Leadership Lessons from Confucius: stick to the point
Confucius said: “As long as the words you use are sufficient to communicate your meaning, that is enough.”
Stick the point when speaking or writing. No one has time to admire your flowery phases or brilliant rhetorical flourishes. The last thing they want to hear about while waiting for their morning mocha is how your company is dedicated to saving the world one coffee bean at a time.
This article features a translation of Chapter 41 of Book 15 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 15 here.
(1) This is one of many passages in the Analects in which Confucius cautions against glibness, flattery, and fakery. His contempt for people with silvery tongues is succinctly expressed in 1.3 and repeated in 17.17: “Smooth talk and an affected manner are seldom signs of goodness.” Other examples can be found in 5.5, 12.3, and 16.4.
(2) In a famous passage in 13.3, Confucius makes a passionate plea for fidelity in language when he tells Zilu that if he were to take over the government of the state of Wei his first priority would be to “rectify the names.” This is because, he goes on to explain to his startled follower: “When a leader doesn’t understand what they’re talking about, they should remain silent. When the names aren’t correct, language doesn’t accord with the truth of things. When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully.”
I took this image at the Mencius Cemetery in Qufu.