Leadership lessons from Confucius: relentless demands

relentless demands

Confucius said: “If people with a courageous streak find themselves trapped in poverty, chaos will ensue. If people without a trace of goodness decide their sufferings are too great, chaos will ensue.”

The harder you push people, the likelier they are to push back either by voting with their feet or openly rebelling against the system.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put people under pressure to perform, but it does require you to be reasonable in the expectations you place on them and be willing to reward them for their hard work.

Although people are generally happy to put in extra effort during peak periods or times of crisis, there is no way that they can sustain it over the long term even if they are financially rewarded for it. Relentless demands to meet impossible deadlines will lead to mistakes, discontent, and perhaps even burn-out.

Your responsibility as a leader is to make sure that your team’s workload is shared equitably and to bring in additional resources when needed. In today’s world

of 24/7 connectivity, it also includes respecting their personal time away from the workplace so that they can enjoy a refreshing break from the daily grind.


This article features a translation of Chapter 10 of Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 8 here.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.

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