A Leader must seek high standards, get rid of his own deficiencies, then those of his team, and then of the organization! Leader’s conduct plays a greater role in inspiring others and some Sutras from Indian Neetishastra throw light on this aspect of Leadership.

अनीतिरेव साच्छिद्रं राज्ञो नित्यं भयावहम। शत्रुसंवर्धनं प्रोक्तं बलह्रासकरं महत।।


01 Shukr Niti 1.15 

Being without a (clear) strategy/ approach, is a great deficiency of the Leader – it is dangerous – it enables rivals to thrive and diminishes one’s own strengths.

After having covered a few Sutras from the Ved and Upanishad, we now introduce the Neetishaastr – starting with one of the earliest teachers of the Science

Shukracharya tells us that the Leader needs to be clear and decisive, even in the midst of Ambiguity and uncertainty – as to what direction is to be taken by the Organization. The one who is muddled, spells doom for the organization as the team gets enervated and the adversary gets energised!

How clear, decisive and convincing are you as a Leader?

अमंत्रमक्षरं नास्ति नास्ति मूलमनौषधम् । अयोग्यः पुरुषो नास्ति योजकस्तत्र दुर्लभः

02 Shukra Niti 2.127 

There is no sound that cannot be used as a mantra; no root/herb that is not medicinal; there is no person who is unworthy, what is rare is an ‘enabler’ of these resources.

Continuing with Neetishaastr – from one of the earliest teachers of the Science, Shukracharya, here is a gem on Leadership.

The sanskrit word yojaka means one who manages, connects, enables, organizes, who ‘connects’ the ‘parts’ to make the ‘whole’ optimal. Every single resource has its use/value/place, but it requires a rare ability – to identify and leverage the same. That’s Leadership, we are told!

Are you the one who can create maximum returns out of minimum resources?

आत्मायतौ वृध्दिविनाशौ।

03 Chanakya Sutras 10.8

Upon one’s own self – depends growth. Upon one’s own self, depends destruction.

Continuing with Neetishaastr – from Shukracharya, we now take powerful Leadership advice from Chanakya, the greatest master of this science

Chanakya is very clear that the buck stops with the Leader. Success and Decline are the ownership of the Leader. Not just human resources, but the utilization of every resource in the optimal way – is the skill (and challenge) of the Leader. That’s why Leadership is a crown – of thorns, we are told!

Are you the one who can bring Glory to your organization through effective Leadership?

शस्त्रं शास्त्रं वीणा वाणी नरश्च नारी च । पुरुषविशेषं प्राप्य भवन्ति योग्यायोग्याश्च।।

04 Panchatantra 1.120 

(These things)…Horse, weapon, knowledge of a great science, speech, musical instrument, a man and a woman; their worth or lack of it, is determined by the one who deploys/ uses them!

 After gaining some insights of Neetishaastr – from Shukracharya and Acharya Chanakya, we now get similar Leadership wisdom from Acharya Vishnusharma, the great maestro who expressed and taught Nitishaastra in stories

Vishnusharma puts it in an interesting way. Someone is not performing? Another is not behaving? It is the test of the Leader to extract the best from them. The Manager may grumble about the quality of human resources, the Leader cannot! Hence Leadership is an art and a science too

Do you ask for the best people, or do you make them best?

प्रत्याख्याने च दाने च सुखदुःखे प्रियाप्रिये। आत्मौउपम्यैन पुरूषः प्रमाणमधिगच्छति।।

05 Hitopadesh 2.13 

In rejecting and in giving; in joy and in grief; in acts (which are) agreeable and disagreeable – a person (through empathy) understands the standard (of action) by self comparison!

The next gem of Neetishaastr –  Leadership wisdom comes from Acharya Narayan, another master who expanded Panchatantra, again through stories

How does a Leader determine his/ her actions towards the Team? Through judgement? No, says Narayana – through Empathy: the Leader needs to measure others behaviours/ actions against one’s own. The Leader cannot afford to only be an advocate for self, rather he/ she now has the responsibility to look for worth and value in every person!

Do you ask of others what you do not demand of yourself? Time to reverse it now!

