14 August 2023

"Character vs Ability" - How can you find your right staff?

When you are looking for new staff, do you pick character or ability/talent?

The answer seems obvious, it must be character over ability. 

Here is a 2x2 on Character vs Ability(Talent)

What do you mean by character or ability? How do you define and measure them?
Sima Guang, the author of 资治通鉴 'Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance, the textbook for the training of kings, gives us the answers and warns us that we have the tendency to pick ability over character. Read on to find the details.

  • Definitions
    • 夫聪察强毅之谓才,正直中和之谓德。

      Ability is smartness, discernment, strength/boldness, toughness;

      Character/Virtue is righteousness/integrity, fairness, harmony/teamwork

    • 才者,德之资也;德者,才之帅也。

      Ability is to serve Character; Character is to control the ability

  • Explanation
    • 何则? 君子挟才以为善,小人挟才以为恶

      Gentleman uses the ability to do good; Villian uses the ability to do evil

    • 挟才以为善者,善无不至矣;挟才以为恶者,恶亦无不至矣

      Using the ability to do, good is achieved. Using the ability to do evil, evil is attained

    • 愚者虽欲为不善,智不能周,力不能胜,譬如乳狗搏人,人得而制之

      The fool wants to do evil, but lacks ability, and cannot succeed; it is like a little wanting to attack people, the people will subdue it.

    • 小人智足以遂其奸,勇足以决其暴,是虎而翼者也,其为害岂不多哉!

      The villain has the ability to pursue evil, boldness to do the bullying is like a tiger with wings added, so the harm will be extensive,

    • 夫德者人之所严,而才者人之所爱;爱者易亲,严者易疏,是以察者多蔽于才而遗于德

      "Virtue is what people respect in others, while talent is what people love. Those who are loved are easy to be close to, and those who are respected are easy to be estranged from. Therefore, many observers are often deceived by talent and overlook virtue."

  • Conclusion
    • 故为国为家者苟能审于才德之分而知所先后,又何失人之足患哉!

      Hence, for those who serve the country and the family, if they can discern the distinction between talent and virtue and understand their order (ie character oversees talent/ability), how could they fail to get the right people?

  • What else?
    • Culture 道: Does the person believe in the company culture such as the mission, vision, and values.
    • Energy Level or Vitality or Morale: Is the person passionate and committed to giving his best with his character and ability.
    • Teamwork: Some may want to add teamwork. Can he work well with others and not be selfish? I would put this as part of his character traits.


Confucius said, "When at home, be filial; when outside, be respectful to your others. Be cautious and trustworthy, embrace a broad love for all, and be kind. If you have extra energy after fulfilling your responsibilities, then engage in scholarly learning."

Essentially, the teaching is "先做人 后做事” First be a good person then do work (good)"

Have character first and then develop and use your ability to do good.

What else will you be looking for? Please share with us by leaving your comment.

Lim Liat (c) 14-8-23

06 August 2023

Leadership Mindset For Sustainable Success - The Secret of HuaWei's Survival & Sun Zi

The most amazing private enterprise in the world must be Huawei. Despite many years of US government sanctions and attacks, the company continues to survive and even thrive. What is the secret? How does it work?

Recently, I came across 5 Fundamentals of Leadership - Leadership Development | Simon Sinek. Sinek explained that there are finite games and there are infinite games. Finite games have known players, fixed rules, agreed objectives and scoring, and an end-point. Infinite games have known and unknown players, and changeable rules, with the only objective of keeping the game in play, endlessly.  He said business should be an infinite game. It is not about being number one or winning etc. It is about surviving in the long term. I capture his presentation in the following mind map:

Now, look at the interview that Huawei's founder Ren Zhengfei said.

https://www.huxiu.com/article/302765.html 2019-06-05 10:56


  • 记者:您还是想在手机领域成为第一名是吗?
  • 任正非:没有,我们可以变大,也可以变小。华为是非上市公司,不追求数量增大,也不追求利润高低,存活下来就不错了。
  • 任正非:生存永远是第一位的,没有生存就不可能有发展。我从来没有做梦,去梦想怎么样,还是要用现实主义来解决问题。
  • 任正非:自己对未来没信心,自己没有意志,自己没有坚强的努力,这才是真正杀死自己的最大杀手。

The translation:

 Title: Interview Record of Ren Zhengfei: For Huawei, Survival is Always the Top Priority

Journalist: Do you still want to become the number one in the mobile phone industry?

Ren Zhengfei: No, we can grow bigger, or we can become smaller. Huawei is a non-public company, not pursuing a large market share, nor chasing high or low profits. Just surviving is good enough.

Ren Zhengfei: Survival is always the top priority; without survival, there can be no development. I have never daydreamed or imagined things; instead, I always use realism to solve problems.

Ren Zhengfei: The lack of self-confidence, willpower, and strong effort for the future is the true killer that can destroy oneself.

Notice that Ren Zhengfei is doing exactly what Simon Sinek suggested - the infinite mindset player playing in the infinite game. That is why Huawei is surviving despite the US government attack.

How did Ren Zhengfei have such a survival-first mindset --- the infinite game player mindset?

The answer is in Ancient Chinese Wisdom. A famous one is Sun Zi's Art of War.

So, going back to the mind map, I added in quotes from Sun Zi's Art of War. Contrary to most people's understanding of the Art of War, it is not about winning but about survival.  Sun Zi started with warfare is about the principles (dao,道) of survival. Sun Zi also said that winning every battle is not the best; the best is to win without a war. Sun Zi said, winning does not depend on us but on the enemy making mistakes for us to exploit. But not to be defeated is our responsibility, Not to be defeated, is the foundation for winning, Then we can maneuver the enemy to make mistakes and defeat them.

The five fundamentals of leadership in an infinite game given by Simon Sinek are all covered in the Art of War. The Art of War covers much more than what Sinek had taught. To know how to survive and win often, we need to study the Art of War. Please see Sun Zi and The Art of War

Hope you discover the secret for survival in the infinite world and life that we are all in.

Lim Liat (c) 6 Aug 2023