Leadership is not about words but about action. The Leader, whos actions are always in the interest of the customers and all the stakeholders, will always receive much required support from them. Here is a set of sutras which focuses on building that strength.
यथाशक्तिचिकीर्षन्ति यथाशक्ति च कुर्वते। व किञ्चिदवमन्यन्ते नराः पण्डितबुध्दयः
Vidura Neeti I.28
Aspiring to accomplish as high as their capacity, and then (actually) acting to the best of their ability, also not disregarding anyone or anything, such indeed are wise ones!
Continuing with ViduraNeeti, an integral part of the Mahabharat, we learn more nuances about Leadership actions!
Mahaatma Vidur continues with his most practical advice – we already know that Leadership is not about words but about action. However, let’s learn about the important segments of performing action outlined here. The Leader 1. Must be a visionary who always thinks far and big, thus creating an ambitious vision 2. should leave no stone unturned in making that purpose manifest – no half heartedness, in commitment or resources will do . 3. As a principle, should never disregard the abilities of adversaries nor undermine the capacities of one’s allies 4. Lastly, should anticipate all kinds of obstacles and plan for excellence, counsels the Master!
Today, be your own consultant – what behavioural patterns of self does this consultant ask you to guard against? Listen carefully and jot it down!
यस्य कृत्यं न जानन्ति मन्त्रं वा मन्त्रिते परे। कृतनेवास्य जानन्ति स वै पण्डित उच्यते ।।
Vidura Neeti I.25
He – whose proposed action, policy, or deliberation others do not know of beforehand; but only once after action is carried out, is indeed a wise one!
The Mahabhaarat, of which the ViduraNeeti is an indispensable part, tells us that discretion itself is a part of Leadership arsenal!
Mahaatma Vidur continues with practical advice – Leadership is not about words but about action. Further, we are reminded that Leadership also must maintain confidentiality of that, which needs no disclosure, before action. Being able to distinguish between sensitive and public information and knowing that the slightest slip here can turn into a major faux pas, is expected of Leadership. That apart, determining who should be privy to deliberations and key decisions, is the responsibility of the capable Leader. As a thumb rule, do not speak where just silence will do, counsels the Master!
Look back on the past 5 years of your professional life. Ask yourself “How many times have I announced something which I haven’t been able to complete or shared information which I regretted later?” Also reflect what caused those gaffes!
धार्मिकस्याभियुक्तस्य सर्व एव हि युध्यते। प्रजानुरागाद्धर्माच्च दुखोच्छेद्यो हि धार्मिकः।।
If a righteous king is attacked, everyone will fight for him; he who is righteous is difficult to be uprooted – on account of the love of his subjects and the king (consistently) upholding Dharm! (5.29)
Narayan Bhat brings out the essence of the Leader’s strength through this Sutra.
The Leader is because of his/ her people, and not the other way round. And so, as long as the most committed Team members firmly stand by their Leader, the organization’s other strengths can also be enhanced. Contrary to popular modern belief about engagement, people stay when their purpose and values are aligned to that of the Organization. The Leader is the primary custodian of those values. Hence the wisdom of the Leader lies in embracing that purpose and espousing the values of the organization, which in turn gives the Leader, the strong support of his/ her people!
Identify a long-standing team member and ask him/ her, what he/she values in you as the Leader. Next ask, what change he/she thinks would make you an even better Leader. Listen with an open mind, do not say a word!
आत्मज्ञानं समारम्भस्तितिक्षा धर्मनित्यता। यमर्थात् नापकर्षन्ति स वै पण्डित उच्यते।।
Vidura Neeti I.21
He/she indeed is wise, whose knowledge of self, enterprise, forbearance, and steadfastness in virtue, do not distract him/ her from the (primary) goals of life!
The Mahabhaarat, of which the ViduraNeeti is an indispensable part, challenges the very belief that “Being Virtuous” is supreme!
These words from Mahaatma Vidur bring out such practical counsel – Leadership with virtue is precious, but virtue for the sake of itself is useless. This seems surprising, but on closer study, we are told that Leadership must be intensely committed to its own purpose. Morality and righteousness are the pillars of accomplishing purpose, but a highly virtuous Leader who does not strive for stakeholders’ good is meaningless. An upright Leader, for whom Organizational Purpose and mission is higher than maintaining self-reputation alone, is the befitting Leader, indicates the Master!
Take 10 minutes out of your hectic schedule today. Look at your time log since morning and ask, “How did each activity of today add up, to further our organizational purpose?” Note your answers down and determine to improve it!
वित्तं देहि गुणान्वितेषु मतिमन्नान्यत्र देहि क्वचित् प्राप्तं वारिनेधेर्जलं घनमुखं माधुर्ययुक्तं सदा ।जीवान्स्थावरजन्गमाश्र्च सकलान्सन्जीव्य भूमण्डलम् भूयः पश्य तदेव कोटिगुणितं गच्छन्तमंभोनिधिं ||
Chanakya Neeti 8.3
O wise one! Give of your wealth, only to the worthy and never to those not.
