4 Incredible Leadership Lessons From India’s Chanakya
We have many modern day bigwigs who we see as our mentors and leaders, and use their principles in our lives — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and so on.
But along the way, have we forgotten the wisdom from our own ancient leaders?
2300 years ago a Brahmin man named Chanakya single-handedly changed the course of our country’s history. He ousted the threat of the ever-ambitious Alexander the Great when he planned to conquer India. His immense knowledge and guidance helped Chandragupta Maurya expand his empire across India and later into parts of Afghanistan and Persia. To share what he knew with the world, he wrote ‘Arthashastra’ outlining duties of a king and the means of striking a balance between power and his people.
A university of leadership, Chanakya has many lessons to his arsenal:
“When in the court, he shall never cause his petitioners to wait at the door, for when a king makes himself inaccessible to his people and entrusts his work to his immediate officers, he may be sure to engender confusion in business, and to cause thereby public disaffection, and himself a prey to his enemies.”
Because of the corporate system, people on top of the hierarchy are inaccessible to those at the bottom. They only communicate with people of equal or higher status and mostly ignore the rest. This egoistic approach towards work is catastrophic to the company. Chanakya, however, back then had the key to a near-perfect work culture.
He said it’s vital for people in power to be accessible. They shouldn’t confine themselves to a certain group or limit themselves to particular job. He believed leaders must be open-minded and not be deterred by any kind of differences.
This attitude is the key of effective communication at work place. If people follow this, there won’t be any space for ego-driven battles in the company. People will easily open up and be themselves.
“All urgent calls he shall hear at once, but never put off; for when postponed, they will prove too hard or impossible to accomplish.”
Yes, 2300 ago this brahmin man talked about procrastination like the self-help pundits do today. Even though such an idea existed for so long, we still haven’t changed — we procrastinate rigorously. We postpone client meetings. We miss deadlines. And sometimes, we simply don’t work.
He knew back then that in order to expand his empire, it’s important for him to do his duties the right way at the right time. He never pushed things off for another day. Clearly, this man was a pro at time management.
People First, You Second
“In the happiness of his subjects lies his happiness; in their welfare his welfare; whatever pleases himself he shall not consider as good, but whatever pleases his subjects he shall consider as good”.
Chanakya believed every job is about people eventually. He said leaders must keep themselves secondary and people at the forefront of their decisions. We learn about this principle at business schools, but he followed it back then.
Giving people importance is crucial for every business. Growth of companies depend on this very concept.
Do people really like you as a leader and your company as a brand? It’s essential for companies to focus on people’s needs instead of personal needs — a simple key to success.
Reward Those Who Perform Well
“Whoever imposes severe punishment becomes repulsive to the people; while he who awards mild punishment becomes contemptible. But whoever imposes punishment as deserved becomes respectable. For punishment when awarded with due consideration, makes the people devoted to righteousness and to works productive of wealth and enjoyment; while punishment, when ill-awarded under the influence of greed and anger or owing to ignorance, excites fury even among hermits and ascetics dwelling in forests, not to speak of householders”.
Chanakya brought the reward system into his leadership tactics to encourage those who are performing well. He believed that those who are rewarded get motivated and continue to work their best.
That’s why people must be held accountable for their work. Whether the work is good or bad. Those who perform well must be rewarded, not just encouraged. And those who under-perform should be put on the spot — one of the best ways to charge up your team.