China’s K’ang-hsi: a leader’s leader

K’ang-hsi, who ruled China from 1661 to 1722, was a formidable leader who held direct authority over courts, infrastructure, military defense and nearly everything else in his immense empire.

Yet, when it came to judging whether his ministers were doing their jobs, he applied just one yardstick: As long as they protected—in all circumstances—the safety and welfare of the people who reported to them, K’ang-hsi knew they were doing their jobs capably.

As soon as that changed, he knew they had turned sour and could not be trusted.

— Adapted from Emperor of China, Jonathan D. Spence, Vintage.