Tag Archives: Duke Ai

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: an exercise in futility

exercise in futility

Chen Chengzi assassinated Duke Jian of Qi. Confucius took a bath and went to court, where he told Duke Ai of Lu: “Chen Heng murdered his ruler. Please punish him.” The Duke said: “Report this to the three lords.” Confucius said: “As a former official myself, I had no choice but to make this report. Yet my lord has only said, ‘Report this to the three lords.’” He went and made his report to the three lords. They refused to intervene. Confucius said: “As a former official myself, I had no choice but to make this report.”
陳成子弒簡公。孔子沐浴而朝,告於哀公曰:「陳恒弒其君,請討之。」公曰:「告夫三子。」孔子曰:「以吾從大夫之後,不敢不告也!」君曰:「告夫三子者!之三子告,不可。」孔子曰:「以吾從大夫子後,不敢不告也!」

Think very carefully before you decide to poke your nose in other people’s business. Of course, there’s always a chance that they may listen to you, but it’s much more likely that it will turn out to be an exercise in futility. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: an exercise in futility

Analects of Confucius Book 12: Contemporary and Historical Figures

Analects of Confucius Book 12 Contemporary and Historical Figures

The Analects of Confucius Book 12 brings together an eclectic mix of familiar and new contemporary and historical figures.

By far the most interesting newcomer is the colorful Duke Jing of Qi (齊景公), who only rose to power after his half-brother Duke Zhuang (齊莊公) was murdered by a disgruntled minister called Cuizi  (崔子) for conducting a not-so-secret affair with his wife. After a tempestuous start to his reign, the duke together with his trusted prime minister Yan Ying (晏嬰) made Qi one of the richest and most powerful states in the Zhou kingdom, only to send it into rapid decline after falling prey to the temptations of leading a more lavish and luxurious lifestyle. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 12: Contemporary and Historical Figures

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: when times are tough

when times are tough

哀公問於有若曰:「年饑,用不足,如之何?」有若對曰:「盍徹乎!」曰:「二,吾猶不足,如之何其徹也?」對曰:「百姓足,君孰與不足?百姓不足,君孰與足?」
Duke Ai asked Youzi: “In years of famine when I don’t make enough to cover my expenses, what should I do?” Youzi replied: “Why not set the tax at ten percent?” Duke Ai said: “Even twenty percent wouldn’t be sufficient to meet my needs; how could I manage with ten percent?” Youzi replied: “If the people have enough to support themselves, how could their lord not have enough to meet his needs? If the people do not have enough to support themselves, how could their lord have enough to meet his needs?”

When times are tough, show you have confidence in your people by increasing their freedom to be more creative. Even if it means that you have to take a short-term hit, the long-term rewards for you and everyone you work with will be rich. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: when times are tough

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Ai of Lu

Duke Ai (魯哀公) was the hereditary ruler of the state of Lu, but had little actual power because it was concentrated in the hands of the Three Families, the Jisun (季孫), Mengsun (孟孙), and Shusun (叔孫).

During the course of his reign (ca. 494 to ca. 467 BCE), the duke attempted to restore the primacy of his family, but was forced to flee from Lu towards the end of it.  Soon after arriving in the state of Yue (越), he went back to Lu but never returned to the court and lived out his finals days at the home of a family called Shan (山). No wonder his posthumous name literally means Duke Sadness! Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Ai of Lu

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a bittersweet moment

bittersweet moment

哀公問:「弟子孰為好學?」孔子對曰:「有顏回者好學,不遷怒,不貳過。不幸短命死矣,今也則亡,未聞好學者也。」
Duke Ai asked: “Which of your followers love learning?” Confucius replied: “There was Yan Hui who loved learning; he never vented his anger; he never made the same mistake again. Sadly, his life was cut short and he died. I have not heard of anyone else with such a love of learning.” (1) (2)

It’s always a bittersweet moment when one of the star members of your team decides to move on to pastures new. On the one hand, you’re happy for them because they have found an exciting new opportunity and perhaps even a little proud at the part you have played in helping them to develop their character and talent. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a bittersweet moment

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Ding of Lu

Duke Ding (魯定公) was the predecessor of Duke Ai (哀公) as the ruler of Lu, and reigned from around 509 to 495 BCE. Although responsible for elevating Confucius to his highest official position as Minister of Justice (大司寇) of Lu, the duke was ultimately at least indirectly responsible for Confucius’s decision to go into exile because of his inability to control the Three Families, who were the de facto rulers of the state. Indeed, Duke Ding was said to be so weak that he was the kind of ruler who “held the blade of the sword and offered the handle to his enemies.” Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Ding of Lu

Analects of Confucius Book 2: contemporary figures

Although there is extensive (and inconclusive) debate over how high Confucius actually rose in the ranks of the bureaucracy of Lu, he was certainly extremely well connected with senior officials, members of the so-called Three Families that were the true powers in the state, and even its hereditary rulers. This gave him the opportunity to observe their character and behavior at first hand, and to offer them his counsel and wisdom (even if in most cases they chose to ignore it). Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: contemporary figures

Leadership lessons from Confucius: what’s done is done

what's done is done

哀公問社於宰我。宰我對曰:「夏后氏以松,殷人以柏,周人以栗,曰,使民戰栗。」子聞之,曰:「成事不說,遂事不諫,既往不咎。」
Duke Ai asked which wood should be used for the altar pole of the land god. Zai Yu replied: “The Xia used pine; the Yin used cypress; the Zhou used chestnut. It’s said that they wanted it to make people tremble with fear.” When Confucius heard of this, he said: “What’s done is done; no need to dredge up the past; let bygones be bygones.” (1) (2)

When someone does something dumb like Zai Yu here, it’s best to move on and forget that it ever happened. What’s done is done. There’s no point in upsetting yourself by bringing up the past. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: what’s done is done

Leadership lessons from Confucius: on integrity

Temple of Yan Hui: integrity

哀公問曰:「何為則民服?」孔子對曰:「舉直錯諸枉,則民服;舉枉錯諸直,則民不服。」
Duke Ai asked: “What should I do to win the support of the people?” Confucius replied: “Promote the upright and place them above the crooked, and the people will support you. Promote the crooked and place them above the upright, and the people will not support you.” (1) (2)

What criteria do you use to select people for leadership positions in your organization? Talent is critical of course. So too is a strong track record of delivering results. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are also vital. The list is endless. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: on integrity

A repeated question

季康子問:「弟子孰為好學?」孔子對曰:「有顏回者好學,不幸短命死矣!今也則亡。」
Ji Kangzi asked: “Which of your disciples loves learning?” Confucius replied: “There was Yan Hui who loved learning. Unfortunately, his life was cut short and he died. Now there is no one who loves learning as much as he did.”

This is almost a carbon copy of Chapter III of Book 6 of the Analects. The only differences are that it is Ji Kangzi, not Duke Ai, who pops the same question, and Confucius’s response is a little shorter:  Continue reading A repeated question