Leadership by gesture.

The Art of Worldly WisdomI stumbled across a book recently that I think is going to have a major influence on the rest of my life. The philosophers Schopenhauer and Nietzsche both recommended it highly and it is, in a way, a western equivalent in scope (but not style) to the Analects of Confucius and the Tao Te Ching.

Written in the 17th century by a Spanish Jesuit scholar by the name of Baltasar Gracián, The Art of Worldly Wisdom consists of 300 pearls of wisdom. Reading through some of them last night, number 43 on leadership caught my eye:

Natural leadership. It is a secret force of superiority not to have to get on by artful trickery but by an inborn power of rule. All submit to it without knowing why, recognizing the secret vigor of natural authority. Such magisterial spirits are kings by merit and lions by innate privilege. By the esteem that they inspire, they hold the hearts and mind of those around them. If their other qualities permit, such people are born to be the prime movers of the state. They perform more by a gesture than others by a long harangue. [my emphasis]

It’s this last sentence that intrigues me. That it can be counter-productive to harangue people with words when you can say much more by action and example. I’ll be bearing that in mind over the coming weeks… 🙂

N.B. Whilst I highly recommend you consider buying the book, the full text is available online here.

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  1. Thanks for the tip. Teaching about the Tao Te Ching, and the Analects in class today.

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