Tag Archives: Zixia

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: it’s the attitude that counts

Beijing Confucius Temple: it's the attitude that counts

子夏問孝。子曰:「色難。有事,弟子服其勞;有酒食,先生饌,曾是以為孝乎?」
When Zixia asked about filial devotion, Confucius said: “It’s the attitude that counts. If young people just offer their help when there’s a job to do or serve their elders wine and food when they need to drink and eat, how could this ever be considered as filial devotion?”

Even in the most seemingly mundane situations, there’s always an opportunity to make a difference if you are mindful of what is happening around you and are willing to go that extra centimeter. As Confucius points out, it’s the attitude that counts! Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: it’s the attitude that counts

Leadership lessons from Confucius: quiet determination

quiet determination

子夏曰:「賢賢易色,事父母能竭其力,事君能致其身,與朋友交言而有信,雖曰未學,吾必謂之學矣。」
Zixia said: “A man who values character over beauty, who devotes himself to serving his parents, who dedicates his life to his ruler, and who is true to his word with his friends: I’ll insist he’s learned even if others think otherwise.” (1)

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

Lifelong learning

子夏曰:「仕而優則學,學而優則仕。」
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

The pursuit of major virtues

子夏曰:「大德不踰閑,小德出入可也。」
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

Recycling

子夏曰:「小人之過也必文。」
Zixia said: “A petty person always tries to gloss over his mistakes.”

子夏曰:「君子有三變:望之儼然,即之也溫,聽其言也厲。」
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.

子夏曰:「君子信而後勞其民,未信則以為厲己也。信而後諫,未信則以為謗己也。」
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

Stay on the highway

子夏曰:「雖小道,必有可觀者焉;致遠恐泥,是以君子不為也。」
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.”

子夏曰:「日知其所亡,月無忘其所能,可謂好學也已矣!」
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!”

子夏曰:「博學而篤志,切問而近思,仁在其中矣。」
Zixia said: “Expand your learning and stick firmly to your purpose; question everything and reflect deeply: this is how you find goodness.”

子夏曰:「百工居肆,以成其事,君子學以致其道。」
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

Tolerance and compassion

子夏之門人,問「交」於子張。子張曰:「子夏云何?」對曰:「子夏曰:『可者與之,其不可者拒之。』」子張曰:「異乎吾所聞:『君子尊賢而容眾,嘉善而矜不能。』我之大賢與,於人何所不容。我之不賢與,人將拒我,如之何拒人也!」
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

Let battle commence!

子張曰:「士見危致命,見得思義,祭思敬,喪思哀,其可已矣。」
Zizhang said: “A scholar-official who is ready to give his life when faced with danger; who does the right thing when presented with an opportunity of profit; who shows due reverence when carrying out a sacrifice, and who truly grieves when in mourning. Such a man is acceptable.”

Confucius doesn’t appear in Book 19 of the Analects at all. He is already dead, and his disciples have started battling it out for control of his legacy by putting their own spin on his teachings. Continue reading Let battle commence!

Sound advice

子夏為莒父宰問政。子曰:「無欲速,無見小利。欲速則不達,見小利則大事不成。」
When Zixia was governor of Jufu he asked about governance. Confucius said: “Do not try to rush things. Ignore matters of minor advantage. If you try to rush things, you will not achieve success. If you pursue matters of minor advantage, you will not succeed in major affairs.”

According to many commentators, Zixia moved far too aggressively to reform the walled city of Jufu in state of Lu when he took over as its governor. Hence, Confucius warns him to move more cautiously and not “rush things.” Continue reading Sound advice

All men are brothers

司馬牛憂曰:「人皆有兄弟,我獨亡!」子夏曰:「商聞之矣:『死生有命,富貴在天』。君子敬而無失,與人恭而有禮;四海之內,皆兄弟也。君子何患乎無兄弟也?」
Sima Niu was full of sorrow: “All men have brothers; I alone have none.” Zixia said: “I have heard this: life and death are ordained by Fate; wealth and honors are assigned by Heaven. A leader always shows respect and courtesy to others. Within the four seas all men are brothers. How could a leader complain that he has no brothers?

As I mentioned in a previous entry, it’s possible that Sima Niu had a brother called Huan Tui (桓魋), who tried to have Confucius murdered in Book 7, Chapter XXII of the Analects. If this was indeed the case, the real meaning of Sima Niu’s comment is that he doesn’t have a brother who acts like a brother should and he has therefore disassociated himself from him. Continue reading All men are brothers