Team Building, Delegation skills and Team Management

अर्थं सप्रतिबन्धं प्रभुरधिगन्तुं सहायवानेव। दृश्यं तमसि न पश्यति दीपेन विना सचक्षुरपि।।

 Malavikagnimitram 9

An objective, beset with impediments, can (only) be achieved by the Leader, with the help of a deputy. A thing in the dark, cannot be seen, without a lamp, even though having (one’s) eyes!

Pandit Kalidas, the master of verse and drama, explains the need for a skilled deputy, through this Shlok!

These words from the world renowned play,  refer to a lit up lamp as a beautiful metaphor, for the one(s) assisting the Leader. This metaphor echoes an essential Neetishaastra principle.

The Leader has to:

Identify and select competent deputies based on their alignment of values

In conjunction with them, determine portfolios which would leverage their strengths.

Most of all, he/ she needs to trust them completely, and not micromanage once work is assigned. The deputies are the experts in executing plans and accomplishing goals so value their competence and stand away, counsels the Master!

Think of what you expect from each of your deputies. Now ask yourself how I am helping them in bringing out their best?!

जनास्तदलोकपथात्पतिसंहृतचक्षुपः। तस्थुस्ते अवाङ्मुखाः सर्वे फलिता इव शालयः।।

Raghuvansham XV.78 

The people, withdrawing their own gaze from the direction of her sight; stood with their faces downcast – inclined, like plants with the burden of fruits!

Pandit Kalidas, the poetic genius – through this verse, explains how organisational culture should deal with flaws rather than the flawed!

This verse from the epic Leadership chronicle referring to Devi Sita’s final liberation is a subtle description of the Leader’s treatment of misconduct of team. The Leader must quell the wrong and not the wrongdoer. The steps are as follows – 1. The Leader must be the exemplar of the values 2. The organisation culture must embody the values by way of practices, processes, and people 3. The processes must bring to light acts of commission and omission 4. The Leader must ensure that commensurate action is taken and 5. Most of all, not just individuals but the cause for wrong conduct is to be identified and corrected. It is necessary to rectify the inadequacies in culture and not just implicate individuals, counsels the Master!

Audit those subsystems of the organizations where transgressions have taken place in the past. Now do a root cause analysis and identify what needs immediate correction – is it people or system?

साधु धर्ममवेक्षस्व साधु साधुव्रतम् चर। यथा तव तथान्येषां दारा रक्ष्या विशाचर ।।

Valimiki Ramayan 5-21-7

(O Ravan), you should observe righteousness and follow the path of the virtuous; just as you protect the women of your family, so also you must protect the women of others’ families!_

This Shlok of the Ramayan is precious advice of Valmiki Rishi, our first poet-philosopher, pertaining to the Leader’s conduct

Admonition from the great queen Sita of Ayodhya to the mighty Ravan of Lanka, this verse conveys insights on equality and equity – Leadership is not a right to be flaunted but a privilege to be honoured and thus, also a skill to be mastered. In the quest of strengthening Leadership muscle, certain principles are to be borne in mind: 1. The Leader has to be a paragon of virtue as he/ she is the role model 2. There are no compromises and many sacrifices on this road to the highest virtue,  3. When it comes to matters of giving respect, all are equally deserving and 4. In matters of recognizing or rewarding people, each one’s need should be considered specifically. We are reminded that this four-fold approach alone, maintains the glory of the organization.

What are your self set guidelines for the treatment of your team? Would your people be proud of your conduct as their Leader?

स्तिमितोन्नतसञ्चारा जनसन्तापहारिणः। जायन्ते विरला लोके जलदा इव सज्जनाः।।

Panchatantra 1.30

Just as the clouds are, steady with the load of water, lofty (in the sky) and remover of affliction (of heat) of people; rare are such virtuous (Leaders) born.

Continuing with the actions of Leaders, now we connect to what their daily goals should be about. Sri Vishnusharman suggests that discharge of daily duties are about –

a.Steady mindset

  1. Elevated character and

c.Being continuously in the service of employees – removing obstacles to their performance

So evaluate yourself on this threefold scale to know where you stand.

सहाय साध्यानि हि दुष्करानि।

Mahabharat Udyog Parva 37.24

(All) difficult tasks can be accomplished with the assistance of competent deputies

And our wonderful epic Mahabharat is back with one more invaluable gem, which appears like simplistic advice.

