Tag Archives: Confucius on the rites

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

Leadership lessons from Confucius: plain white silk

plain white silk

子夏問曰:「巧笑倩兮,美目盼兮,素以為絢兮。何謂也?」子曰:「繪事後素。」曰:「禮後乎?」子曰:「起予者商也!始可與言詩矣。」
Zixia asked: “What do these verses mean: ‘Ah, the lovely dimples of her artful smile! Ah, the black and white of her beautiful eyes! It’s on plain white silk that colors sparkle.’” Confucius said: “Painting comes after plain white silk.” Zixia said: “Is ritual also something that comes afterwards?” Confucius said: “You have opened up my eyes to true meaning of these verses! It’s only with a man like you that I can discuss the Book of Songs!” (1)

Even the greatest ideas are useless without the right foundation to implement them on. You can’t build an awesome new product, for example, without getting investment to fund the project, designers and engineers to develop it, a factory to manufacture it, and marketing and sales people to promote it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: plain white silk

Leadership lessons from Confucius: forging your own path

forging your own path

季氏旅於泰山,子謂冉有曰:「女弗能救與?」對曰:「不能。」子曰:「嗚呼!曾謂泰山不如林放乎?」
The Ji Family was setting off to carry out a sacrifice on Mount Tai. Confucius said to Ran Qiu: “Can you not stop this?” Ran Qiu replied: “I cannot.” Confucius said: “This is outrageous! Can it really be true that the spirit of Mount Tai has even less knowledge of ritual than Lin Fang?” (1) (2)

Leadership means forging your own path rather than following in the footsteps of others. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: forging your own path

Leadership lessons from Confucius: on tokenism

tokenism

子曰:「人而不仁,如禮何?人而不仁,如樂何?」
Confucius said: “If someone has no goodness, what can they have to do with ritual? If someone has no goodness, what can they have to do with music?” (1) (2)

Going to church every Sunday morning doesn’t make you a good Christian unless you’re committed to learning and applying the values that are being taught at the service. Not even the most inspiring hymns will be able to stir your soul if your only reason for being there is to make yourself look good in front of the community. You might as well stay in bed at home for all the good it will do you.

Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: on tokenism

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: your choice

your choice

三家者以雍徹。子曰:「『相維辟公,天子穆穆』,奚取於三家之堂?」
When the Three Families had the Yong ode performed while the ceremonial vessels were being removed at the end of their ancestral sacrifices, Confucius said: “‘The lords are in attendance, the son of heaven sits solemnly on his throne.’ How can such words be used in the halls of the Three Families?” (1) (2)

Do you follow a traditional career path, perhaps taking a few liberties on the way to the top to show your importance? Or do you create your own path so that you can make your own rules? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: your choice

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: eight rows of dancers

eight rows of dancers

孔子謂季氏,「八佾舞於庭,是可忍也,孰不可忍也?」
When he heard that the head of the Ji Family used eight rows of dancers to perform in the ceremonies at his ancestral temple, Confucius commented: “If he is capable of that, what isn’t he capable of?” (1)

The higher you rise in your career, the easier it is to let your growing influence, power, and status go to your head and decide that the normal rules and conventions no longer apply to you. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: eight rows of dancers

Leadership lessons from Confucius: adhering to ritual

adhering to the rites

It’s good to be back in the peace and quiet of the Lincolnshire Fens. I’m hoping that the fog that has gathered in my head will lift so that I can forge ahead with my Leadership Lessons from Confucius project. This has stalled over the last few weeks thanks – I like to tell myself at least – a heavy working schedule.

One of the central concepts that Confucius promoted in his teachings is the importance of adhering to ritual (禮/lǐ) in building up your character. By repeatedly carrying out even the most mundane of actions such as eating or greeting another person in the proper manner, you build up a strong internal muscle memory that enables you to behave in the most appropriate way without even having to think about what you are doing. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: adhering to ritual