Essentials of leadership qualities- with reference to kautilya’s Arthasasthra By

Sathya Narayanan.SR. MBA, M.Phil,Faculty of Business Administration,Sri Malolan College of Arts & Science. Madurantakam, 603 306 (This article is published on the Conference proceedings of International Conference on Contemporary Innovative Practices in Management; Organised by Pacific University, Udaipur)

Arthashastra, the treatise on Administration was written by Kautilya in the 4th century. It consists of 15 chapters, 380 Shlokas and 4968 Sutras. In all probability, this treatise is the first ever book written on Practice of Management. It is essentially on the art of governance & management and has an instructional tone. Kautilya wrote this treatise for his swamy, the king Chandragupta Maurya and stated in its preface that it has been written as a guide for “those who govern”. Kautilya was interested in establishment and operation of the machinery through which the king preserves the integrity and solidarity of the State and generates power. It is astonishing to observe that several concepts of present day management theories especially leadership qualities have been explicitly explained by Kautilya in his treatise. As in the present day management, the importance of vision, mission and motivation was captured in Arthashastra. Kautilya advise his swamy, the king to rule through Prabhu Shakti (vision), Mantra Shakti (mission) and Utsah Sahkti (motivation). Kautilya’s concept of the objectives of a king seems to be virtually adopted by Peter Drucker in his book, “Managing For Results”. In Arthashastra, chapter 19 of Book 1, titled „Rules of a King‟ describes the various qualities of a leader. A complete and detailed study of this section can prove very fruitful to various employees and employers, who want to develop leadership qualities. It gives exhaustive, step by step guidelines about the kind of life a leader should lead, right from his daily timetable, to his method of conducting himself with different types of people. Let’s see some of the leadership qualities… Be Active The first and foremost quality of a leader is to be active. No other quality can replace this. The enthusiasm of the leader is itself an inspiration to others. As the famous saying goes,

If he is slack (and lazy in performing his duties) the subjects will also be lazy. so the leader. Only if he/she is energetic and active. and thereby eat into his wealth”.“People learn more by watching actions than listening to sermons”. his subjects will be equally energetic. Leaders are the ones who have a positive energy field around them. However. it will definitely not be long before he loses his/her chair.14. to correct the mistakes of past committed by his predecessors and to create something for future.1) Communication Kautilya advices a good liaison with others. and many even destroy the organization itself. has risen to destroy the organization and workers ” (1.26) Any person who wants to communicate with the seniors about their affairs should be encouraged as it helps bridge the gap of communication.19. not possessed of the eye of science and (hence) blind . blinded by intoxication and mounted by an intoxicated driver. “just as an elephant. he should cover up the father’s defects and display his virtues” (13. the subordinates will also display energetic enthusiasm.7) Responsibilities Every leader should have two big responsibilities. not only for those at the bottom level in the management.23) . Knowledge The leader of an organization holds a position of power. “If the administrator is energetic. commander and decision maker. crushes whatever it finds (on the way). “In the case of inherited territory. if he/she gets intoxicated by his power and position alone.5.19. (1. but also those in top level management. “He (Leader) should allow unrestricted entrance to those wishing to see him in connection with official affairs” (1.

he/she should listen to him at once. “He should hear (at once) every urgent matter.19. a fast decision maker. The leader has to be very alert about movements of his employees as well as his/her competitors. and a fast implementer. The leader should not become a lazy after him/her achieving the target.3) Don’t allow time to pass . (1.Competitiveness The leader should not limit him/her self after achieving the target. Hence the administrator should himself always be energetic”. He/she has no time to waste. men being inconstant in their minds” (2. Thus. also he/she has to try to achieve more and more what he/she actually expected to achieve.19.1-5) Decision Making There is a lot of work that cannot move forward without the leader’s final decision. the pressure gets piled up and then the situation gets out of control.30) A leader has to be a fast thinker. “He (leader) should constantly hold an inspection of their works. If an administrator fails to be alert. but moving ahead is more important. Chanakya suggests that if a subordinate comes to him with an urgent matter. If he/she postpones a decision. a lazy administrator will easily fall into the hands of the enemies. Analysing good.” (1. he/she will be cheated by his/her subordinates.19. “Besides. Vigilance It is the primary responsibility of a leader to continuously check all important data as well as the activities of the organization. An (affair) postponed becomes difficult to settle or even impossible to settle. and not put it off.

