Leadership lessons from Confucius: misdirected energy

misdirected energy

Whenever his ruler summoned him, he would set off without waiting for the horses to be harnessed to his carriage.

There’s no denying the importance of keeping your boss happy, but that doesn’t mean you have to leap at his or her every command. If you’re not delivering real results, all the effort you put in to impress the higher-ups will quickly go to waste. Focus on what’s important for the organization in order to get ahead rather than trying to look good in front your superiors.


This article features a translation of Chapter 20 of Book 10 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 10 here.

(1) Ritual, like any other aspect of human behavior, can go way too far if it isn’t reined in. In this case, it reaches the point of absurdity with Confucius (or the model gentleman in question) rushing out the house before his carriage is ready even though he knows that it will have to pick him up on the way because there’s no chance that he’ll arrive at court earlier on foot. Talk about a case of misdirected energy! He would have been better off preparing for the forthcoming audience while waiting for the carriage to be hitched. Presumably the ruler would have cared much more about what he had to say during the audience rather than how he traveled there.

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

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