When Yan Hui died, his fellow followers wanted to give him a grand burial. Confucius said: “This isn’t right.” When the followers gave him a grand burial, Confucius said: “Yan Hui treated me like a father, but I was not given the chance to treat him like a son. This is not my fault, but yours, my friends.” (1)
If your team ever decides to disregard your advice or instructions, accept their decision with grace. Not everything’s about you. If there’s any blame to be apportioned, it should probably be placed on you for putting them into a position where they are given no choice but to ignore you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: not everything’s about you
When Yan Hui died, Confucius cried: “Alas! Heaven’s the ruin of me! Heaven’s the ruin of me!” (1)
How far should you go in masking your true emotions when disaster hits? Should you strive to remain calm and in control or is it OK to show your shock and grief with those around you? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: letting your emotions show
顏淵死，顏路請子之車以為之 。子曰：「才不才，亦各言其子也。鯉也死，有棺而無 ；吾不徒行，以為之 ，以吾從大夫之後，不可徒行也。」
When Yan Hui died, his father Yan Lu asked Confucius if he could sell his carriage so that he could pay for an outer coffin for his son. Confucius said: “Talented or not, a son is a son. When my son Li died, he was buried in an inner coffin but there was no outer coffin. I wouldn’t go on foot in order to give him one because it wasn’t proper for me as a former minister to go on foot.” (1) (2) (3)
If you fail to follow the rules and conventions of your organization, how can you expect others to observe them? If you allow yourself some wriggling room by treating a sensitive or contentious case as an exception, why can’t everyone else do the same? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a special case?
Yan Lu (顏路) was one of the earliest followers of Confucius and the father of the sage’s favorite follower and protégé Yan Hui (顏回).
Otherwise known as Yan Wuyou (顏無繇), he was born in the state of Lu six years after Confucius in 545 BCE and led a humble existence. He was so poor that when Yan Hui died he had to ask Confucius to sell his carriage to buy an exterior coffin for his son’s burial. Confucius had to refuse the request because Yan Hui achieved sufficient status to merit such an honor. In addition, as a former minister it would have been a serious breach of ritual propriety for Confucius to participate in a funeral procession on foot. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Yan Lu
Confucius said: “Yan Hui is no help to me at all: he delights in everything I say.” (1)
Teaching is an interactive process. How do you know if your students are truly imbibing the great wisdom you are imparting to them if they just sit quietly in front of you without asking any questions? You may think that this shows they’re taking in everything you have to say, but it’s much more likely that they are either so bored that they don’t think it’s worth interrupting you with a question or so overwhelmed that they don’t want to appear dumber than everyone else by asking for clarification of a point that they don’t understand. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an interactive process
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 9 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on how to observe ritual and his hopes for the younger generation.
Confucius disapproved of profit, but he approved of fate and goodness. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 9: new English translation
Confucius said of Yan Hui: “What a tragedy! I watched him make progress; I never saw him stop improving.” (1) (2)
How to react when someone you’ve mentored closely decides to move on? This can be a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve invested a lot of time and resources in helping someone develop their skills only to see them bestow the benefits of their knowledge and experience on another organization. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a bitter pill to swallow
Confucius said: “If anyone could listen to me without growing weary, who else could it be than Yan Hui?” (1)
It takes more than a stunning PowerPoint deck and a compelling story to maintain people’s attention when they are just a tap on their smartphone screen away from the temptations of social media and email. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: presentation tips
Yan Hui said with a heavy sigh: “The more I contemplate it, the higher it seems; the deeper I probe it, the harder it becomes; when I catch a glimpse of it in front of me, it’s suddenly behind me. Our master knows how to guide people skillfully and methodically. He broadens my mind with culture and restrains me with ritual. Even if I wanted to stop, I could not. Just as all my talents are exhausted, there seems to be something new towering above me. But although I long to follow it, I can’t find a way to it.”
The greatest idea in the world is worth nothing if it isn’t channeled in the right direction through discipline. That brilliant novel you have mapped out in your mind will never see the light of the day if you lack the willpower to pound away at your keyboard day after day. And that bright fiery potential that burned in your eyes when you were in your twenties will be extinguished by the time you reach middle age if you don’t temper and tend it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: temper and tend
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 8 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on the qualities of the ancient sage kings who laid the foundations of Chinese civilization.
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation