The Master said: “A leader who has no gravity lacks dignity and a solid foundation for learning. Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”
Seriousness of purpose is critical in a leader. Without having a strong commitment to achieve your goal, how will you be able to put in the hard work necessary to accomplish it and to inspire other people to support you?
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: seriousness of purpose
Zengzi said: “I examine myself three times every day. Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf? Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends? Have I practiced what I have been taught?”(1)
Introspection or self-reflection is critical for a leader. It can be all too easy to lose touch with reality when you’re in your cocoon surrounded by people whose careers and livelihoods depend on making sure you’re satisfied. Very few people have the courage to call you out if they think you’re making the wrong decision or going beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: self-reflection
While trustworthiness (信/xìn) is mentioned only once in Book 2 of the Analects, it does at least merit one of Confucius’s most famous metaphors in which he likens it to the yoke-bar of a wagon and the collar-bar of a chariot. Continue reading Analects Book 2: on trustworthiness
Rightness (義/yì) means having the moral disposition to instinctively or spontaneously do the right thing or act in the right way in any given situation. Alternative translations include “righteousness”, “propriety”, “morality”, “appropriateness”, and “what is right”. Continue reading Analects Book 1: on rightness
Trustworthiness (信/xìn) is another of the secondary virtues promoted by Confucius, and means being true to your word and being a dependable support for others. In some contexts it can also be translated as “faithfulness”, “sincerity”, or “truthfulness”, “honesty”. Continue reading Analects Book 1: on trustworthiness
Loyalty (忠/zhōng) is one of what some commentators classify as the secondary virtues and is often mentioned together with trustworthiness (信/xìn). The first instance of this pairing can be found in Chapter VIII of Book 1 in which Confucius advised that a leader (君子) should, “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles.” Continue reading Analects Book 1: on loyalty
Book 20 of the Analects is a strange mutant beast, consisting of just three totally unrelated chapters. It’s almost as if its editor hacked it together after a few drinks and then decided to head back to his local for a few more cups of wine when he got bored with it. Continue reading Loosely connected threads
Zixia said: “A petty person always tries to gloss over his mistakes.”
Zixia said: “A leader has three different aspects: from a distance, he looks stern; close up, he looks warm; when you hear his voice, he sounds serious.
Zixia said: “A leader only mobilizes the people for labor after earning their trust. If he hasn’t earned his trust, the people will feel they are being exploited. He only offers criticism to his lord after earning his trust. If he hasn’t earned his trust, the lord will feel he is being slandered.”
Zixia is certainly on a roll, though he is merely recycling points already made by Confucius rather than adding any fresh new insights to them or developing them any further. Continue reading Recycling
Confucius said: “Zilu, have you heard of the six virtues and their six attendant vices?” “No, I haven’t.” “Sit down, and I will tell you. Loving goodness without loving learning leads to ignorance. Loving knowledge without loving learning leads to foolishness. Loving trustworthiness without loving learning leads to criminality. Loving frankness without loving learning leads to offensiveness. Loving valor without loving learning leads to chaos. Loving steadfastness without loving learning leads to recklessness.”
I wish I could find a better way of rendering the first sentence (言/yán literally means “words”) but the point that Confucius makes to Zilu is clear: even the most positive personal qualities need to be carefully cultivated in order make sure they don’t turn into negatives. Continue reading A fine line
Zizhang asked Confucius about goodness. Confucius said: “Whoever is capable of putting five qualities into practice throughout the world is good.” “And what are those?” “Respectfulness, tolerance, trustworthiness, enthusiasm, and generosity. If you are respectful, you will not be insulted by others; if you are tolerant, you will win people’s hearts; if you are trustworthy, people will entrust you with responsibility; if you are enthusiastic, you will be successful; if you are generous, you will be capable of managing other people.”
The practical reasons for cultivating “goodness” are at least as strong as the altruistic ones. To use the common English idiom that may or not have been coined by Benjamin Franklin, it’s about doing well by doing good. Continue reading Doing well by doing good