Leadership lessons from Confucius: quiet determination

quiet determination

子夏曰:「賢賢易色,事父母能竭其力,事君能致其身,與朋友交言而有信,雖曰未學,吾必謂之學矣。」
Zixia said: “A man who values character over beauty, who devotes himself to serving his parents, who dedicates his life to his ruler, and who is true to his word with his friends: I’ll insist he’s learned even if others think otherwise.” (1)

Actions speak louder than words. As a leader you should focus on people who go about their daily work with quiet determination rather than those who attempt to grab your attention by saying all the right words and pushing themselves to the center stage by grabbing all the highest-profile assignments.

A renowned scholar of the classics himself, Zixia shared Confucius’s view that learning is accomplished far more effectively by active doing than passive studying. To him, the key to being learned is based on conducting your relationships with your spouse, parents, ruler, and friends in the right manner. Interacting with others in society in an ethical way is far more important than your knowledge of the arts and literature.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 7 of Book 1 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 1 here.

(1) The meaning of the opening phrase 賢賢易色 is rather ambiguous. Given that the subsequent sections refer to how a man should behave towards his parents, ruler, and friends, it is reasonable to assume that it refers to loving his wife for her personal qualities rather than out of lust for her physical appearance.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Qufu. You can read more about it here.

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