Zilu said: “When Duke Huan had Prince Jiu put to death, Shao Hu took his own life but Guan Zhong chose to keep his. Should we say that Guan Zhong was a man without goodness?” Confucius said: “Duke Huan was able to bring the rulers of all the states together nine times without having to resort to military force because of the power of Guan Zhong. Such was his goodness! Such was his goodness!”
Is it only when your organization’s very survival is at stake that you’re willing to break with convention? When everything’s humming along smoothly do you have the courage to make daring decisions on people or products that fly in the face of accepted wisdom? Or are you content to keep on steering the ship on its current course? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: break with convention?
Despite making just three appearances in the Analects, Sima Niu (司馬牛) succeeded in keeping his name preserved for posterity while many far more deserving figures had theirs disappear into obscurity.
It’s not as if he comes up with any stunning intellectual or ethical insights in the three brief and rather melodramatic appearance he makes in Book 12 of the Analects either. At best, he functions as a foil for Confucius to expound in detail on the nature of goodness and leadership and for Zixia to utter the famous phrase: “within the four seas all men are brothers” – which ironically is often misattributed to the sage himself rather than his dour follower! Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Sima Niu
Sima Niu asked about goodness. Confucius said: “A person who practices goodness is cautious in speech.” Sima Niu said: “Cautious in speech? Is that what you call goodness?” Confucius said: “When something is difficult to do, how is it possible not to be cautious in speaking about it?”
Talk is cheap. Better to wait until you have clarified your thoughts on a major decision before sharing them with others. The earlier you talk, the greater the risk you’ll end up confusing and perhaps even disappointing people – not mention getting yourself into unnecessary trouble. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: talk is cheap
Yan Hui asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Exercising self-discipline and returning to ritual constitute goodness. If you manage to exercise self-discipline and return to ritual for just one single day, goodness will prevail throughout the world. You can only achieve goodness through your own efforts. How can it come from anybody else?” Yan Hui said: “May I ask what specific steps I should follow?” Confucius said: “Don’t look at anything that goes against ritual; don’t listen to anything that goes against ritual; don’t say anything that goes against ritual; don’t do anything that goes against ritual.” Yan Hui said: “Although I may not be quick to understand it, with your blessing I will strive to live up to your guidance.”
Only you can become your best self. Nobody else can do it for you. The buck stops with you. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: becoming your best self
Goodness is such an ambiguous concept that even Confucius shied away from attaching an exact meaning to it. He found it much easier to describe the benefits that the cultivation of a strong internal sense of goodness can bring to people rather than defining its precise features. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: the benefits of goodness
Zengzi said: “A scholar-official must be strong and resolute because his burden is heavy and his road is long. He takes goodness as his burden: is it not heavy? His journey ends only with death: is it not long?” (1)
Before you embark on a new path or project, make sure that you’re fully aware of what it entails. In the rush of initial excitement, it’s all too easy to underestimate the physical, mental, and emotional resources you’ll be required to draw on if you’re to successfully complete it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: strong and resolute
Confucius said: “How could I possibly dare to claim that I’m a man of great wisdom and goodness? All that can be said of me is that I never grow weary of learning and never get tired of teaching others.” Gongxi Chi said: “This is exactly what we students are unable to grasp.”
Better not to blow your own trumpet. If you’re anywhere near as good as you think you are, others will no doubt sing your praises. Just don’t let all the compliments go to your head, that’s all. Even if everyone else thinks that you’re the best thing since sliced bread, you know deep down that the moment you rest on your laurels complacency will set in and the downward slide will begin. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the best thing since sliced bread
Zai Yu asked: “If a good person was told that someone lies at the bottom of a well, should they jump in after them?” Confucius said: “Why should they? A leader may be enticed down the wrong path but not into a trap; they can be deceived, but not made a fool of.”
There’s no need to put someone on the spot with a trick question. The aim of any conversation or meeting you hold should be to generate a positive discussion – not to show how clever you are. The more you put other people down, the more you’ll stifle the sharing of different perspectives and ideas. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a trick question
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 4 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. Its main themes include goodness, leadership, filial devotion, and the need for restraint.
Confucius said: “It’s beautiful to live in a neighborhood that’s filled with goodness. How can someone be wise if they choose to live in a place that lacks goodness?”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: new English translation
Virtue (德/dé) is very close to goodness (仁/rén) at the apex of Confucius’s hierarchy of values. Generally, though not always, it refers to the highest state that a ruler can aim for.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on virtue