Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya Empire in Ancient India. From a humble background, he was picked up, taught and counselled by the greatest mastermind ever in history, Chanakya – a Hindu Brahmin also known as Kautilya and the author of the Arthashastra. Chandragupta with his counsellor Chanakya thereafter together built one of the largest empires ever on the Indian subcontinent.
I have always been fascinated with history, particularly Indian History. My obsession with Chandragupta Maurya began around 14 years ago when I first read about him in my school textbook. Not much was mentioned about his kingdom except the word ‘greatest ruler.’ I got fascinated and I decided to read more about him. I got to know the incredible journey of probably the greatest king of the world.
Today, let me give you sic incredible leadership lessons I learnt from Chandragupta Maurya’s life.
- Believe in yourself, and with the right strategy, you can conquer the world.
Prior to his consolidation of power, Alexander the Great had invaded the northwest part of India, then abandoned his campaign in 324 BCE and left a legacy of several Indo-Greek kingdoms in the northwest ancient India. Chandragupta created a new empire, applied the principles of statecraft, built a large army and continued expanding the boundaries of his empire. Chandragupta’s empire extended from Bengal to most of the Indian subcontinent except for parts that are now Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Odisha. Chandragupta defeated Alexander’s General Seleucus Nicator and got the complete control of Afghanistan and Pakistan i.e, Northwest of Indian subcontinent creating the largest empire ever known during those days. We all know Alexander as Alexander the great. What we don’t know is- it was Chandragupta Maurya who defeated Alexander’s mighty army with an incredible strategy. Peace treaty was signed and Alexander’s army retreated. History books should be rewritten to deservingly give Chandragupta Maurya the apt tag of being the greatest ever ruler on earth.
This is an important lesson for aspiring leaders. The fear of failure has created a web of failed leadership across the world. You cannot win if you fear failure. There are people who intimidate us. There are people who would leave no stones unturned in defeating you. Don’t give up. Don’t get intimidated. Stand up and fight for your right. You can achieve everything with a right strategy. Just don’t quit. You can find peace with even your greatest enemies. Everyone fears a fearless leader.
- Divide work in order to effectively lead.
Chandragupta Maurya’s empire was centralised, with different ministries for overseeing different jobs. This was the first known empire which created a centralised system with different committees and experts involved in governance.
This is again a significant leadership lesson for you. A lot of young entrepreneurs I have come across want to manage everything by their own. They find it hard to divide work among experts in the team. Insecurities and ego are the primary reason for the same. This is damaging on different levels. You must learn to trust people. You must learn to train your employees. Dividing work amongst your team will not only help you find time for yourself, but it will be extremely effective in your overall goals. Leaders face hyper tension because of their inability to trust their team. Don’t be such a leader. Chandragupta Maurya teaches us the importance of committees for better governance.
- Innovation is must in the growth of any company.
Chandragupta Maurya had a separate committee for innovation. Spoked wheel, burnt bricks, ring wells were probably used for the first time in a major civilisation history under his leadership. Chandragupta Maurya kept innovation as his primary goal while governing his kingdom. He had scientists (Rishis) in this court who would constantly bring some or the other innovation which could be implemented in agriculture and warfare.
This is again an unmissable lesson. Leaders must aim at innovation in the organisation. Support your employees who are trying to bring new ways to handling work. This will not only make your office a fun and curious place, but also give you an added advantage when you are working towards your goal. You must be innovative in your approach. Find new ways, implement new ideas and use new tools. It will help you.
- ….and finally, a right mentor is a game changer.
Here comes Chanakya. It is fair to say that our thoughts have weight. Weight, that is capable of not only altering our state of mind but also the course of our actions and life in general. We are aware of great thinkers and philosophers who have tried to bank positive and friendly mantras for a more fulfilling life. Amongst them, Guru Chanakya stands apart for his witty and brutally honest mantras for life. These were the teaching imbibed by great rulers like Chandragupta Maurya, who progressed and prospered through their reign.
Here are some of Chanakya’s hundreds of ideologies and witty ideas that leaders can inculcate in their lives:
- “Learn from the mistakes of others; you cannot live long enough to make them all yourselves”
We have often heard we wouldn’t know if we are going to fail at something or not, if we don’t at least try. Chanakya believes otherwise. This ideology simply translates to – life is short and we cannot waste it trying to make unnecessary mistakes and pretending to learn from them. There will be risks at some point and we must take the plunge then. However, it is important to take lessons from other’s life so we can add as much character to ours. We have only so many years on this planet, we need to absorb as much as we can from around us, to be able to live to the fullest.
- “There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interest. This is a bitter truth.”
Friendships are very essential elements of our lives. We grow and learn from them and they are the necessary pillars to our success at times. Chanakya says it is important to realize that there is no friendship that is entirely selfless. It is interesting to think of this as the people we become friends with in the first place at least give us a sense of comfort or belonging, if not more. There is always a give and take in any relationship. If one understands this truth, we can be aware of how much we are ready to invest in any friendship. This can go a long way in keeping our headstrong and focused if ever our emotions and friends tend to derail them otherwise. I believe this. Following this mantra can save us for diverting ourselves from living a life expecting non-sense selflessness from people around us.
- “If a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous.”
No one must ever see the chink in your armor. Chanakya is emphasizing on shielding your weakness from the world here. The world has people and entities that target the weak. It is no secret that we all have our own weaknesses and strengths. It is crucial not to display our weakness to the world. This will only make one vulnerable and an easy target for attack. Instead, we must display a hint of strength, even if we don’t feel particularly strong. Shield yourself by creating an aura of strength!
- “Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions – Why am I doing it? What the results might be? Will I be successful? Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead.”
For any goal or ambition, one needs to have “why” in place. Chanakya thinks that one must go to the depth of our desires in our hearts. Firstly, to realize what exactly we crave for and then to establish that in our subconscious. If you know why you want to do something, everything else will fall in place. You will automatically start waking up at that 5 AM alarm or working an extra hour if you believe in your goal. This will only happen if you analyze how viable your goal is and whether there are real chances of being successful or not. Once you have an answer to these questions in your head, your focus will be like an invincible beast!
- “As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it.”
We all feel afraid; either of things or the situations that we are faced with in our lives. One often has trouble dealing with how to deal with this fear coming in the path of attaining any kind of success. Chanakya says one shouldn’t run away from it. Being an escapist is a sign of delaying failure. It might be really tempting to try to shelter yourself here, but this is when you need to go all out. Letting you feel the fear and embracing it will eventually destroy it. As you realize you are afraid of something that is approaching you in your life you must go to the depth of the matter and let it sink through. This will be your way of attacking and destroying it. The only thing to fear is being fearful! It has no other strength to break you other than how it can make you feel. Understand that and destroy its purpose in the first place.
Chanakya’s thinking ideology revolves around a sense of realism. One needs to realize the facts of life and society in order to rise above and eventually beyond it. When one has had enough of false positivity and pretense, a hint of wit and sarcasm from the ocean of ideas of the great Chanakya can become your mantra for success in life!