We all agree, there is no relationship which is unmanageable, there is no challenge which cannot be dealt with – just the right approach is to be identified. For leaders choosing this approach is crucial. This set of insights, from Bhaartiya Neeti Shaastras will help you introspect this aspect of Leadership and help you achieve more clarity.

मानी प्रतिमानिनम् आत्मनि द्वितीयं मन्त्रम् उत्पादयेत।

Chanakya Sutra 2.9

The worthy one, should generate within himself, an alternate strategy, considering what another worthy adversary may do.

Chanakya, the great Acharya of Neetishaastra – gives us an insight into crafting of strategy.

This advice from the Acharya has multiple dimensions to dwell on. He guides us that strategies are not based merely on organizational goals – but rather on the ecosystem which surrounds you. The Leader – 1. Should consider the various constituents of ecosystem 2. Educate self deeply on the patterns of behaviours of these constituents or Sub-constituents, based on past experience as well as knowledge in public domain 3. Get into the minds of each of these and 4. Most of all, based on what he/ she then gathers through this approach – the strategy for dealing with them should be planned, declares Chanakya.

Do this – make a list of 5 main stakeholders in your current role. Today spend a few minutes taking a virtual tour of their minds. Now jot down – what are their main thoughts about?

मन्त्रो मन्त्रफलप्राप्तिः कर्मानुष्ठानं आयव्ययकर्म दण्डप्रणयनं। अमित्राटवीप्रतिषेधो राज्यरक्षणं व्यसनप्रतिकारः।।

Kautilya Arthashaastra 8.1.8

Deliberating (with deputies) for counsel; securing the (best) outcomes of the deliberations (through decisions); carrying out actions (based on the decisions); managing income and expenditures, (tightly) for the actions; and taking measures against further setbacks – these are to be done, when facing calamities.

This is the guidance we have probably been seeking, during the present pandemic.

Acharya Chanakya has made it very clear that the Leader needs to be decisive, but not autocratic – he/ she needs capable deputies who provide many useful insights. Also, fiscal discipline and back up plans should be considered at all times – then take action.

If you are an organizational Leader, use this 5 prong approach during challenging times.

न कश्वित्कस्यचिन्मित्रं न कश्वित्कस्यचिद्रिपुः। व्यवहारेण मित्राणि जायन्ते रिपवस्तथा।।

Hitopadesh 2.72

No one is anybody’s ally nor a foe (to begin with); it is the dealings with that entity, which makes foes out of allies (and vice versa)!

This Sutra from Hitopadesh is a quintessential advice of Neetishaastra, pertaining to Business strategy

This advice may sound unusual, but has a deep practical insight – organizational purpose is fixed, values are steady, but strategy is not. It is dynamic and based on prevailing circumstances. While the Leader has to always strive  to create allies out of everyone, it may not be feasible. So Narayan Bhat’s counsel is: to not get attached to labels like ally or adversary, and determine the same based on context of organization – some need to be partnered with, others need to be competed with (and that also can change quickly)!

As a Leader, have you been trained on what makes a suitably ally? What makes a competitor vulnerable? Introspect now.

उत्थानेन सदा पुत्र प्रयतेथ युध्दिष्ठीरः। नहि उत्थानम रिते दैवं राज्ञं अर्थं प्रसादयेद।।

 Mahabhaarat, Rajadharm Anushasan Parv 65.14

For all round progress, O Yudhisthir, always exert self; providence alone, without effort, does not serve the royal objective of prosperity (with good governance)

The ancient master Vyaas Rishi tells us that the ideal of Leadership is far from that of mere management of work.

This counsel from the Mahabhaarat also declares that hope is no Strategy of success – impeccable planning followed by resolute action is! The Leader does not empower and sit back but must lead the way through self effort! He/ she has to realize that good governance is also about being perceived as one amongst the troops.

When you delegate work as a Leader, do you also delegate some to yourself?

