不出其位。」

Your time is precious. Make the most of it. Focus on what you can control and impact. Don’t waste your energy worrying about issues that you have no influence over. You’ll just end up wearing yourself out – not to mention annoying your colleagues by sticking your nose into their business. Let them get on with what they need to do and concentrate on the work you need to complete. Everyone will be a lot happier and more productive for it. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: overstepping the bounds

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: go high or go low?

go high

Confucius said: “A leader goes high. A petty person goes low.”
子曰:「君子上達,小人下達。」

Be honest with yourself. Do you go high or do you go low? Do you work for the common good or for your own personal benefit? Do you really care about helping to make life better for others or are you driven by adding more zeros to your bank account? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: go high or go low?

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: honesty and trust

honesty and trust

Zilu asked how to serve a ruler. Confucius said: “Don’t deceive them; be willing to oppose them.”
子路問「事君」。子曰:「勿欺也,而犯之。」

Honesty and trust are at the core of any meaningful relationship. The one between you and your boss is no exception. If you’re not open and candid with them, they’ll soon lose their confidence in you. The last thing they want to hear are nasty surprises because you’ve kept them in the dark about unexpected problems with a client that you’ve been unable to handle or a slowdown in sales. Better to proactively voice your concerns rather than hope the problem will magically go away. The earlier you nip it in the bud, the easier it will be to solve it. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: honesty and trust

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: rash promises

rash promises

Confucius said: “People who make rash promises will find them hard to keep.”
子曰:「其言之不怍,則為之也難!」

How do you capture attention in a culture where every new product is so environmentally friendly that it will save the planet and every new business model is so revolutionary that it will change the world as we know it? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: rash promises

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: unleash everyone’s full potential

Confucius said that Duke Ling of Wei didn’t follow the way. Ji Kangzi said: “If this is the case, how come he hasn’t lost his state?” Confucius said: “He has Kong Wenzi looking after guests and foreign delegations, Zhu Tuo taking care of the ancestral temple, and Wangsun Jia in charge of defense. With such officials as these, how could he possibly lose his state?”
子言衛靈公之無道也,康子曰:「夫如是,奚而不喪?」孔子曰:「仲叔圉治賓客,祝鮀治宗廟,王孫賈治軍旅,夫如是,奚其喪?」

You’re only as good as the people you have around you. Be careful to ensure that you put the right person in each job and that their personalities and abilities mesh with each other. When you have everyone in place and the team is functioning smoothly, resist the temptation to take things easy. That’s the time to start planning how to take things to the next level and unleash everyone’s full potential. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: unleash everyone’s full potential

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: qualified to serve?

qualified to serve

Confucius said: “Meng Gongchuo is more than qualified to serve as the steward for the Zhao and Wei families, but he is not qualified to serve as a minister in the states of Teng and Xue.”
子曰:「孟公綽為趙魏老則優,不可以為滕薛大夫。」

What is the right platform for your development? A startup with plenty of potential to grow and give you exposure to a broad range of responsibilities or a large corporation that will give you an established stage to perform on and a clear future career path? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: qualified to serve?

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a strong team

a strong team

Confucius said: “Whenever a government edict needed to be written, Bi Chen prepared the first draft, Shi Shu reviewed and revised it, Ziyu, the head of protocol, edited it, and Zichan of Dongli gave it a final polish.”
子曰:「為命:裨諶草創之,世叔討論之,行人子羽修飾之,東里子產潤色之。」

Be sure to build a strong team around you: one that is diverse and complementary in terms of personalities, perspectives, and skill sets. Without a strong team, you will struggle to grow and reach your full potential. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a strong team