Ji Kangzi was troubled by bandits in the state of Lu and asked Confucius how to sort out the problem. Confucius replied: “If you could get rid of your own avaricious desires, they wouldn’t steal even if you paid them to.”
People don’t listen to what you say. They look at what you do. No matter how fancy the words and rituals are that you use to wrap your desire for wealth and power in, they will quickly see through them and take their cues from your actions. If you show that greed and theft are acceptable behavior, you can hardly blame others for doing the same. Moral cultivation starts with improving the self – not complaining about what others are doing. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: troubled by bandits
Ji Kangzi asked Confucius about governance. Confucius replied: “To govern effectively is to do the right thing. If you do the right thing who would dare not to do it?”
The rot starts at the top. If you fail to do the right thing, how can you expect others to? If you proclaim a commitment to diversity and then give your best buddy a major promotion because he is “uniquely qualified” for the position, how can you expect everyone else to follow the new policy? Even if people don’t complain openly about your hypocrisy, they’ll find equally creative ways to pretend that they’re doing the right thing as you do. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: do the right thing
Confucius said: “A leader brings out the good in people – not the bad. A petty person does exactly the opposite.”
You have no greater responsibility as a leader than bringing out the good in people around you. That means spending the time to work with them to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and taking the necessary steps to develop and address them through mentoring, training, and assigning the right projects that will enable them to learn from experience. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: bringing out the good in people
Zizhang asked about governance. Confucius said: “Execute the responsibilities of your office tirelessly. Carry out your duties faithfully.”
Even if you’re unhappy about the assignment you’ve been given, carry it out to the best of your ability. The more successful you are in executing it, the greater the levels of trust and respect you’ll gain from your colleagues and bosses. Once you have demonstrated your ability to deliver on your commitments, people will come to you with ever more interesting projects and opportunities that will expand the scope of your responsibilities and influence. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: to the best of your ability
Ji Zicheng said: “Native substance determines whether or not you’re a leader. What use is cultural refinement?” Zigong said: “What a pity you’ve chosen to describe a leader in this way. ‘A team of horses cannot catch up with a tongue.’ Cultural refinement is native substance; native substance is cultural refinement. Without their hair, the pelts of tigers and leopards are just the same as those of a dog or a sheep.”
It takes much more than raw talent to become a leader. Native smarts and a raging fire in your belly can only get you so far. The larger and more complex your startup grows, the more you’ll need to develop your knowledge and skills to meet ever greater and more diverse challenges. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: native substance versus cultural refinement
Zigong asked about governance. Confucius said: “Enough food, enough weapons, and the trust of the people.” Zigong said: “If you had to go without one of these three, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Weapons.” Zigong asked: “If you had to go without one of the remaining two, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Food. From ancient times, death has been the fate of everyone. But without the trust of the people, the government cannot stand.”
It doesn’t matter how great the pay and office facilities are: people aren’t going to give their best if they don’t have any trust in you as a leader. There’s no reason why they should fully commit themselves to you if you don’t wholeheartedly commit yourself to them.
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the trust of the people
Zizhang asked about vision. Confucius said: “If you’re soaked with slander and wounded by insults but still do not falter, you may be said to have vision. Indeed, you may also be said to be farsighted.”
Ignore all the doubters and critics with their petty insults and slanders. You only get one shot at life. Stick to your vision of what you want to accomplish with it. No point in wasting precious time and energy worrying about what others have to say.
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: stick to your vision
Sima Niu asked: “What makes a leader?” Confucius said: “A leader has no anxiety or fear.” Sima Niu said: “No anxiety or fear? That’s what makes a leader?” Confucius said: “When he looks inside himself and finds nothing wrong, what does he have to be anxious about or fear?”
It’s natural to suffer from stage fright when you’re about to embark on a major project. Of course your mind’s going to be filled with doubts about whether you have the ability to execute it, but as long as you know you’re doing the right thing ignore the butterflies in your stomach and move ahead with it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: ignore your stage fright
Zigong said: “If you had a precious piece of jade, would you hide it in a box for safekeeping or would you try and sell it for a good price?” Confucius said: “I would sell it! I would sell it! All I’m waiting for is the right price.” (1)
Pricing is one of the trickiest tasks in business. Set it too high and you risk putting off potential customers. Set it too low and you risk leaving money on the table – not to mention attracting customers who don’t appreciate the full value of the product or service you are offering. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: waiting for the right price
“A leader does not engage in competition.” This is the advice that Confucius gives in Chapter 7 of Book 3 of the Analects.
“But if you can’t avoid it, you should practice archery,” Confucius continues. This is because he saw archery as more of a ritual discipline than a mere contest. Hitting the center of the target requires a calm and concentrated inner state rather than physical power and strength. Trying to compete with other participants will only serve to detract from this focus, and more likely than not cause you to try too hard and lose your accuracy. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 3: Confucius on archery and leadership