मित्र शत्रुं यथायोज्ञैः कुर्यात। स्ववशवर्तिनम्। उपायेन यथा व्यालो गजः सिंहों अपि साध्यते।।

 Shukra Niti 4.1.24

It is possible to influence and win over an ally and (even) an adversary with judicious effort; adopting the right means (of doing so); just as it is possible to tame (even the wild) snake, elephant and lion.

Shukra delivers the next incisive wisdom by conveying that there is no relationship which is unmanageable – just the right approach is to be identified and used.

The first thing to learn is that there are no friends and enemies, least of all permanent ones, there are only allies and adversaries. Secondly, allies also need to be humoured and adversaries must be converted into affiliates. Thirdly, these means need to be learned and practised by the Leader, says Shukr.

Introspect now – is your Leadership style one which wins over people?


यद्युप्युपायाश्चत्वारो निर्दिष्टः साध्यसाधने। संख्यामात्रं फलं तेषां सिद्धिः साम्नि व्यवस्थिता।।

Hitopadesh 5.104

Although four expedients have been pointed out for accomplishment of one’s objective; the use (of three of them) is to make up numbers (of options); true success lies firmly with “Conciliation” option.

This Sutra from Narayan Bhat continues with the earlier theme of relations and interactions of the Leader.

It explains that the wise Leader who recognizes the virtues of another Leader has 4 methods of dealing with the opposite Leader. They are Conciliation, Incentive, Differential Treatment and Penalty. The option of conciliation (placation by dialogue) is always the first and most preferred. It works at most times, has least disadvantages, and as such, is a must have skill for the Leader.

Today, evaluate, do you use a win – win approach in all interactions?

वचस्तत्र प्रयोक्तव्यं यत्रोक्चं लभते फलम्। स्थायी भवति चा अत्यंतं रागः शुक्लपटे यथा।।

Panchatantra 1.34

(Power of) Speech should be employed in such a way that when used, it bears fruit – as if a dye on a white cloth – durably.

This Sutra provides powerful guidance to the conversations of the Leader.

Acharya Vishnusharma declares that the Leader should – 1. Speak only selectively 2. Carefully select words and tone of speech 3. Ensure that the chosen occasion, place and content should produce lasting and pervasive impact – imagine how mindful the Leader would then be, with verbal communication.

As a Leader, how economical and inspiring are you, each time you speak?

मृवुना सलिलेन हन्यमानान्यवघृष्यन्ति गिरेरपि स्थलानि। उपजापविदां च कर्णजापैः किमु चेतांसि मृदुनि मानवानाम?

 Panchatantra 2.327

Just as the edges of rocks being continuously rubbed against, (even) by gentle water, get worn out; what then of the tender hearts of humans, that are affected by the slander of those skilled in instigating (Leaders) against their own people?

Referring to Leaders, one of the great Acharyas of Neetishaastra, advises them to guard against rabble rousers.

Vishnusharma warns that the Leader has to continuously understand, who is a well wisher and who is a troublemaker – when listening to counsel. He warns that the Leader’s emotions are always subject to being manipulated by those around him/ her. There are likely to be mischief mongers attempting to provoke the Leader! Identifying the slander through careful analysis and taking quick action against the incendiary, is an imperative for the Leader, says the Guru.

Reflect now – are you surrounding yourself with the right deputies and associates?

नयविदभिर्नवे राज्ञि सदसच्चोपदर्शितम्। पूर्व एवाभवत्पक्षस्तस्मिन्नाभवदुत्तरः।।

Raghuvamsam IV.10

The experts in Politics taught him – both the fair and unfair means (known in Strategy); the Leader always chose the former, and never the latter option!.

Pandit Kalidas, the great poet philosopher, teaches us what the best Leaders practise.

The Raghuvamsam is a powerful chronicle of a line of illustrious Leaders. Telling us about Raghu, the son of Dilip, he reminds us that the Leader : 1.  Has knowledge of all means and methods  2. Examines the situations, both normal and unusual, and the parties involved therein and 3. Always finds the righteous option to get favourable outcomes. The choice of the Leader is to never tread the path of unrighteous action. This enhances the organization’s credibility, says Kalidas.

Examine your predilection towards an approach in difficult circumstances – what does it reveal to you about self?