India is not a country - it is a continent; and India’s corporate cultures are as diverse as its 1.2bn people, so to talk about ‘Indian Leadership’ in the corporate environment might run the risk of being so general as to not even be typical. It was therefore with delight that I came across Pillai and Sivanandhan’s book, “Chanakya’s 7 Secrets of Leadership” (Jaico, 2014) which looks at Indian leadership from a different perspective: here ‘Indian Leadership’ is an ancient model of Indian Leadership which is then applied today in the corporate environment (Indian or otherwise).
Here’s a summary of ‘Indian Leadership’ followed by further considerations (‘et alors’):
In the 4th century BC, Chanakya’s teachings were documented in the Arthashastra. One of the teachings therein is the seven pillars, (or ‘secrets of leadership’). Book 6, Chapter 1, Verse 3 of the Arthashastra states the qualities of a ‘Swami’ (Leader) are:
Intelligent and dynamic
Intelligence must be applied through research, study and analysis in the pursuit of ‘solutions.’ The ‘dynamic’ of a leader comes from being able to implement the solutions! Some people never start; others start but do not finish; whereas leaders start and make sure they finish.
Associates with elders
This means learning from those who are more mature and experienced than you are. Some people learn from their mistakes; others never learn from their mistakes; whereas leaders learn from others’ mistakes. To keep learning is a great quality of a leader.
Truthful in speech
Speaking the truth is important, but before that a leader has to “understand the truth.” Intuitive leadership is the highest form of leadership. Intuition comes from insights which come from maturity which comes from understanding the truth.
Does not break promises
It is not just the promise you made to others that you have to keep; instead it is the oath “you made at the start of the journey” that you have to keep. Leadership is all about delivering what you promised – to put it in modern terms, the leader has to “walk the talk.”
Gratefulness means humility. A man once asked his guru how to develop humility: “help someone lower than you” was the reply. However, having done so many times and returning to the guru asking if he was now humble, the guru eventually replied “only when you can no longer find someone lower…”
Desirous of training
Both being trained and training others. To avoid complacency, don’t just learn; rather unlearn, relearn and continuously learn! Great leaders build good training programs in which they are involved themselves, thereby sharing their knowledge and wisdom.
A leader makes himself available when the followers require him, not just when he requires them. Followers look to their leader for hope and need a “father, mother, friend, philosopher and guide.” A leader is like a “ready and available resource for any problem in an organization.”
These ‘ancient’ teachings strike me more of a guide as to how a leader should ‘behave’ rather than what a leader should ‘do.’ In a sense, it is relating to ‘how to be’ rather than ‘what to do’ even though the prescriptions relate to actions. Whatever the perspective, these behaviors of a leader might be applicable anywhere, not just in corporate India. As for applying these ‘secrets’ locally, that is where an understanding of the local culture is paramount; and for Indian culture – that may well be the subject of a future article…