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Ancient history is replete with examples of exemplary leaders who have left a lasting legacy on their impact and future. It’s my belief, that the best of such leaders emerge from periods of crisis – and what better place to study crisis than during periods of war. It’s often said that it’s the wartime leaders who are able to pull companies/businesses out of a crisis, and it’s apt that we look at such leaders and their philosophies during the middle of a pandemic as we slowly but surely make the steps in the right direction to make progress as a society.

Chanakya, 2300 years ago single-handedly changed the course of our country’s history. He was responsible for removing the threat of the ever-ambitious Alexander, during his plans to conquer India. In his ever-popular book Arthashastra, he has outlined the duties of a leader which has its relevance even today.

He was a proponent of the principle of Inclusion. In today’s management terminology ‘Brain Storming’ is an oft-repeated word as the key to problem-solving. The more time we spend in discussion and asking questions, the more it helps us to come up with alternatives. As a Leader, it is always important to include and listen to the stakeholders/team members in decision making. During this process, a pivotal skill that leaders need to sharpen is to identify the difference between Opinions and Real advice. Leaders should take feedback, listen to everyone, and critically evaluate the information for better decision making. This came through as his definition of ‘Sama’.

A leader has to focus on financial benefits and compensation. In today’s HR Terminology, we call it as Incentives / Variable pay for enhancing Performance. As a leader one needs to take care of the team both financially & emotionally. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the company. Reward them for the good work and compensate everyone according to the value they add to the organization. This inherently fosters a culture of equity – This came through as his definition of ‘Dana’ (Financial Benefits).

One of the most important but hard to cultivate skills for a leader is the aspect of delegation. Not everything a Leader can do and should do. Capitalizing the skills of team members to get the work done is what makes a great leader. It is not only delegation; it is also continuous reviews which the leader must take to know the progress and guide the team to the right path. This came through as his definition of ‘Bheda’ (Divide).

It’s extremely important for a leader to enforce discipline as a culture. As a leader, one needs to always ensure that “S/he is friendly but not a Friend”. Leaders should enforce discipline or else, everyone will take him/her for granted and the project/organization will suffer. Leaders should also make policies/guidelines for enabling the employees to navigate and reach the goal. In extreme cases when things go beyond control, then the Leader has the right to act by Punishing in the form of an Exit. This came through as his definition of ‘Dhanda’ (Reprimand).

It’s the above 4 aspects of a good leader that drives any business forward. When principles have stood the test of time, and stayed relevant, it’s imperative upon us as leaders to pay attention, take note and implement them as a way of life. As always, it’s the simple things that are the ones, that are never easy. The role of a leader is not to create followers, but to create more leaders.


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