Confucius said: “What is Zilu doing playing his zither inside my gate?” The followers ceased to treat Zilu with respect. Confucius said: “Zilu may not have entered the inner chamber yet, but he has at least ascended to the hall.” (1) (2)
If you have reason to criticize a member of your team, make sure you do so in private. This is not only respectful to the person concerned, but it also prevents gossip and rumors spreading through the office like wildfire. Loose lips can not only sink ships but also people’s reputations and even careers. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: putting someone under a cloud
Confucius said: “Those who learn ritual and music before taking up an official position are the common people; those who learn ritual and music after taking up an official position are the nobility. If I were to employ them, I would employ the former.” (1) (2)
What kind of staff do you prefer to hire? Candidates who have put in the hard yards to develop their knowledge and expertise but are a little rough around the edges? Or candidates who have developed the right connections and demeanor as a result of their family background but know next to nothing about the job you plan to place them in? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: ingrained institutional biases?
Confucius said: “It was only after I returned to Lu from Wei that I revised the Book of Music and put the Court Songs and Sacrificial Hymns in the proper order.” (1) (2)
Have you finalized your retirements plans? I’m not just talking about making sure you have made sufficient financial provision for it, but also working out how you’ll spend your time. Endless rounds of golf might sound fun in theory, but will they provide the same levels of intellectual and emotional stimulation as well as sense of purpose that you’re used to at work? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: making the most of your golden years
I have completed my work on Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius, at least for now. Talk about a long hot summer! I’m not sure I ever really recovered my enthusiasm for the text after having to battle through five chapters of the follower Zengzi early on in the book. Why spend time on the stilted prognostications of a pale imitation of the sage when you can go direct to the source?
Myths and counter-myths
The most enjoyable part of reading the book was digging through the myths and counter-myths surrounding the legendary sage kings Yao, Shun, and Yu in the final five chapters. Were these three men truly the paragons of leaderly virtue that Confucius praises to the skies? Did Yao and Shun really voluntarily cede power to their hand-picked successor rather than keep it in the family? Or were they summarily kicked off the throne when they became too old and weak to maintain their grip on it and bundled off into exile or prison? Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8 overview: from sage kings to ritual and music
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 8 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on the qualities of the ancient sage kings who laid the foundations of Chinese civilization.
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation
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 (夏朝). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Sage King Shun
King Wu’s name (周武王) literally means “Martial King”. He founded the Zhou dynasty (周朝) after defeating the last Shang dynasty (商朝) ruler, Zhouxin (紂辛), in the bloody battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in ca. 1046 BCE. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: King Wu of Zhou
Music Master Zhi (師摯) was a famous court musician of Lu, and may also have been the conductor of the state orchestra. Like most musicians of the time, he was blind. Confucius was a huge fan, commenting in Chapter 15 of Book 8: “What rich and beautiful music fills my ears when Zhi, the music master, is conducting…” Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Music Master Zhi
Confucius said: “What rich and beautiful music fills my ears when Zhi, the music master, is conducting – right from the opening passage through to the finale of the Cry of the Ospreys!” (1) (2)
What kind of music are you making with your leadership? Have you brought everyone together to work in perfect harmony with each other towards a common goal? Or do you have them playing discordant notes because you’re not giving them a clear direction to follow? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: rich and beautiful music
Confucius said: “Find inspiration with the Book of Songs; establish character with ritual; achieve perfection with music.” (1)
If you’re serious about inspiring creativity and innovation in your team or organization, you could do a lot worse than making poetry a key element of your efforts. Poetry not only teaches us how to express ourselves more eloquently; it can also give us a lifelong love of language and literature. Its ability to encapsulate complex and often conflicting emotions in powerful and evocative phrases provides powerful fuel for our imaginations – not to mention a powerful antidote to anodyne official language. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: poetic inspiration