Tag Archives: Confucius on ritual

Leadership lessons from Confucius: making the most of every moment

every moment

子曰:「居上不寬,為禮不敬,臨喪不哀,吾何以觀之哉?」
Confucius said: “How can I bear to even contemplate someone who lacks tolerance when in high office, reverence when performing ritual, and grief when in mourning?”

How do you make the most of your day? Are you warm and friendly towards the people you work with or do you only talk with them about business? Are you fully “present” when you’re at meeting or are you distracted? Do you react calmly when things go wrong or do you explode in anger? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: making the most of every moment

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a two-way street

two-way street

定公問:「君使臣,臣事君,如之何?」孔子對曰:「君使臣以禮,臣事君以忠。」
Duke Ding asked: “How should a lord treat his ministers? How should ministers serve their lord?” Confucius replied: “A lord should treat his ministers in accordance with ritual; ministers should serve their lord with loyalty.” (1) (2)

Leadership is a two-way street. Treat your staff as you wish to be treated. Be polite and listen to what they have to say and they will be polite and listen to what you have to say. Remain calm and collected during a crisis and they will remain calm and collected. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a two-way street

Leadership lessons from Confucius: happy new year!

happy new year

子曰:「事君盡禮,人以為諂也。」
Confucius said: “When you serve your lord in full accordance with ritual, people regard you as a sycophant.” (1)

Take your own path. Don’t waste precious time and energy worrying what other people are thinking or saying about you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: happy new year!

Leadership lessons from Confucius: welcoming the new moon

new moon

子貢欲去告朔之餼羊。子曰:「賜也!爾愛其羊,我愛其禮。」
Zigong wished to do away with the sacrifice of a live sheep for the ceremony welcoming the new moon. Confucius said: “You love the sheep; I love ritual.” (1)

How to react when someone opposes a much-needed change? Do you back down or do you find other ways of making sure it’s implemented? Unfortunately, this passage doesn’t tell us whether Zigong caved in to Confucius or continued to fight his corner. I hope he took the former tack – but given Zigong’s devotion to the sage I suspect he adopted the latter one. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: welcoming the new moon

Leadership lessons from Confucius: on archery

on archery

子曰:「射不主皮,為力不同科,古之道也。」
Confucius said: “In archery, it doesn’t matter whether you pierce the covering of the target, because some archers are stronger than others. This is the way of the ancients.” (1) (2)

There’s no need to overdo things. Clear your mind and relax. Focus on the process rather than trying to impress everyone around you or worrying that others will be stronger or more powerful than you. That way you will not only have a better chance of hitting the target but will also be able to save your energy so that you are ready to take on the next challenge. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: on archery

Leadership lessons from Confucius: asking questions

asking questions

子入太廟,每事問。或曰:「孰謂鄹人之子知禮乎?入太廟,每事問。」子聞之,曰:「是禮也。」
Whenever Confucius visited the Grand Ancestral Temple, he asked about everything that was happening there. Someone said: “Who said this son of a man from Zou is an expert on ritual? When he visits the Grand Ancestral Temple, he has to ask about everything that’s happening.” Hearing this, Confucius said: “Exactly, this is ritual.” (1) (2)

Don’t be afraid of asking questions. There’s always something new to learn even if you’re already familiar with the subject under discussion. Don’t worry about ridiculed for asking them either. You should always take it as a compliment when someone wants to show that they’re superior to you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: asking questions

Leadership lessons from Confucius: in person

in person

祭如在,祭神如神在。子曰:「吾不與祭,如不祭。」
Sacrifice to your ancestors as if they are present; sacrifice to the deities as if they are present. Confucius said: “If you don’t attend a sacrifice in person, you’re not there in spirit either.” (1) (2) Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: in person

Leadership lessons from Confucius: sarcasm

sarcasm

或問禘之說。子曰:「不知也。知其說者之於天下也,其如示諸斯乎!」指其掌。
When someone asked Confucius to explain the meaning of the sacrifice to the great imperial ancestor, he replied: “Whoever knows that would rule the world as easily as I can place this here.” Then he pointed his finger towards the palm of his hand. (1)

Sarcasm is a weapon that should be used sparingly – not least because there’s a real risk that your audience won’t pick up on your true meaning. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: sarcasm

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the first libation

first libation

子曰:「禘自既灌而往者,吾不欲觀之矣。」
Confucius said: “Once the first libation has been performed at the sacrifice to the great imperial ancestor, I don’t want to watch the rest of the ceremony.” (1)

Do you really want to stick around for the rest of an event when you know it’s about to descend into a squirm-inducing fest of self-congratulation and status-signaling? Of course, some people may accuse you of being impolite, but why waste your precious time watching the great and good spouting self-serving platitudes on the stage when you could be doing something more productive? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the first libation