कालं नियम्य कार्याणि ह्याचरेन्नन्यथा क्वचित् ।।

06 Shukra Niti 3.296 

All work should be done following  (complete) discipline of time. This should not be contravened (ever)

Now we start paying attention to various resources, the Leader has, at hand – the first one is time. This receives incredible amount of attention in Neetishaastr

The lesson being taught is that time is to be viewed preciously, just as wealth! Understanding this, every living moment of the Leader should be cherished, thought out and utilized most effectively – towards goals!

As a Leader, reflect on how many hours are not focused towards your purpose.

यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः। स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते

07 Bhagavad Geeta 3.21 

As are the actions of the great, so are those of the multitudes, following the (Leader’s) example

From one of the greatest exponents of the Neeti, Sri Krishna, comes this sage advice, to the Leader – you are a role model; so examine your own actions!

Realize what is being said here. Continuing our earlier thread, the masses (employers, citizens, team) are where the power is. That being so, the Leader’s every move is under great scrutiny. And then the people try and emulate the same. Positive actions of the Leader being emulated has positive impact, but flawed actions of the Leader will create a reaction, which is detrimental in the medium or long term!

How conscious are you of the path you tread?

अजरामरवत् प्राज्ञो विद्यामर्थ च चिन्तयेत्। गृहित इव केशेषु मृत्युना धर्ममाचरेत।।

08 Hitopadesh 1.3 

The wise (Leader) should think about (creation and distribution of) knowledge and wealth as though he/ she is not subject to old age or death; but should carry out his/her purpose (and duties) as if death has seized by the hair!

We are back to Hitopadesh, in which Narayan shares this gem about the mindset of the Leader. This will determine the growth or decline of the enterprise!

The Sutra says that while acquisition and circulation of knowledge and of wealth should be a lifelong endeavour; there should be an urgency in the Leader’s actions – for discharging one’s duties and fulfilling the purpose. The purpose, of course is to bring Prosperity to the organization, society and planet!

Examine today – how is your bias for action and towards what purpose?

आत्मनश्च प्रजायाश्च दोषदर्श्युत्तमा नृपः। विनयच्छति चात्मानमादौ भृत्यानस्ततः प्रजाः।।

09 Shukra Niti 4.1.76 

The Leader who can spot his own deficiencies and then those of the populace is considered superlative. Seeking high standards, he gets rid of his deficiencies, then those of his team, and then of the organization!

The great Master Shukra provides the true test of one who considers self a great Leader – not the outcomes, but the ability to examine oneself!

We are provided an excellent way to develop our Leadership influence. Continuing with the idea from last thread, turning the light within, critique yourself and you will see so much missing. First work on those. Then you get the right to correct your team. Only then, you will earn the authority to show others the path to improvement!

यःसंसदि परदोषान् शंसति सः स्वदोषं प्रख्यापयति।

10 Chanakya Sutras 15.1 

The Leader who publicly declares the faults of others; (only) exposes one’s own defect (in the process)!

Acharya Chanakya, in his trademark blunt style, makes a strong observation on Leaders, who not only excel in finding fault in others, but also declare them in others’ presence. That’s weakness!

Finding fault is easy but catching others do right is uncommon. Here, the Leader is exhorted to first watch one’s own behaviour and not cause embarrassment to anyone in public. Rather all corrections of others should happen in private. Only then, the Leader will earn the trust and respect to show team members the path to improvement!

Do you find it easier to offer authentic praise to your team publicly… or criticism?

योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणिसङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय।सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते।।

11 (Bhagavad Geeta 2.48) 

 The equipoise of mind that arises from profound absorption in the performance of action after renouncing attachment (to results); and being even minded in both accomplishment or the lack of it, O Dhananjay, it is called Yog!

 This counsel is a recurring theme of mindset of the Leader, in all of Indian wisdom – and seems to have become prominent in today’s pandemic times as resilience, anti-fragility, etc!

The Leader has purpose, and has planned for success ofcourse, but is success guaranteed? Eventually yes, but none can predict  its exact time and extent today. However, the Leader is advised to develop an attitude of dispassion towards outcomes (and give it all). Whatever turns up, then just becomes a milestone and lesson in the journey!