The water of the ocean, received by the worthy clouds, is always sweet. The water (from the clouds) enlivens all living beings of the earth – both moving and non-moving, and thus, with its value multiplied a million-fold (through its actions), returns to the ocean (thus giving back)! (Chanakya Neeti 8.3)
Chanakya, the great master of Arthashaastra – gives us a powerful metaphor for the vision desired of a Leader!
This gem from the Acharya must be studied for its import. He guides us: Leaders are not the Managers of organizations – but rather, the nurturers of ecosystems. Nature’s water cycle is one such ecosystem. The Leader – 1. Should assess the various constituents of the existing ecosystem 2. Segregate them into Sub-categories like suppliers, customers, consumers, employees, agents, resellers, etc 3. Devise strategies which will enable them to add further value, to us 4. Interact with them to gauge, how to make them flourish 5. Most of all – these four should be executed and dynamically reviewed for spurring mutual growth, declares Chanakya!
Do this now – study a few other cycles in Nature such as Carbon and Nitrogen cycles. Brainstorm with your friends or family, what do we learn from them? Now jot down – what are your ideas for replicating these in your organization?
यमेवैशष वृणुते तेन लभ्य।।
It is attained by that one alone, whom it chooses!
The sacred Upanishads, of which the Kathopanishad is a crowning jewel, brings out the essence of Leadership, through this Shlok!
These words from the eternal scriptures reveal a secret, which needs a careful study. The secret is this: Leadership is not a choice, but a sacrosanct privilege, available to a few. This implies that one cannot become a Leader by simply deciding to, in the hope of fame; rather he/she is selected by the Divine, as an instrument to a cause. This is not a religious statement or spiritual counsel, but a bare truth – Leadership is a highest responsibility – to be carried out, in the quest of the highest good, of all living beings, for as long as possible in this life and beyond; And this, through complete dispassion from one’s own pleasures and through relentless Seva of each one in our influence, is the path to true glory, indicate the Masters!
Take 10 minutes out of your hectic schedule today. Ponder on your last action and ask, what did I do that for? Did it serve my employees or customers or other stakeholders? Or was I absorbed in self? Note your answer!
मारुतिः सागरं तीर्णः संसारमिव निर्ममः।।
Maruti crossed the ocean, as a detached person would cross this Sansar (viz. lifetime)!
Pandit Kalidas, the master of verse and wisdom explains the attitude desired of a Leader, through this Shlok!
These famous words from the epic creation referring to Lord Hanuman’s huge leap across the ocean (for Lanka) is a beautiful metaphor, of the Leadership mindset. This always has a giant vision, inspiring self and others. The Leader must, in addition, don the cloak of Seva, i.e., devoted service towards all. Most of all, this seva must be carried out, devoid of expectations for self and dear ones. It is necessary to combine all three elements in Leadership, counsels the Master!
Think of your next project – how do you propose to put these principles into action. Put down your plan
रविचन्द्रौघना वृक्षा नदी गावश्च सज्जनाः। एते परोपकाराय युगे देवेन निर्मिताः।।
The sun, the moon, clouds, trees, rivers, cows and noble persons – these are all of divine creation, (just) to demonstrate benevolence (to the world)!
This beautiful Subhashitam re-emphasizes one of the core principles of Leadership!
This advice from times of yore, impactfully conveys that: all of nature’s creations are merely instruments to generate “universal good”.
All of Indian wisdom echoes this message from Nature. Hence,
- The Leader should spend time introspecting what Nature teaches
- He/ she should measure all intended actions against the rule of nature – universal good
- He/ she should seek regular inputs from stakeholders on expectations met
- Continue these steps with consistency despite challenges – simply use Nature as a supreme Teacher, states this Subhashitam!
What is your favourite object or phenomenon from Nature? Sea, hills, forest, birds, spring, etc. List down the lessons you can learn from it! NOW!
मनस्यन्यद्वचस्यन्यतकार्यमन्यद् दुरात्मनाम्। मनस्येकं वचस्येकं कर्मण्येकं महात्मनाम्।।
There is one thing in the mind, another in words and yet another in the deeds of the vile minded; but for the virtuous, it is the same thing in thoughts, words and in actions!
This Sutra from Hitopadesh is a commonly quoted quality of the Leader, contributing to our understanding of Integrity
This advice is simple, yet with a deep insight – it calls for the scrutiny of the consonance between thoughts, words and deeds of the person. Is that which is in the mind, appearing on the lips and the same in behavior? Narayan Bhat’s counsel is – Integrity is harmony between thoughts, speech and action – and this is expected of a True Leader!
As a Leader, examine the congruence between input, which is thought, and output, which is action! What did you find? Introspect. And make a change!