(Book 2 & 3) Work through Problem A leader must have to posses the skill to handle the problem and to find a better solution for the same.12) It includes. this was also pointed out by the father of modern management. The best time is not the muhurat. Duty etc. as the means of all actions (and) as the support of all laws (and duties). Guidance. for the above problem Kautilya suggests that. Leaders always observed minutely by people around him. Be an Example A leader’s position is very critical and sensitive. stressed.3. Also he/she should have the capability to face the problem. nor even the right dates that come up in a calendar. Adhering to law. the one who afraid to face the problem otherwise he/she cannot become an effective leader. and worrying about the future. Kautilya brings out the finer points of the importance of ethics in business. not its very goal”. Subordinates do not just do what the leader said – they follow leader’s every action!. there are lot of opportunities for anything you want to do. In the following verse. so it is the responsibility of a leader to retain a value or ethics in business.”. Decision in action. It is right here and right now.” (1. he should not allow time to pass. So he/she has to adopt the policy of “time and tide wait for no man” Ethics in Business The root of any business lies in its core value system.products of business. “Having found a matter for consideration.15. “Philosophy is ever thought of as the lamp of all sciences.Today’s corporate scenario.45) The leader should not wait for any golden moment to start what he/she always wants to do.. the expert suggests. yet we find people sad.”(1. “The administrator and the magistrates should first keep in check the heads of departments and their subordinates. Peter Drucker – “Profits are by. .

4.34) Train the subordinates It is one of the essential qualities of the leader. he/she has to take into consideration on the overall benefit of the team and not just his/her individual benefit. whom he consults before taking any decision in matters regarding that particular area. he/she takes tough decisions that may seem harsh to a few people. but there can be no team without a leader. free from dangers caused by men” (5.2. With more counselors it is difficult to reach decisions and maintain secrecy. He/she is the nucleus around which everything takes place. consulting experts in various fields. It may not be feasible for him to take care of all these areas himself. he/she cannot keep others truly inspired.1.”(1. the leader has to train his/her subordinates in order to make them more informative.19. if his/her heart is not full of love.“Internal (hindrance) is hindrance by the chiefs. 35. external is the hindrance caused by enemies or forest-tribes” (8. however great the vision of the leader may be. It will make them to work at any situation which is good for the organization “The system (Organisation) continues in the succession of his sons and grandsons.48) Love for Members A leader can create a team. “All undertakings should be preceded by consultation.56) Consultation There are various areas that the leader has to look into. Hence he/she should take help and guidance. with a desire to learn and understand more. chief security adviser etc. Today we find that even the President or Prime Minister of a country has specialists like the principal scientific adviser.15. “In the happiness of the subject lies the benefit of the administrator and in what is beneficial to the subjects is his own benefit. he may not be able to reach a decision in difficult matters. 40) . However.” (1. This consultation should be done in a spirit of humility.. Holding a consultation with only one. At many points.

Thus. Hence the person one who . He gives suggestions or decisions based on dharma. ascetics and spiritual masters were respected and revered. His validity comes from his deep understanding of dharma. The king could start the session only after offering salutations to these great masters. as Kautilya says “Leaders always observed minutely by people around him”.Respect Spiritual & Experienced People This is a unique quality found in the India that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. which is essential for the growth and sustainability of the organisation. Leadership is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for mutual objectives. where they had the highest and the most important seat offered. They were invited to the courts to take important decisions. is not the ultimate. We have gone back to them again and again to check if we have missed the right track somewhere. leadership is the process involving two or more people in which one attempts to influence the other’s behavior towards the accomplishment of some goals. So the above discussed leadership qualities. we find mention of a special seat for the acharya. he looks for guidance from the acharya. Simply stated. who used to be consulted before taking any key decision in the society. has been a spiritual country. in turn. a religious teacher. The leader himself understands that he is not the ultimate. understands that he too. It has taken spirituality as its national ideal. as a person. right from its very birth. yet we never gave up our search for Truth. The acharya. India.15.20-21) Throughout the Arthashastra. In various religious books and stories. Our gurus and spiritual masters have been our role models and also our benchmark for excellence. “Therefore sit and counsel with those who are mature in intellect. Thus the whole society runs on the basis of dharma. Leadership is an indispensable part of the directing function and an important factor in Organisational effectiveness. Koontz O’Donnell have defined leadership as “the ability of a manger to induce subordinates to work with confidence and zeal”. Centuries have passed. hermits. we find that acharyas were given a patient hearing on various matters and also invited to court sessions. Therefore.”(1. In ancient India.

C. Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Arthashastra.holds the post of leader must have to possess these requisite qualities in order to make the organisation more efficient and effective. Chapter XIX . Shamasastry.Sultan Chand & Sons. Corporate Chanakya. by Dr. Mysore. by Dr.Radhakrishnan Pillai – Jaico Publishers. Business Management.cit 5. Karnataka 4. op. 3. Arthashastra – Mysore oriental manuscripts library.R. 2.B. Arthashastra . Bibliography: 1.Gupta. Book I.

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