One of the most important themes of Book 1 of The Analects is that the focus of learning is on practical applications rather than dry academic theory. Its main objective was to ensure that a young man was inculcated with the right values and behaviors to ensure that he made a positive contribution to society by interacting positively with its other members. Continue reading Analects Book 1: Confucius on relationships
Filial devotion (孝/xiào) is one of the best known of the values taught by Confucius, probably because it was so heavily promoted by a succession of imperial dynasties starting with the Han who drew a direct link between obedience to parents and obedience to the ruler. Continue reading Analects Book 1: Confucius on filial devotion
When Zixia asked about filial devotion, the Master said: “It’s the attitude that counts. If young people just offer their help when there is a job to do or serve their elders wine and food when they need to drink and eat, how could this ever be considered as filial devotion?”
Even in the most seemingly mundane situations, there is always an opportunity to make a difference if you are mindful of what is happening around you and are willing to go that extra centimeter. As Confucius points out, it’s the attitude that counts! Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: it’s the attitude that counts
When Ziyou asked about filial devotion, the Master said: “These days filial devotion simply means keeping your parents fed. But that’s also how dogs and horses are looked after. Unless you treat your parents respectfully, what’s the difference?”
While it’s important to meet people’s material needs by providing them with a good salary, benefits, and working environment, showing them appreciation and respect for their abilities and contribution to the organization is even more vital for building a strong and harmonious culture. People don’t come to work simply to make money; they also want to feel that they are a valued member of a team and forge close connections with the people they engage with both inside and outside the office. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: lip service
Meng Wubo asked about filial devotion. The Master said: “The only time a son should make his parents worried is when he is sick.” (1)
As a leader, you need to be aware of the effect that your demeanor has on the people around you. If you appear to be in a bad temper, they will instantly be on their guard and may even become concerned that you’re angry because of something they’ve done when it’s entirely unrelated. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the demeanor effect
Meng Yizi asked the Master about filial devotion. Confucius said: “Never disobey.” While Fan Chi was driving him in his chariot, the Master told him: “Meng Yizi asked me about filial devotion and I replied: ‘Never disobey.’” Fan Chi asked: “What does that mean?” Confucius replied: “When your parents are alive, serve them according to the rites. When they die, bury them according to the rites and make sacrifices to them according to the rites.”
Context is king. This is the lesson from the two exchanges that Confucius has in the fifth chapter of Book 2 of the Analects. In the first one he keeps his answer to the question from Meng Yizi (孟懿子) about filial devotion as curt as possible with his admonishment to “never disobey.” Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: context is king
The Master said: “When the father is alive, observe his son’s intentions. When the father is dead, watch his son’s actions. If after three years he has not deviated from his father’s path, then he may be called a filial son.”
One of the most dangerous risks you can take as a leader is to surround yourself with people who think and act the same way as you do. This not only shuts out diversity of opinions and thoughts, but it also leads to a “yes-man” culture in which the path to career advancement is built on keeping the boss happy.
The Master said: “A young man should be filial at home and fraternal outside it. He should be cautious and truthful, love everyone, but only develop close relationships with good people. If he still has energy to spare after all this, he should study the classics.”
How to prepare the young generation for a fast-moving and turbulent world? This was just as daunting a challenge in Confucius’s day as it is in ours due the politically and socially unstable times that he lived in. Finding suitable jobs in the bureaucracy or estates of the hereditary ruling calls was just as tough as it is nowadays for educated young people without family connections, and there was at least an equal chance of being caught up in violence and wars as the different states vied with each other for supremacy.
Youzi said: “A man who shows filial and fraternal devotion is unlikely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the root; once this takes hold the way appears. Filial and fraternal devotion is the root of goodness.”
Confucius was a master of talent development, training hundreds if not thousands of followers (1) who went on to take official positions and run businesses in the patchwork quilt of states that comprised China during his lifetime.
Reject sophistry and discard knowledge;
The people will benefit a hundredfold.
Reject humanity and discard rightness,
And the people will rediscover filial piety and parental love.
Reject trickiness and renounce profit,
And there will be no thieves or bandits.
These three teachings are mere cultural adornments and inadequate.
The people need something that they can depend on.
Cherish simplicity and embrace the uncarved block of wood;
Reduce selfishness and minimize desires.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 19: back to nature or back to basics?