तेनार्थवाँल्लोभपराङगमुखेन तेन ध्नता विघ्नभयं क्रियावान्। तेनास लोकः पितृमान्विनेत्रा तेनैव शोकापनुदेन पुत्री।।
As he was free from avarice, his people became prosperous; as he dispelled all fear of obstacles, they could perform their duties (satisfactorily); as he (gently) corrected them, he was (but) a father to them; as he removed their grief, they had a son in him!
Pandit Kalidas, the great poet philosopher, uses poetry beautifully to depict the ideal actions of the Leader – with respect to one’s stakeholders!
Continuing with this ageless saga of illustrious Leaders (in this case, Sri Ram), we are shown that the Leader :
1. Has to practise trusteeship,
2. Work towards creating prosperity,
3. Create an enabling work environment,
4. Bring in an execution oriented culture,
5. Make clear the enshrined values of the organization,
6. Has to devise ways to smooth over unexpected calamities, and
7. Make each one feel valued, like family.
When all seven factors are addressed, it makes for a phenomenal organization, assures Kalidas!
Is your Leadership consistently and continually, enhancing itself? Introspect – now!
समवृत्तिरुपैति मार्दवं समये यश्च तेनेति तिग्मताम्। अधितिष्ठति लोकमोजसा स विवस्वनिव मेदनीपतिः।।
That Leader, who maintains an even course of self-conduct; and assumes mildness or severity at the appropriate time; (such a Leader) rules over the earth, just like the sun by his vitality!
Pandit Bharavi, the great poet of yore, explains that Leadership is about the application of the right measures of behaviour, at the right time!
These lines captured from this powerful poem, uses the sublime metaphor of the sun for the Leader. And what a metaphor it is, considering that the Sun nurtures the entire world, without claiming a shred of credit. Similarly, the Leader has to: 1. Burn himself/ herself in effort, while providing Seva that nourishes every being 2. He/ she needs to touch each life but the manner has to vary based on understanding the person/ persons 3. That done, he/ she needs to develop methods and processes of ensuring a combination of encouragement and the stringent 4. Be a master of timing, and employ measures meaningfully for getting desired outcomes. A scientist of human behaviour he/ she should be, proclaims Bharavi!
Make a plan to observe the Sun at 4 times of the day tomorrow – preferably at Sunrise, Noon, mid afternoon and at Sunset. Make copious notes of your observation of the Sun’s position, characteristics of ambient light, intensity, its effect on plants, birds and humans. Now write corresponding behaviours for Leadership!
व्यसनी प्राप्य दुःख वा युज्यतेभ्युदयेन यः। तथा पुरूषमाहुस्तं प्रधानं नायकं बुधाः
Natya Shaastra 24.21/22
Whether in the throes of adversity or on the crest of prosperity, the one ahead of everyone is called a Leader by the wise.
Speaking about the actions of Leaders, we now have another perspective from Bharat Rishi, who composed this great scripture – observe the behaviour in challenging times, he recommends.
In happy times, it’s easier to be ahead but in tough times, if he/ she continues to march ahead of the Team, that’s Leadership.
Do you partake of their joys and sorrows alike? Ask yourself.
दधतौ मंगलक्षौमे वसानस्य च वल्कले। ददृशुर्विस्मितास्तस्य मुखरागं समं जनाः।।
When he wore the silken garments for coronation and (later) when he wore clothes made of bark – for forest life (in exile), his facial expressions remained the same; seeing which, the people were wonderstruck
Continuing to dwell on the actions of Leaders, and especially in calamity, we now have an outstanding verse from the great poet Kalidas
The state of mind of the Leader, in adversity should be steady, just as it ought to be, even when in great prosperity – this was demonstrated by the prince (Lord) Ram by his body language, under both circumstances! Such is the resilience expected of Leadership.
This wins over the people – how do you face the hardest times?
सर्वहितमेकस्य ब्रुवतः कुर्युराज्ञाम्।
Kautilya Arthashaastra 3.10.39
The populace shall obey the orders of one, who proposes that, which holds the benefit of all
Continuing to dwell on the actions of Leaders, we now have the recommendation of Acharya – on what should guide these actions.
The above Sutra is a principle which enunciates that employees are bound to follow only those rules, which are well considered – with great benefit to the majority, as also with lasting impact. The Leader has to always think through the next steps – with this principle in mind.
As a Leader, when formulating the way ahead for the organization, does this get due consideration?
इह कर्माणि कुर्वन् एव शतं समाः जिजीविषेत्।
Doing verily, work in this world, one should wish to live, a hundred years.
This Vedic injunction declares an important principle to all Leaders.
It is through a Larger purpose (first) and (then) meaningful action, aligned with the purpose, that a Leader “earns” longevity. This is due to being perceived as focussed by customers and as a role model by employees.
How focused are you in your purpose today – in every action and interaction?