The Analects of Confucius Book 13 has a limited supporting cast of just four of the sage’s contemporaries. But what it lacks in terms of numbers, it more than makes up for in terms of the status of its members, who include two rulers of Wei and Lu, one prince, and a lord with his personal fiefdom.
Duke Chu of Wei had the unique distinction of ruling the state while his father was still alive and being deposed by him in a bloody palace coup. With his opening question in 13.3, Zilu is implying that if Confucius chooses to recognize the duke as the legitimate ruler of Wei, he has a great chance of being appointed his chief minister. To Zilu’s incredulity, Confucius refuses to play ball no matter how great the prize may be. Although he does not state it directly, the sage regards Duke Chu as illegitimate because his father is still living and believes that he is planting the seeds for even greater chaos in Wei by basing his rule on a falsehood: “When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 13: supporting cast
More by accident than design, I’ve completed my translations and commentaries for all the chapters in Book 13 of the Analects on my birthday. Not that I’m in any particular mood to celebrate given the darkening cloud that is shrouding the times that we live in.
While Confucius chose to never speak of pestilence and other natural disasters, he would certainly have had plenty to say about the fecklessness of the global ruling elite. He wouldn’t hold back his criticism of the tsunami of fake news and disinformation that is sweeping the planet either. Continue reading Notes from the field: Confucius and the rectification of the names
Zilu asked: “If the ruler of Wei were to entrust you with the government of his state, what would be your first priority?” Confucius said: “It most definitely would be to rectify the names.” Zilu said: “Really? Isn’t that a little strange? How would that make things right?” Confucius said: “How dense can you get! When a leader doesn’t understand what they’re talking about, they should remain silent. When the names aren’t correct, language doesn’t accord with the truth of things. When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully. When nothing can be carried out successfully, ritual and music won’t flourish. When ritual and music don’t flourish, punishments and penalties miss their mark. When punishments and penalties miss their mark, the people don’t know where to place their hands and feet. Therefore, a leader must be able to give the appropriate name to whatever they want to talk about and must also make sure they do exactly as they say. When it comes to speaking, a leader doesn’t allow any carelessness.”
Say what you mean. Mean what you say. The further you deviate from the truth, the greater the problems you’ll cause – not just for you but everyone around you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: say what you mean
Duke Jing of Qi asked Confucius about governance. Confucius replied: “Let lords be lords; ministers be ministers; fathers be fathers; and sons be sons.” The duke said: “Excellent! If lords are not lords, ministers are not ministers, fathers are not fathers, and sons are not sons, would I be able to eat even if I had food?”
It’s not enough simply to know your role. You also have to live up to the professional and ethical responsibilities that it encompasses. As a CEO, for example, your role involves much more than hitting the right financial numbers; building up a strong corporate culture that promotes honesty and openness is equally, if not more, important. That means, of course, becoming a powerful role model who sets the right example for everyone to follow through your words and actions. While you may not realize it at first, failure to do that will send your organization sliding down a slippery slope that will be difficult to escape from. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: know your role
Confucius said: “A cornered chalice without any corners. How can that be called a cornered chalice? How can that be called a cornered chalice?” (1)
Say what you mean. Mean what you say. If you’re running a political polling company dedicate your efforts on finding out what people are really thinking rather than attempting to dictate what they should think by massaging the results to support a pre-determined narrative. Quite apart from the moral issues at stake, why sacrifice your long-term credibility for short-term fame? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: say what you mean