Zixia said: “If a man values character over beauty (1), devotes himself to serving his parents, dedicates his life to his ruler, and is true to his word with his friends, I’ll insist he’s learned even if others think otherwise.”
Actions speak louder than words. As a leader you should focus on people who go about their daily work with quiet determination rather than those who attempt to grab your attention by saying all the right words and pushing themselves to the center stage by grabbing all the highest-profile assignments.
Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: quiet determination
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
Filial piety (孝/xiào) is one of the best known of the values taught by Confucius, probably because it was so heavily promoted by a succession of imperial dynasties starting with the Han who drew a direct link between obedience to parents and obedience to the ruler. Continue reading Analects Book 1: on filial piety
Book 1 is one of the shortest books in The Analects with just sixteen chapters. In addition to Confucius, it introduces five of his disciples including two of his most faithful companions, Zigong and Zixia.
Continue reading Analects Book 1: By Numbers
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 them 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: on learning
Zixia said: “When an official has time to spare from his duties, he should study. When a student has time to spare from his studies, he should undertake official duties.”
The meaning of this passage isn’t entirely clear. The key message appears to be that learning and officialdom are inextricably linked. To be a truly excellent official, you need to continue learning. To be a truly excellent student, you need to serve as an official in order to practice the principles you have learned. Continue reading Lifelong learning
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
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
Zixia said: “Although there’s a lot to see when you stroll along the byways, you risk getting get stuck in the mud if you have to travel far. That is why a leader should avoid them.”
Zixia said: “If you recognize day by day what you still need to learn and don’t forget month by month what you have already learned, you truly love learning!”
Zixia said: “Expand your learning and stick firmly to your purpose; question everything and reflect deeply: this is how you find goodness.”
Zixia said: “Artisans of all types live in their workshops to master their trade. A leader learns to master the Way.”
In contrast with the extroverted Zizhang, Zixia was one of the more conventional, some might say pedantic, disciples of Confucius. He had no time for fripperies and was relentlessly focused on the application of the teachings of his master by both himself and the students who joined his school. Continue reading Stay on the highway
The disciples of Zixia asked Zizhang about social relations. Zizhang said: “What did Zixia tell you?” They replied: “Zixia said: ‘Associate with the right sort of people; avoid the wrong sort of people.” Zizhang said: “I heard something different: ‘A leader respects the wise and is tolerant of the ordinary; he praises the good and shows compassion to the incapable.’ If I am superior, whom should I not be tolerant of? If I am inferior, then others will avoid me; why would I need to avoid them?”
Zizhang certainly gets the better of Zixia in this exchange with his calls for tolerance and compassion towards other people. His open-minded approach easily wins out over his fellow disciple’s closed-minded injunction to only associate with the “right sort of people” (presumably those who share your own social values and class). Continue reading Tolerance and compassion