#ILLUMINATION100CHALLENGE — DAY 5
Leadership & Business Lessons From the Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is the Longest Epic in the World, written around 3000 BC. It is essentially a story about cousins fighting for the throne and the circumstances that lead to it. Power, love triangles, deceit, magical weapons — the story has everything. This is why despite being an ancient text, the leadership and management concepts from this book are relevant even today.
Some important evergreen leadership lessons are listed here in this post:
- Diverse teams win!
- Bad strategy can kill even the best products!
- Don’t be a star performer on a losing team.
- Life is unfair!
#1. Diverse Teams Win!
The main plot of the Mahabharata is the war between the Pandavas (5 brothers) and Kauravas (100 brothers). The Pandavas had only seven army battalion units whereas the Kauravas had 11 units. Despite a severe lack of resources and manpower, the Pandavas vanquished their enemies because they had a diverse set of generals and soldiers.
For example, one General was Shikhandi, a woman who had transformed into a man. Gatotkach was another senior warrior who was half-human, half-demon with magical powers. The Nagas (snake-people) also sided with the Pandavas. Abhimanyu, a key player was a child prodigy fighting his first battle.
On the other hand, the Kauravas had picked highly experienced, senior veteran leaders; the modern-day equivalent of old white men! While those Generals were highly skilled, they stubbornly followed old rules and military techniques and ultimately, fell prey to their own prejudices and fatal biases.
The Pandavas chose for merit and skill, rather than age/experience/titles, and were able to skillfully adapt and counter their enemies' every move.
Similarly, we see companies without diverse Boards and teams suffer losses and bankruptcy at the hands of new entrants.
#2. Bad strategy can kill even the best products!
Hope is not a strategy!
Yudhishtira (the eldest Pandava) lost his kingdom, his family, and his honor because he chose to overlook other people’s vices and conniving. He allowed himself to be lured into a game of gambling. He knew he was not as competent as that of his opponent, but he continued playing and assumed that good sense and his merits would prevail. Hence he failed miserably and went from Crown Prince to being exiled for 12 long years.
In the modern world, businesses need to remember that “best-selling” is not the best quality. Globalization has made the world very noisy, so being good alone is not a criterion for profitability. Every product, blog, or service needs a plan. You need a good strategy to win your customers’ hearts and wallets.
#3. Don’t be a star performer on a losing team.
It might be tempting to be a big fish in a small pond and lauded for your every move. You may even enjoy the perks of being the best in the short term. However, you will suffer negative consequences and losses in the long run.
If you can see your company/domain/niche is crumbling, get out while you can!
In the Mahabharata, Karna is an expert archer and brilliant warrior. He knows he knows he is on the side of evil, but does not switch teams due to misplaced loyalties which ultimately becomes his downfall and death.
In modern times, hundreds of retail workers lost their jobs, even before Covid19 pandemic because they did not (or could not) predict the boom in online shopping would affect shopping in physical stores.
#4. Life is unfair!
We are always taught to do the right thing, but unfortunately, life can throw curve balls that upset our best-laid plans. Even the best people may find themselves at crossroads where their faith and their morals are tested.
In the short run, it might be tempting to stray from the narrow path of righteousness, but it never works out in the long run. Good actions will always triumph over evil, even if it takes time.
Have you read the Mahabharata? Did you learn any other leadership lessons that were applicable to your own life?
There are many other amazing lessons from this book. For more compelling reasons to read this book (even if you are not Indian), read this article below: