Tag Archives: Confucius on wisdom

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: promote the upright

promote the upright

Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Love others.” He then asked about wisdom. Confucius said: “Know others.” Fan Chi didn’t understand. Confucius said: “Promote the upright and place them above the crooked, so that they can straighten the crooked.” Fan Chi left. When he met Zixia he asked: “A short while ago when I saw Confucius I asked him about wisdom. He said: ‘Promote the upright and place them above the crooked, so that they can straighten the crooked.’ What does this mean?” Zixia said: “These are rich words indeed! When Shun ruled the world and was choosing from among the masses, he selected Gao Yao and those without goodness went away. When Tang ruled the world and was choosing from among the masses, he selected Yi Yin and those without goodness went away.”
樊遲問「仁」。子曰:「愛人。」問「知」。子曰:「知人。」樊遲未達。子曰:「舉直錯諸枉,能使枉者直。」樊遲退,見子夏曰:「鄉也,吾見於夫子而問『知』。子曰:『舉直錯諸枉,能使枉者直。』何謂也?」子夏曰:「富哉言乎!舜有天下,選於眾,舉皋陶,不仁者遠矣;湯有天下,選於眾,舉伊尹,不仁者遠矣。」

One of the most important attributes of a leader is to be an excellent judge of character. Without having the right people in place, it’s impossible to build a strong and vibrant culture in your organization. Even the most beautifully crafted vision and values statements won’t have a cat in hell’s chance of being implemented if you if there’s nobody on the ground to embody them. Be very careful in how you hire and develop people to make sure you “promote the upright and place them above the crooked.” Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: promote the upright

Analects of Confucius Book 6: Confucius on wisdom and goodness

Confucius on wisdom and goodness

Do wisdom (仁/rén) and goodness (知/zhī) go hand in hand? Although Confucius doesn’t give an explicit answer to this question in Book 6 of the Analects, he does show that there is a very close link between them.

When the follower Fan Chi asks Confucius about these two subjects in 6.22, Confucius tells him that wisdom means doing “what is right for the common people” and that goodness requires being “first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: Confucius on wisdom and goodness

Analects of Confucius Book 6: by numbers

Analects of Confucius Book 6 by numbers

Book 6 of the Analects continues along the same lines as Book 5 with more comments from Confucius about his followers and historical and contemporary figures. 15 followers, 7 contemporary figures, and the legendary sage kings Yao and Shun are featured.

The followers Ran Yong, Ran Qiu, and Yan Hui each receive three mentions, while Zilu and Zigong get two. All the others are only featured once. Among these, Yuan Xian, Min Ziqian, Ran Geng (Boniu), and Tantai Mieming make their debut in the Analects. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: by numbers

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the wise are never perplexed

The wise are never perplexed

子曰:「知者不惑,仁者不憂,勇者不懼。」
Confucius said: “The wise are never perplexed; the good are never anxious; the brave are never afraid.” (1)

Put in the time required to understand what’s really happening. Don’t take what other people have to say at face value. Question all your assumptions. Ignore all the fake narratives and bogus statistics designed to befuddle rather than enlighten you. Blow away the smoke and smash the mirrors until you reach such a state of clarity that you can make a decision without any doubts or second thoughts.

Embrace uncertainty rather than resist it. Analyze the opportunities and the threats and decide on your course of action. While others are flailing around trying to figure out what’s going on and what to do about it, you’re ready to swoop in and make your move.

Don’t confuse courage with recklessness. The reason you’re not afraid is because you’ve fully prepared yourself for this very moment. While others waste valuable time complaining about the vagaries of fate, you’ve already executed your plan and decided what your next step will be. Because they are in control of their thoughts and emotions and know the right time to take action, the wise are never perplexed.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 29 of Book 9 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 9 here.

(1) Confucius makes a similar point in 14.28: “A leader adheres to three principles that I have been unable to live up to: the good are never anxious; the wise are never perplexed; the brave are never afraid.” In 12.4, he explains to his follower Sima Niu that a leader has no anxiety or fear because: “When he looks inside himself and finds nothing wrong, what does he have to be anxious about or fear?”

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Yilan, Taiwan. You can read more about the rather convoluted history of this temple in this excellent article by Josh Ellis here.

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the best thing since sliced bread

best thing since sliced bread

子曰:「若聖與仁,則吾豈敢?抑為之不厭,誨人不倦,則可謂云爾已矣。」公西華曰:「正唯弟子不能學也。」
Confucius said: “How could I possibly dare to claim that I’m a man of great wisdom and goodness? All that can be said of me is that I never grow weary of learning and never get tired of teaching others.” Gongxi Chi said: “This is exactly what we students are unable to grasp.”

Better not to blow your own trumpet. If you’re anywhere near as good as you think you are, others will no doubt sing your praises. Just don’t let all the compliments go to your head, that’s all. Even if everyone else thinks that you’re the best thing since sliced bread, you know deep down that the moment you rest on your laurels complacency will set in and the downward slide will begin. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the best thing since sliced bread

Analects of Confucius Book 6: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 6 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. It includes interesting insights into the characters and abilities of many of Confucius’s followers plus other contemporary and historical figures.

Chapter 1
子曰:「雍也可使南面。」
Confucius said: “Ran Yong could take a seat facing south.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 6: new English translation

Leadership lessons from Confucius: mountains and water

mountains and water

子曰:「知者樂水,仁者樂山。知者動,仁者靜。知者樂,仁者壽。」
Confucius said: “The wise love water, the good love mountains. The wise are active, the good are tranquil. The wise are joyful, the good enjoy long life.” (1) (2)

Wisdom and goodness are not mutually exclusive: just as mountains and water come together to form a perfect whole, so too is the human experience enhanced by the fusion of conflicting qualities and impulses. The sum is indeed greater than the parts. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: mountains and water

Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness

wisdom and goodness

樊遲問知。子曰:「務民之義,敬鬼神而遠之,可謂知矣。」問仁。曰:「仁者先難而後獲,可謂仁矣。
Fan Chi asked about wisdom. Confucius said: “Do what is right for the common people; respect the spirits and gods but keep them at a distance. This is wisdom.” Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “A good person is first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards. This is goodness.” (1) (2)

Wisdom isn’t an abstract concept. It means figuring out what needs be done and then going ahead and doing it. It requires that you use your knowledge and insight for the benefit of everyone – not just on behalf of a select few of friends and associates. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: wisdom and goodness