Leadership Lessons from Mahabharata


We all know that according to Charles Darwin, the species that survive are not necessarily the strongest ones but the ones who are most adaptable to change. This principle could not be more relevant that it is now in the corporate world. Change today is the only constant and the rapidness with which change is taking place is simply mind-blowing. I will not be wrong in quoting that leadership today in the corporate world is not for the faint-hearted.
However, come to think of it, it is the ability to adapt this change and turn it in our favor is what will make us successful corporate leaders. Technology and skills are easily duplicable but it is the values and beliefs we enjoy as individuals that drive us towards success.
There are lots of lessons that we can take from the Mythologies we have grown up with that can help be our moral compass in these changing times so that we are able to guide our teams and the companies we lead to our goals of sustainable successes.
Incomplete knowledge is dangerous: If we remember the story of Abhimanyu, he was aware of getting inside the Chakravyu but was unaware of getting out of it. This was lethal for him and cost him his life. We must also have a thorough knowledge of changing technologies otherwise it might check-mate us when we least expect it.
Look for strength in apparent weaknesses: Shikhandi is the classic example of how someone you never assume to be capable can actually take control of difficult situations. Who could have thought that the great Arjuna would need the help of Shikhandi to defeat Pitamah Bhishma? It is the ability to see strength in your team and use them at the right place at the right time can make you successful.
Don’t hide fire under the carpet: Karna is the best example of what can happen when mistakes are just hidden under the carpet. In today’s world of interconnectivity and social media, your mistakes can get amplified and can burn you. It is better to acknowledge it as a mistake and think of mitigating it then and there rather than postponing it till it becomes a volcano.
Look for blessings in disguise: Catastrophes are sometimes good. When Arjuna was cursed by an Apsara to become a eunuch for a year, it was a blessing in disguise. There are setbacks which will look like catastrophes at that moment but if one is resilient and looks for an opportunity in that situation it actually can be a blessing in disguise
Know your competition: Kichak is the classic example of what can happen when you are unaware of your competition. He did not know that he was challenging Bheem in the disguise of the cook. Only when you are aware of your competition thoroughly can you come up with a strategy that can ensure your success.
Learn when to stop: The great Pandav Yudhisthir was offered the opportunity to cut his losses at one point in time when the game of dice was being played. He was confident that he could win back everything and he continued to play on. He could have learned from his lack of preparation and skill in the game and accepted defeat. This could have prevented his catastrophic loss and insult at the hands of the Kauravas. But he chose otherwise and lost everything.
Don’t hurt sentiments unknowingly:  When Duryodhana came to visit the great kingdom Indraprastha and when he miscalculated a step and fell in the water, Queen Draupadi insulted him by saying that he was blind just like his father. It was a totally avoidable comment and it could have prevented the negative feelings that Duryodhan harbored in his heart and that only got converted into vengeance leading to the Kurukshetra war. What we need to understand as leaders is that we are dealing with people and not machines. In people management we as leaders need to be conscious of the feelings and emotions. We must remember that harsh words can do more harm that we can think of and it may boomerang later in a very ugly way. It is therefore wise for a leader to choose words carefully and be consciously aware at all times to not to hurt anyone unnecessarily.
Good friends can turn dangerous foes: Dronacharya and King Drupad were the best of friends till King Drupad insulted Dronacharya which made him vow revenge. And they became the worst enemies who almost destroyed the world in their hatred causing the great Mahabharata war.
Quality is more important than quantity: When Duryodhan and Arjun both went to seek the help of Lord Krishna before the Kurukshetra battle, Arjuna asked for Lord Krishna to join him even though he refused to fight with weapons but Duryodhana was Jubilant to get the huge divine army of the Lord. Arjuna believed in quality. He was aware of what 1 Krishna could do as against the millions of soldiers could not. It is a very important lesson for us to know as leaders especially when we are leading a team and motivating them towards achieving common goals.
Keep your eyes on the goal: When Drona asked his disciples to take aim at the bird and he asked them what they saw, everyone said many things and they missed their shot. Arjuna said he could only see the eyes of the bird and he succeeded.   In today’s world, there are too many distractions and too many things that drain our energy. As leaders, we must focus on the goal we have set for us and focus. The moment we lose focus we miss our target.
About the Author
Ashish Tandon serves as the managing director at Egis India Pvt Ltd with a demonstrated history of working in the civil engineering industry. Skilled in Negotiation, Gas, Petroleum, Market Planning, and Operations Management. Strong business development professional with a BSc Engineering focused in Electrical Engineering from Aligarh Muslim University. Mr. Tandon also served as the President of Business Development at BGR Energy Systems Ltd. and served as Chief Financial Officer of HEG Ltd.

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