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This article explores the relevance and application of Principles and Strategies of Chanakya as discussed in his 3rd Century BC treatise, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, in Today’s Corporate World.

Why do disasters or calamities happen? Well, who better to answer this question than the world’s first management guru – Chanakya – who says,

“A calamity of a constituent, of a divine or human origin, springs from ill luck or wrong policy” (8.1.2)

So, whether we look at a state government or a corporate entity, a calamity in any place or department always happens due to two reasons – ill luck or wrong policy.

Ill luck is when a natural calamity occurs and is not in our control. Earthquakes, floods, forest fires, etc might be predicted but certainly cannot be controlled or avoided fully.

However, the second type of calamity is man-made and happens due to mismanagement. Now, while these types of ‘calamities’ cannot be avoided, they can definitely be managed well.

But before we get into that, we need to ask ourselves why does mismanagement by human beings happen? Chanakya gives the reasons too, 

“Inversion of excellences, absence, a great defect, addiction, or affliction constitutes a calamity” (8.1.3)

Let us look at each of them in detail:

1. INVERSION OF EXCELLENCE

Simply put, it means ‘not being excellent’. This happens when a manager is not proficient in his work. To avoid this, he has to be up to date with the latest developments in his own field. He should know both theory and practice, including the latest technical advances.

2. ABSENCE

If a person is absent on a regular and continuous basis, he will loose touch with what is happening at office. It is very necessary to take breaks from the work life. But, it is equally essential to get back into action once you are back to work. Every person should know how to switch off and come back to work immediately.

3. A GREAT DEFECT

Sometimes, a bad management team is the cause of calamities. People who are not qualified are placed at the helm. Or a bad decision-maker is made a leader due to influence of power. There could also be some personal defect in the leader which one may not be aware of. During high-pressure situations, such persons can’t do anything. Worse, they run, blaming others if things go wrong.

4. ADDICTION

So, whether we look at a state government or a corporate entity, a calamity in any place or department always happens due to two reasons – ill luck or wrong policy. Ill luck is when a natural calamity occurs and is not in our control. Earthquakes, floods, forest fires, etc might be predicted but certainly cannot be controlled or avoided fully. However, the second type of calamity is man-made and happens due to mismanagement. Now, while these types of ‘calamities’ cannot be avoided, they can definitely be managed well. But before we get into that, we need to ask ourselves why does mismanagement by human beings happen? Chanakya gives the reasons too, Let us look at each of them in detail: 1. Simply put, it means ‘not being excellent’. This happens when a manager is not proficient in his work. To avoid this, he has to be up to date with the latest developments in his own field. He should know both theory and practice, including the latest technical advances. 2. If a person is absent on a regular and continuous basis, he will loose touch with what is happening at office. It is very necessary to take breaks from the work life. But, it is equally essential to get back into action once you are back to work. Every person should know how to switch off and come back to work immediately. 3. Sometimes, a bad management team is the cause of calamities. People who are not qualified are placed at the helm. Or a bad decision-maker is made a leader due to influence of power. There could also be some personal defect in the leader which one may not be aware of. During high-pressure situations, such persons can’t do anything. Worse, they run, blaming others if things go wrong. 4.

Wine, women, wealth and wielding of power! Addictions to anything and everything will always ruin a leader’s clarity of thinking. Therefore, throughout the ‘Arthashastra’, Chanakya emphasises control of senses for the king (leader). Only after controlling oneself can a leader control others.

5. AFFLICTION

It means causing pain and suffering to others. There are people who create unwanted and unnecessary problem to others. When in a position of power, a person should know how to use it for the benefit of others - not misuse it.

Therefore, it goes without saying that the first step towards effective disaster management is to select the right people, free from the above negativities.

Contributed by  - Radhakrishnan Pillai











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