“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
In Book 2 of the Analects, Confucius continues his exploration of the qualities required by a leader (君子/jūnzǐ). Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on leadership qualities
The Analects of Confucius Book 2 begins by exploring the idea that political stability is best achieved by virtuous leadership rather than by means of force or a raft of government laws and regulations. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: overview
Confucius said: “Watch what they do, observe how they do it, and examine what makes them feel content. How then can they conceal their true self? How then can they conceal their true self?”
Take a close look at the people you work with. Their actions and demeanor speak much louder than the words they speak. Are they approaching their jobs with genuine enthusiasm and passion or are they simply going through the motions? Are they trying to impress you so that they can get ahead or are they truly focused on the task at hand? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: look, listen, and learn
Confucius said: “I can talk to Yan Hui all day without him ever arguing with me, as if he is slow. But when I observe how he behaves in private after he’s retired from my presence, I can see that he’s learned everything I’ve taught him. Indeed, Hui isn’t slow at all.” (1)
When was the last time you really listened to someone speak without sneaking a surreptitious glance at your smart phone or even just around the room? Think carefully before you give an answer. By “really listened” I mean that you gave them your full and undivided attention – not just taking in every word they said but also observing the expressions that appeared on their faces and the movements their bodies made? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: deep listening
Confucius said: “At fifteen, I applied myself to learning. At thirty, I stood on my own two feet. At forty, I had no more doubts. At fifty, I understood how the world works. At sixty my ear was attuned. At seventy, I followed all my heart’s desires without overstepping the line.” (1) (2) (3)
Do you have a personal development path? How do you see yourself growing over the next few decades? Will you be able to achieve the same level of contentment that Confucius claims to have reached in this famous snapshot that he composed of his life? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: personal development path
One very good reason to study the Analects of Confucius and the Daodejing is that, for all the archaic and in the latter case mystic language they feature, these two ancient works focus on providing practical solutions to real-world problems.
Unlike many of the works in the Western philosophical cannon, neither text features an agonized search for a universal “truth” or any promises of eternal salvation for ascribing to the “right” set of values or behaving in the “correct” manner. Instead, they are concerned with dealing with the challenges of the here and now, exploring how you can improve your character to make a greater contribution to the stability and prosperity of your family, community, and society overall. Continue reading Situational leadership in the Analects and the Daodejing
Confucius said: “A leader eats without filling his stomach; chooses a home without demanding comfort; is diligent in his work and cautious in his speech; and keeps the company of others who possess the way to make sure that he stays on the right path. This is what it means to truly love learning.” (1)
Leadership requires focusing your energy on cultivating the self rather than pursuing the material trappings of success. This means working hard, being careful about what you say, and spending your time with people who can help you improve through the example they set and the knowledge they share with you. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: love learning
Confucius 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.
Ziqin asked Zigong: “When the Master arrives in another state and needs to find out about the affairs of its government, does he have to ask for this information or do people give him it of their own accord?” Zigong replied: “The Master obtains it by being warm, kind, courteous, unassuming, and deferential. He has a very different way of seeking out information than other people, hasn’t he?” (1)
Treating people respectfully is a much more effective way of finding out what is happening than questioning them aggressively. The more interest you show in listening to what somebody has to say, the more likely they are to reveal what is really going on. Warmth, kindness, and courtesy go a long way.