子張學干祿。子曰：「多聞闕疑，慎言其餘，則寡尤。多見闕殆，慎行其餘，則寡悔。言寡尤，行寡悔，祿在其中矣。」 Zizhang was studying with the aim of securing an official position. Confucius said: “Listen for as much information as possible, ignore anything that is suspect, and be cautious when talking about the rest; that way you will only rarely say anything out of place. Observe as much as possible, ignore anything that is dangerous, and carefully apply the rest to your actions; that way you will rarely have reason for regret. By speaking cautiously to avoid mistakes and acting carefully to avoid regrets, your career is set.”
How to mentor raw talent? Do you directly criticize their weaknesses, or do you indirectly encourage them to improve certain aspects of their behavior? Confucius takes the latter approach with his bright but brash young follower Zizhang (1). Rather than taking a stick to him for his rashness and arrogance, Confucius dangles a carrot in front of him by counseling him to adopt a more low-key approach if he wants to get secure a government job. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: on mentoring→
Although this may come as a surprise to people who have experienced or even just heard about the rigors of China’s so-called “Confucian” education system, Confucius himself believed that learning should involve much more than simply imbibing and regurgitating the ancient classics. Rather, it should be focused on the practical application of the timeless principles found in the texts to your daily life so that you can make a positive contribution to your family, your community, and ultimately the whole society you live in. Continue reading Analects Book 1: Confucius on learning→
曾子曰：「慎終追遠，民德歸厚矣。」 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.
曾子曰：「吾日三省吾身，為人謀而不忠乎？與朋友交而不信乎？傳不習乎？」 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 a cocoon surrounded by people whose careers and livelihoods depend on making sure that you’re kept 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.
有子曰：「其為人也孝弟，而好犯上者，鮮矣；不好犯上，而好作亂者，未之有也。君子務本，本立而道生。孝弟也者，其為仁之本與！」 Youzi said: “A man who practices filial and fraternal devotion is unlikely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the root; once this takes hold the way appears. Filial and fraternal devotion is the root of goodness.”
Confucius was a master of talent development, training thousands of students and followers (1) who went on to take official positions and run businesses in the patchwork quilt of states that comprised China during his lifetime. (2)
There is a lot controversy over the exact identity of Tantai Mieming (澹臺滅明). According to the Records of the Historian (not always the most reliable of sources), he was so ugly that the first time Confucius met him, he mistook him for being stupid. It was only later that the sage realized his error and grew to appreciate him for his exemplary moral conduct. Continue reading Disciples of Confucius: Tantai Mieming→