Confucius said: “What is Zilu doing playing his zither inside my gate?” His other 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: “Only Zilu can stand in his shabby hemp gown next to people wearing fox and badger furs without feeling embarrassed: ‘free of envy, free of greed, he must be a good man.’” When Zilu continuously chanted these lines, Confucius said: “You’re moving in the right direction, but is that a good reason to be so self-satisfied?” (1)
Don’t rest on your laurels. There’s always room for improvement. Just because you’re making progress doesn’t mean that you can relax. You can always do better. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: you can always do better
Confucius was seriously ill. Zilu had his followers act as if they were retainers of a lord. When his illness went into remission, Confucius said: “Zilu, this deception has lasted long enough. Who do I deceive with these bogus retainers? Do I deceive heaven? Rather than die among retainers, I would prefer to die in the arms of my followers. I may not receive a grand funeral, but I’ll hardly die by the roadside.”
Respect other people’s wishes. Don’t try to second guess them. Even if you think your idea is better, their priorities may very well be different than yours. It’s no accident that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the road to hell
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 7 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. It provides a vivid portrait of the sage’s personality and motivations, as well as his opinions on various followers and other contemporary and historical figures.
Confucius said: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past. In this respect, I dare to compare myself with Old Peng.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: new English translation
When Confucius fell seriously ill, Zilu asked permission to pray. Confucius said: “Does such a practice exist?” Zilu replied: “Certainly. The liturgy says: ‘We pray to the spirits from above and the spirits from below.’” Confucius said: “If that’s the case, I’ve been praying for myself for a long time now.”
Is it appropriate to offer to pray for someone if they don’t share your religious beliefs? No doubt Zilu was so worried about his master’s condition that he was willing to try anything that might help him to stay alive, but Confucius clearly thought not and decided stuck to his own secular principles. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: permission to pray
Confucius said to Yan Hui: “To take office when needed and to stay out of sight when dismissed: only you and I can do this.” Zilu said: “If you had command of the Three Armies, who would you appoint to help you?” Confucius said: “I wouldn’t choose someone who wrestles tigers barehanded or swims across rivers without fearing death. But I would choose someone who approaches difficulties with due caution and achieves victories through careful planning.” (1) (2)
There’s a huge difference between courage and recklessness. Courage means having the bravery and determination to bide your time until the right moment arrives for you to strike. Recklessness means diving in without thinking about the possible consequences of your action until it’s too late. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: courage and recklessness
Ji Kangzi asked: “Is Zilu fit for government office?” Confucius said: “Zilu is resolute. Why isn’t he fit for government office?” Ji Kangzi asked again: “Is Zigong fit for government office?” Confucius said: “Zigong is intelligent. Why isn’t he fit for government office?” Ji Kangzi asked again: “Is Ran Qiu fit to be appointed to government office?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu has many talents. Why isn’t he fit for government office?” (1) (2) (3) (4)
Will recruitment ever become a fully-automated process? One in which your magical AI assistant already has the perfect candidate lined up for you even before you have decided to hire someone new. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: fit for government office?
Meng Wubo asked “Is Zilu a good person?” Confucius said: “I don’t know.” When he asked once again, Confucius said: “In a middle-sized country, he could be entrusted with military recruitment. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.” “And what about Ran Qiu?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu? He could be the mayor of a small city or the manager of a large estate. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.” “And what about Gongxi Chi?” Confucius said: “Gongxi Chi? Standing resplendent with his sash, he could entertain distinguished guests. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.” (1) (2)
Don’t feel you have to answer a leading question. If you do choose to respond, then only give as much information as you are comfortable with sharing. No need to dig a deep hole for yourself. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: how to handle a leading question
Confucius said: “If the way doesn’t prevail, I’ll take a raft and put out to sea. I’m sure Zilu will come with me.” When he heard this, Zilu was delighted. Confucius said: “Zilu is much braver than I am, but he brings no materials to make the raft with.” (1)
There’s a fine line between engaging in friendly banter and making a hurtful comment. Confucius just about manages to stay on the right side of it with his dig at Zilu for his impetuousness, but the margin is at best a very fine one. Surely, his faithful follower deserves at least a pinch of gratitude from the sage for his eagerness to give up everything he’s doing and accompany Confucius on a perilous voyage to almost certain death! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a fine line
Zilu (子路) [542-480 BCE], whose given name was Zhong You (仲由), was also known as Zhong Zilu (仲子路) or Jilu (季路).
Zilu was an honest, courageous, and impetuous individual who wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind to Confucius. On one famous occasion recorded in 6.28, he even criticized the sage for risking his reputation by going to see Nanzi (南子), the wife of Duke Ling of the state of Wei (衛靈公). He was also of a generous disposition, telling Confucius in 5.26 that his greatest wish was to “share my carriages, horses, clothes, and furs with my friends without getting upset if they damage them.” Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zilu