Leadership Lessons from Confucius: drama and confusion

Zizhang asked about the phrase “accumulate virtue, resolve confusion”. Confucius said: “Place loyalty and trustworthiness above everything and follow the path of rightness to accumulate virtue. When you love someone, you want them to live; when you hate someone, you want them to die. But if you want someone to live and to die at the same time, that’s confusion.”

It may not be just because she is wealthy,

It may also be out of a need for variety.

Pivoting is a sign of weakness not of strength. Once you’ve set your course, focus on building up the capabilities and cohesiveness of your team in order to accomplish your mission. Of course, you’re always going to experience doubts about whether you’re taking the right path; but the more you allow yourself to be enticed by bright shiny objects along it, the greater the unnecessary drama and confusion you’ll create.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 10 of Book 12 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 12 here.

(1) There is a lot of commentarial debate over whether the last two lines should be included in the chapter. They come from Poem 188 of the Book of Songs, which features the lament of a young woman who had been forced to travel a long way to marry a man — only to be rejected by him in favor of a different bride. The most likely explanation is that Confucius is rather obliquely criticizing people who create rather than resolve confusion because they are constantly changing their mind for no clear reason.

(2) This is more than likely another example of Zizhang’s habit of trying to get a rise out of Confucius by asking a tricky question. As usual, Confucius refuses to rise to the bait.

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Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.