Leadership Lessons from Confucius: don’t try to rush things
When Zixia was governor of Jufu he asked about governance. Confucius said: “Don’t try to rush things. Ignore matters of minor advantage. If you try to rush things, you won’t achieve success. If you pursue matters of minor advantage, you won’t succeed in major affairs.”
Don’t try to rush things. That’s not just the easiest way to make silly mistakes. It also increases the risk that you’ll miss what’s really important. Take some time to analyze the situation and talk to everyone involved. Look behind the numbers and reams of emails and reports to find out what’s really going on. By rushing in to show you’re in charge, you’ll more likely make things worse than better.
This article features a translation of Chapter 17 of Book 13 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 13 here.
(1) According to many commentators, Confucius’s follower Zixia moved far too aggressively to reform the walled city of Jufu in the state of Lu when he took over as its governor. Hence, Confucius warns him to act more cautiously and not “rush things.”
(2) Although Confucius praised Zixia for his intellectual talents and quick thinking, he was concerned about his follower’s narrow-mindedness and tendency to miss the big picture by focusing on minor details. In 6.13, for example, Confucius famously tells Zixia: “Be a refined scholar, not a common pedant.”