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

The leader - the Chief Executive or the Chairman of a company - has the most important role to play in taking the organisation ahead. Being at the helm he has to guide the organisation to achieve higher goals and set new trends.

He has to ensure that the organisation is growing stronger not only financially but in the process the foundations and the value systems of its founders and visionaries are not lost. The organisation has to grow from just a profit making machine to contributor to the society, an enterprise for the well being of one and all. To achieve this, the leader has to lead by example.

How does Kautilya define an ideal leader?

“If the king is energetic, his subjects will be equally energetic. If he is slack (and lazy in performing his duties) the subjects will also be lazy, thereby, eat into his wealth. Besides, a lazy king will easily fall into the hands of the enemies. Hence the king should himself always be energetic” (1.19.1-5)

Being energetic is the highest quality required by a leader. A self-motivated person, he has to raise the enthusiasm of his team members too. Only if he is energetic will his employees also be energetic. If he shows laziness the employees will also loose interest in their work and very soon, a sense of complacency will run through the whole organisation.

All great leaders who set a trend in the corporate world were highly motivated and inspired. The best example in recent days was J.R.D. Tata.

A visionary leader, JRD, as he was popularly known, was largely responsible for Tata becoming a trusted household name in the country. He not only guided the group to higher achievements in terms of size, but he also was a part of the process.


JRD was the first Indian to get a pilot license in his early twenties. He was responsible for setting up Tata Airlines - the first commercial airline of our country which today is Air India. He built the airline into the best in terms of punctuality, service and efficiency. In Air-India’s golden jubilee year, JRD flew a solo flight between Mumbai and Karachi. He was always a leader who led from the front.

What if the leader is not every alert and active? With the high level of competition around it is easy for his enemies to over take him. A slack leader will also cause the company he heads to become financially weak. Fundamentally, a leader should be physically active, mentally alert and intellectually convinced.

Once, a great leader, who continued working even after advancing in age, was asked, “Why do you go around doing so much work. Why can’t you take rest?” Pat came the reply,

“If I rest – I rust”.

Contributed by  - Radhakrishnan Pillai






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