Leadership Lessons from Confucius: easy to work for?
Confucius said: “A leader is easy to work for but hard to please. If you try to please them without following the proper way they won’t be happy, but they’ll only give you tasks you have the ability to carry out. A petty person is hard to work for, but easy to please. If you try to please them, even without following the proper way, they’ll be happy, but they’ll demand that you have the ability to do anything.”
Be honest with yourself. Are you easy to work for? Do you set clear expectations for your staff and pay close attention to their progress, or do you throw them in the deep end to see if they sink or swim? Do you respond more positively to staff who suck up to you or those who are willing to challenge you when they think you are going in the wrong direction?
Perhaps amid the endless pile of issues you find yourself having to deal with during your day, you do not even notice inconsistencies in the way you treat your staff or react to news and events. Better take a step back and reflect on how you actually lead your team before your best people decide it is time to jump ship.
This article features a translation of Chapter 25 of Book 13 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 13 here.