Confucius made regular use of the device of comparing the lofty values of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) with the base instincts of a petty person (小人/xiǎorén). In Chapter 11 of Book 4, for example, he comments that while the former “pursues virtue” the latter only cares about the accumulation of material possessions. Leaders thus focus on improving themselves in order to better contribute to the common good of society, while a petty or small-minded people are only concerned with extracting as many material benefits as possible from it. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: virtue never stands alone
Confucius said: “Ran Yong could take a seat facing south.” (1)
How would you describe your leadership style? Would you say it is hands-off because you empower your staff to carry out their jobs with a minimum of interference? Or would you say it is hands-on because you insist on carefully reviewing your staff’s work and making sure they follow strict procedures. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a seat facing south
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
Virtue (德/dé) is very close to goodness (仁/rén) at the apex of Confucius’s hierarchy of values. Generally, though not always, it refers to the highest state that a ruler can aim for.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on virtue
Zengzi said: “When the dead are shown proper reverence and the memory of distant ancestors is kept alive, the people’s virtue is at its highest.” (1) (2)
It can be very easy to take the culture of your organization for granted. But showing respect for its history and the people who established and built it is vital for forming a common bond among everyone who joins it.
The greatest virtue is achieved by following the Dao and the Dao alone.
As a thing, the Dao is,
Elusive and intangible;
Intangible and elusive!
Yet within it is an image;
Elusive and intangible!
Yet within it is a substance;
Dim and dark!
Yet within it is an essence;
The essence is real;
And within it is something that can be trusted;
From ancient times until now,
Its name has never disappeared.
Through it, I can see the beginning of all things.
How do I know how all things began?
Because it is here within me.
Continue reading Daodejing Chapter 21: the greatest virtue
Zixia said: “As long as you don’t overstep the bounds when it comes to major virtues, it doesn’t matter if you take the occasional liberty with minor ones.”
Just as Zixia urged his students to focus on reaching their most important goals rather than wasting their time on minor diversions in Chapter IV of Book 19, he was willing to overlook minor missteps from them if they showed they were fully committed to the pursuit of the major virtues. Continue reading The pursuit of major virtues
Zizhang said: “If a man fails to embrace virtue with all his spirit and fails to follow the Way with all his heart, does it really matter whether he exists or not?”
The only way for people to make an impact on the world is to live life to the full. You can’t be half-pregnant: if you’re not going to fully commit yourself to something, you won’t achieve any meaningful results.
Zilu said: “Does a leader prize courage?” Confucius said: “A leader prizes rightness above all else. A leader who is courageous but lacking in rightness could create chaos; a petty person who is courageous but lacking in rightness could become a bandit.”
Your greatest strength often turns out to be your greatest weakness. Internal checks and balances are required. Continue reading Checks and balances
Confucius said: “To peddle gossip is to throw virtue away.”
Confucius is perhaps being a tad extreme in his judgment. Then again, is there such a thing as harmless gossip?