Tag Archives: Ran Yong

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the spirits of the hills and rivers

spirits of the hills and rivers

子謂仲弓,曰:「犁牛之子騂且角,雖欲勿用,山川其舍諸?」
Confucius said of Ran Yong: “Some might hesitate to choose the offspring of a plow ox for a sacrifice, but if a bullock has fine horns and sports a ruddy coat would the spirits of the hills and rivers reject it?”

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Open it up and learn more about what it has to say. The same principle applies to identifying talent. Just because someone didn’t go to a well-known university or doesn’t speak in a polished accent, that doesn’t mean that they lack the ability and drive to be successful. Indeed, the reverse is often the case, because such people are often more eager to prove themselves than ones who followed the conventional educational path. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the spirits of the hills and rivers

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zisang Bozi

There is a lot of speculation surrounding the identity of Zisang Bozi (桑伯子). One popular theory is that he was a former minister of the state of Lu who gave up the good life to become a recluse or itinerant Daoist sage in protest against the corruption he saw while in government.

Confucius is said to have met Zisang Bozi by chance while walking around the countryside and appears to have been quite taken by his easygoing ways. This would fit with the overriding message of Chapter 2 of Book 6, the only passage in which Zisang is mentioned in the Analects, though of course it doesn’t mean that this theory is correct. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zisang Bozi

Leadership lessons from Confucius: easygoing ways

easygoing ways

仲弓問子桑伯子。子曰:「可也簡。」仲弓曰:「居敬而行簡,以臨其民,不亦可乎?居簡而行簡,無乃大簡乎?」子曰:「雍之言然。」
Ran Yong asked about Zisang Bozi. Confucius said: “He’s fine with his easygoing ways.” Ran Yong said: “Taking your duties seriously while being easygoing towards the people might be OK. But being easygoing towards yourself and the people is going too far. Am I right?” Confucius said: “You are right.” (1)

You can be as easygoing as you like in how you lead your team, but they will soon lose their respect for you if you have no underlying seriousness of purpose. People don’t come to work for fun (though it helps if they enjoy their job); they are there to achieve something meaningful. If you are unable to chart a clear direction for them to go in, they will find someone who can. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: easygoing ways

Leadership lessons from Confucius: what use is eloquence?

what use is eloquence?

或曰:「雍也仁而不佞。」子曰:「焉用佞?御人以口給,屢憎於人。不知其仁,焉用佞?」
Someone said: “Ran Yong is good but not eloquent.” Confucius said: “What use is eloquence? A smooth tongue creates many enemies. I don’t know whether Ran Yong is good; but he definitely has no need for eloquence.” (1)

The ability to speak clearly and persuasively is vital for getting on in the world no matter what profession you are in. People who speak confidently are far more likely to be regarded more favorably than their shy or tongue-twisted counterparts even though they probably know a lot less about what they are talking about than the ones who sit quietly besides them. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: what use is eloquence?

Selecting and nurturing talent

仲弓為季氏宰,問「政」。子曰:「先有司,赦小過,舉賢才。」曰:「焉知賢才而舉之?」曰:「舉爾所知,爾所不知,人其舍諸!」
When Ran Yong was serving as a steward of the Ji Family, he asked about governance. Confucius said: “First appoint your senior officials. Forgive small mistakes. Promote people of talent.” Ran Yong asked: “How do I recognize that someone has talent and deserves to be promoted?” Confucius said: “Promote those you know. Those you don’t know will not be passed over.”

In the same way that he felt a leader should not be a mere “vessel” or technician, Confucius also thought that the leader’s role was not to micromanage the work of his subordinates but to make sure that they discharged their duties in the correct manner. Continue reading Selecting and nurturing talent

The Golden Rule reprised

仲弓問仁。子曰:「出門如見大賓,使民如承大祭。己所不欲,勿施於人。在邦無怨,在家無怨。」仲弓曰:「雍雖不敏,請事斯語。」
Ran Yong asked about goodness. Confucius said: “When you are away from home, act towards everyone as if you are meeting an important guest. Manage people as if you are conducting a great sacrifice. Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself. Allow no resentment to enter your public affairs; allow no resentment to enter your family affairs.” Ran Yong said: “I may not be particularly bright, but with your blessing I will strive to follow your guidance.”

The essence of goodness can be summed up in this variation of the famous “Golden Rule” of reciprocity first mentioned by Zigong in Chapter XII of Book 5 of the Analects. “Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself” (己所不欲,勿施於人) is as good a maxim as any to live by – though not always easy to follow. Continue reading The Golden Rule reprised

A careful balance

LFG02

仲弓問子桑伯子。子曰:「可也簡。」仲弓曰:「居敬而行簡,以臨其民,不亦可乎?居簡而行簡,無乃大簡乎?」子曰:「雍之言然。」
Ran Yong asked about Zisang Bozi. Confucius said: “He has a simple approach. That makes him acceptable.” Ran Yong said: “Taking a sophisticated approach to your duties while implementing simple measures: is this not the right spirit in which to govern the people? But taking a simple approach to your duties while implementing simple measures: isn’t this going too far?” Confucius said: “That is correct.”

Robustness is a prized yet rare quality among politicians. That is why Confucius says that Zisang Bozi is “acceptable” for high office. Continue reading A careful balance