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
A border official at the town of Yi requested a meeting with Confucius. He said: “Whenever a distinguished man comes to these parts, I never fail to meet him.” The follower arranged for him to meet Confucius. After coming out of it the official said: “Sirs, why worry about his dismissal? The world has been without the way for a long while. Heaven is going to use your master like a wooden bell clapper.”
How to deal with a career-threatening setback? Stay and fight your corner or flee the scene for pastures new? Confucius opted for the latter course in 497 BCE ostensibly out of outrage at his ruler Duke Ding cavorting with a troupe of dancing girls sent by the ruler of the state of Qi but more likely because of the failure of his policies to rein in the power of the Three Families by razing the walls that surrounded their cities. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: like a wooden bell clapper
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
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