Examine your last setback – what was your attitude towards it?

तत्रैकाग्रं मनः कृत्वा यतचित्तेन्द्रियक्रियः। उपविश्यासने युञ्ज्याद्योगमात्मविशुद्धये।।

12 (Bhagavad Geeta 6.12) 

And occupying that seat, concentrating the mind, restraining the mind and senses, he should practise Yog for self purification!

The great Guru Vyaas Rishi once again shows the Leader the light, on what is the experience – of the hot seat of Leadership

This sacred counsel from the Geeta declares – that Leadership is no lesser than Yog – the position brings with it successes and setbacks, allies and rivals, joys and sorrows, a crown of thorns… But knowing this, and being a role model to the organization, he/ she must still focus all senses and energies within! Raising one’s consciousness, the Leader has to discharge all responsibilities with stoicness!

Do you treat your Leadership role as a divine responsibility?


सर्वभूतस्थमात्मानं सर्वभूतानि चात्मानि। ईक्षते योगयुक्तात्मा सर्वत्र समदर्शनः।।

 13 (Bhagavad Geeta 6.29) 

The Yogi (self conquered Leader), united in identity with divine consciousness and in a vision of unity of all, perceives himself/ herself in all beings, as also all beings, in oneself!

We revisit the Geeta where Guru Vyaas Rishi reveals to us the character of a great Leader. 

Having already told us earlier that Leadership is no lesser than Yog – he now reveals that the epitome of Leadership is to be able to view every being, exactly the way one views himself/ herself.  This, no doubt, is difficult, but with great self awareness and consistent practice, one can get to experience it! This very ideal of Geeta inspired Gandhiji into his most frugal living – we too can begin right now.

Ask yourself, do I hold different standards for others than for myself?

यतकरोषि यदश्नासि यज्जुहोषि ददासि यत्। यत्तपस्यासि कौन्तेय तत्कुरुष्य मदर्पणम् ।।

14 (Bhagavad Geeta 9.27)

You, O son of Kunti, dedicate to me – whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer as oblation, that which you give, as also your penance!

The Bhagavad Geeta, of which the Mahabhaarat is a shining backdrop, teaches us the supreme virtue of Leadership!

Vyaas Rishi offers us some practical advice – Leadership should be free of pride and arrogance – these are self-defeating traits. But how to practise them, considering that Leadership often brings with it, power, prestige, and privileges? The key word is submission to the higher, it could be a cherished God or a Guru or simply treating the purpose itself as the Divine. Then thinking thus, every single breath, thought, movement, word and action is in the name of the Divine. When the most sacred is the guide for your living moments, the Leader will always be within the bounds of righteousness, counsels the Master!

Look back on the past 5 years of your professional life.  Ask yourself “How do I look at my achievements today – do I feel a glow of gratitude or do they make me conceited?” Also reflect on your own language and behaviour with your junior most team members!

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो मां ये जनाः पर्युपासते। तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां योगक्षेमं वहाम्यहम्

 15 (Bhagavad Geeta 9.22 ) 

Those who abide in me with steady and undeviating faith and devote themselves dispassionately, I ensure their well being and attend to their needs!

Maharshi Vyaas, the great poet – expounds the relationship between the Leader and the Purpose of the organization!

This gem from the Acharya is normally viewed as a spiritual verse, but it also underscores the unswerving commitment of the Leader. We are told – how to ensure the sustained growth of the organization.

The keys are as follows –

  1. The Leader must clearly identify and clarify the organisation’s purpose
  2. The purpose is always about Seva – ask whom are we devotedly serving?

3.Knowing that rewards are but the outcome of such service

  1. Ensuring actions of the entire organization are in harmony with this purpose
  2. Remaining steady in this alignment, with the purpose as a guiding star – despite the circumstances. This is the success Mantra, assures the Master!

As a Leader – spend time today with some new team members to ask them what they are working for. Now reflect – what alignment do you find between their goals and organizational Vision? Do the needful to correct.