Virtuous leadership

子曰:「其身正,不令而行;其身不正,雖令不從。」
Confucius said: “If a leader behaves in the correct manner everything will operate smoothly even if he doesn’t issue orders. If a leader doesn’t behave in the correct manner, nobody will listen even if he does issue orders.”

Although the principle of effortless action (無為/wúwéi) is more commonly associated with the teachings of Laozi in the Daodejing, Confucius applied the same way of thinking to his concept of virtuous leadership.

If you are not taking the right path, how can you expect others to follow you down it? If you do not behave properly, how can you expect others to do so? As many dictators have learned to their cost during the course of history, no amount of force is strong enough to compel people to blindly follow you. Even if repression works in the short term, it will ultimately result in your downfall.

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