Very little is known about Ji Ziran (季子然) except that he was a member of the powerful Ji clan and may have been the younger brother of Ji Kangzi, the chief minister of the state of Lu. He appears only once in the Analects of Confucius when he asks the sage in 11.24 if he thinks Zilu and Ran Qiu are great ministers.
Confucius responds with a veiled warning to him and his family against launching a coup to overthrow the legitimate ruler of the state, the Duke of Lu. Whether Ji Ziran understood the unspoken message Confucius was aiming to deliver is open to question. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ji Ziran
The head of the Ji Family was wealthier than the Duke of Zhou ever was, but Ran Qiu still assisted him with the collection of taxes to further increase his wealth. Confucius said: “He’s no longer my follower. You may beat the drum and attack him, my young friends.”
There’s no point in exploding with anger when someone has done something that upsets you – particularly if they’re not actually there to hear you. It might make you feel good for a couple seconds, but pretty soon you’ll be left feeling sheepish along with everyone else who was there to witness your outburst. How do you think you would make them feel if you went as far as to call for violence against someone you’re a close friend of?
Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an extraordinary outburst
Ji Kangzi asked: “Which of your followers love learning?” Confucius replied: “There was Yan Hui who loved learning. Sadly, his life was cut short and he died. Now there’s nobody.” (1)
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in the occasional bout of nostalgia. Just be mindful that the good old days were never quite as wonderful as you imagine them to have been. In most instances they weren’t by any measurable criterion better either – just different. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: rose-tinted glasses
When Ji Kangzi sent him some medicine, Confucius bowed as he accepted the gift but said: “Since I don’t know what this substance is, I dare not taste it.”
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Or, in the case of Confucius, a messenger arriving with a present from Ji Kangzi, the most powerful man in his home state of Lu who, at least in the estimation of the sage, was leading it into chaos because of his arrogant disregard for the conventions of ritual. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: beware of Greeks bearing gifts
Ji Kangzi asked: “Is Zilu fit for government office?” Confucius said: “Zilu is resolute. Why isn’t he fit for government office?” Ji Kangzi asked again: “Is Zigong fit for government office?” Confucius said: “Zigong is intelligent. Why isn’t he fit for government office?” Ji Kangzi asked again: “Is Ran Qiu fit to be appointed to government office?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu has many talents. Why isn’t he fit for government office?” (1) (2) (3) (4)
Will recruitment ever become a fully-automated process? One in which your magical AI assistant already has the perfect candidate lined up for you even before you have decided to hire someone new. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: fit for government office?
When Confucius was in the state of Chen, he said: “Let’s go home, let’s go home! Our young people are full of fire and bursting with talent, but they have no idea how to use it.”
What is the single most important piece of advice that you would give to a gifted and ambitious young person who is about to take their first steps into the big bad world? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: “Let’s go home, let’s go home!”
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
Confucius lived during turbulent times of great political and social instability, in which the various feudal states that comprised the decaying Zhou dynasty were vying with each other for supremacy and the aristocracies within each state were fighting with the hereditary ruling families to gain more influence and power. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on governance
When he heard that the head of the Ji Family used eight rows of dancers to perform in the ceremonies at his ancestral temple, Confucius commented: “If he is capable of that, what isn’t he capable of?” (1)
The higher you rise in your career, the easier it is to let your growing influence, power, and status go to your head and decide that the normal rules and conventions no longer apply to you. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: eight rows of dancers
Ji Kangzi asked: “What should I do to make the people respectful, loyal, and diligent? Confucius said: “Treat them with dignity, and they will be respectful. Be filial to your parents and kind to the young, and they will be loyal. Promote those who are capable and teach those who are not, and they will be diligent.” (1)
Position power will only get you so far. No matter how grand your title is, people will only show you respect if you treat them in the same way. They will only show you loyalty if you act in the same manner. They will only work hard if you reward high performance and provide opportunities for everyone to achieve the same level. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: position power