But the essence is always larger and deeper than what it seems. Deputies are not a luxury but an imperative – but why? The Leader has to recognize one’s own abilities and limitations and then select a team – people who complement these qualities. Only then will the toughest challenges be overcome smoothly.

How mindful are you in the selection of the right persons?


अवाप्तार्थः कालं नातिक्रामयेत्

Kautilya Arthashaastra 1.15.45

Having got an (important) matter to deliberate, the Leader should not let (those) moments slip away.

The great Acharya of Governance, Chanakya sounds a valuable word of caution to the Leader, on urgencies.

This Sutra tells us that only the most pressing matters should come to the Leader, all else must be delegated. And when a pressing matter does come up, not a moment must elapse unproductively. Why? Because sometimes, crucial decisions taken in seconds, by the Leader, can make or mar an organization. And yet, he/ she must take the express views of atleast 2-3 most valued deputies for taking a call, says Chanakya.

As a Leader, are you available, accessible and alert enough to take decisions on key matters?

एतावता कार्यमिदं कालेनापि त्वयाकृतम। भृतिमेतावर्ती दास्ये कार्यकालमिता च सा।।

 Shukra Niti 2.398

For doing this much work, in this much time, you will get wages. They are for your service, based on both period and quantum of work.

 Shukra offers the next wisdom – probably the earliest definition of remuneration –  in terms of the right parameters to be identified and used.

The first is to identify the rate, based on prevailing norms – how much per hour, is feasible and fair? Secondly, what are the number of hours for which work is being delivered?  Thirdly and most importantly, what is the quality and complexity of the work being done viz. what level of skill is being employed? All these need to be considered by the Leader, says Shukra.

तया स्वपक्षं परपक्षं च वशीकरोति कोशदण्डाभ्याम्।।

Kautilya Arthashaastra 1.4.2

The king brings under his sway, his own people, as well as the adversary, through (the usage of) treasury and army.

The Acharya of Leadership, Chanakya, now moves to assets of influence – finances and people.

Chanakya asserts that Leadership requires to be carried out through 3 key (organizational) elements – infrastructure, funds and team. Two of these are especially critical in the 2nd stage (of consolidation) to make 3rd stage (of expansion) possible. The quality and durability of these determines growth, says Chanakya.

Do you consider your employees to be as precious as your finances? Assess your actions to reveal this to self.

अनभिज्ञो गुणानां यो न भृत्यैरनुगम्यते। धनाढ्यो अपि, कुलिनो अपि, क्रमा आयातो अपि भूपति।।

Panchatantra 1.80

A Leader, who is ignorant of the (various) qualities of his/ her team members, will be deserted by them – even if he/ she is wealthy, of high status and from the family of earlier leaders.

This Sutra provides powerful guidance to the Leader on study of one’s own people, especially direct reports.

Acharya Vishnusharma declares that the Leader should – 1. Take personal interest in one’s team members 2. Identify their qualities, strengths, aspirations, likes and dislikes 3. Ensure that the roles and assignments offered to them, utilize their maximum potential – and then stay current with all that’s happening in their careers. Else rest assured, no matter how great your status or lineage, your best people will find better Leaders to work for.

As a Leader, do you spend planned time with each of your Team members?

अपृष्टेना अपि वक्तव्यं सचिवेना अत्र किञ्चन। पृष्टेन तु ऋतं, पथ्यं, वाच्यं च प्रियमप्रियम् ।।

Panchatantra 3.04

A deputy (to a Leader), even when unasked, should express (his/ her stand). If asked, he/ she should (definitely) recommend that which is right and beneficial, irrespective of it sounding pleasant or unpleasant.

This Sutra provides powerful guidance to the Leader on selection and cultivation of the right deputies.

Acharya Vishnusharma counsels the Leader that he/she should – 1. Empower the deputies to express themselves, without fear 2. Steel oneself to listen to unpleasant news 3. Ensure that the culture always advocates the righteous path and 4. Then be constantly alert and alive to the recommendations of these associates. A leader generates greater trust and respect when he/ she encourages transparency and authenticity.

How would your Team members rate their own freedom to state the truth in your presence?