Confucius said: “A leader does not engage in competition. But if you can’t avoid it, you should take part in an archery contest. You bow and exchange courtesies with your opponent before entering the range and enjoy drinks with him after leaving it. Even when engaged in competition, you remain a leader.” (1)
Like archery, leadership involves achieving such a state of flow that every action you take comes so naturally that you don’t even have to think about it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: achieving a state of flow
Confucius said: “If you lead through laws and regulations and maintain order through punishments, people will avoid them but won’t develop a sense of shame. If you lead through virtue and keep them in line with ritual, they will develop a sense of shame and unite behind you.”
Whenever government or business leaders are faced with an ethical crisis, their instinctive response is to pass a raft of new legislation, regulations, rules, and codes of conduct to “solve” it. While in the short term this approach may give the illusion that they are “doing something” (not to mention generating some handy headlines), in the long term it has the highly corrosive effect of widening the gap between the elite and the people and increasing the level of state interference into individuals’ lives. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: unintended consequences
Confucius said: “Governing by the power of virtue can be compared to the Pole Star, which remains fixed in place while all the other stars orbit respectfully around it.”
As a leader, your most important task is to set a shining example to the people around you through your virtue (德/dé), a term which can be extended to mean ethical or moral power. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like the Pole Star
Earth over Fire; Sun swallowed by Earth; perhaps even a solar eclipse. Darkness descends with the arrival of hexagram 36 (明夷/míng yí), snuffing out the light.
Continue reading I Ching Dairy: darkness descends
While I wouldn’t say that I’ve encountered any moments of inspiration or enlightenment during my daily walks among the bleak Fenland fields, I would say that they have been very good for the soul.
Continue reading Pockets of silence
The Dao takes no action,
But leaves nothing undone.
If princes and kings are able to stay true to it,
All things will be transformed of their own accord.
If, during their transformation, desire should arise within them,
I will calm them down using the nameless uncarved block of wood.
This will free them of desire.
Being free of desire, they will be tranquil;
And the world will find peace of its own accord.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 37: The Dao takes no action
Know the male,
But keep to the female.
Be a ravine to the world.
As a ravine to the world,
Constant virtue will never leave you,
And you will return to being an infant.
Know the bright,
But keep to the dark.
Be a model to the world.
As a model to the world,
Constant virtue will never be wanting,
And you will return to the limitless.
But keep to disgrace.
Be a valley to the world.
As a valley to the world,
Constant virtue will always be sufficient,
And you will return again to the uncarved block of wood.
When the uncarved block shatters, it is transformed into utensils.
The sage makes use of them,
And becomes the lord of all the officials.
Therefore, the deepest cut doesn’t sever.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 28: an uncarved block of wood
An excellent driver leaves no tracks.
An excellent speaker makes no slips.
An excellent accountant uses no tallies.
An excellent gateman needs no bolts to secure a door,
But nobody can open it.
An excellent binder needs no knots,
But nobody can untie the binding.
This is why,
The sage excels at taking care of everyone;
So abandons no one.
The sage excels at taking care of everything;
So wastes nothing.
This is called intuitive wisdom.
Therefore, those who excel are the teachers of those who don’t;
Those who don’t excel provide object lessons for those who do to learn from.
If you don’t value your teachers,
If you don’t care for your object lessons,
No matter how knowledgeable you think you are,
You are greatly deluded.
Such is the essential truth.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 27: intuitive wisdom
To yield is to be whole.
To bend is to be straight.
To be empty is to be full.
To be exhausted is to be renewed.
To have little is to gain.
To have too much is to be troubled.
That is why the sage embraces the one and sets an example to the world.
He does not show off and therefore shines.
He does not promote himself and is therefore revered.
He does not boast and is therefore honored.
He does not seek glory and therefore endures.
Because he does not contend,
Nobody in the world contends with him.
The ancient saying “to yield is to be whole” is indeed true.
When you are whole, all things will come to you.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 22: to yield is to be whole
The best leader is one whose presence is unknown to his people;
The next best is one who is loved and praised;
The next is one who is feared;
The worst is one who is despised;
When a leader has no trust in his people,
The people have no trust in him.
The best leader reflects and chooses his words carefully.
When his objective is achieved and the work is done,
The people all say, “We did it ourselves.”
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 17: the best leader