History teaches if we are willing to learn.
As an Indian, like most of my friends, I grew up listening to stories from epics like Ramayana and the Mahabharata. I personally believe that there are lot of things today’s 21st century managers and corporate leaders can learn from these wise pieces of literature. I suggest reading this article without any religious biases as the intent is just to learn from the historic or the mythological characters. Read this as a student of ‘history’ and you will gain the most out of it. If you have not read the Ramayana, I advise you to read a few pages about it on the Internet, this will help you get the most out of this article.
1. Never have too many controlling stakeholders in your business:
King Dashratha had three wives – Kaushalaya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. Thus, when you have too many stakeholders in decision making, it becomes difficult to control your business. Kaushalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharat and Sumitra gave birth to Laxmana and Shatrughana. Power dilutes when too many stakeholders take charge of any business.
2. Never sign a document without reading the terms and conditions:
Once queen Kaikeyi had saved King Dashratha’s life in battle. Dashratha was very pleased with his queen and thus in order to repay the favour, the king told her that she can ask for any two boons from the king. When Kaikeyi’s mind was influenced by her maid Manthara, she used these boons against her stepson Rama and tried to make her own son Bharata the next crowned king of the kingdom. She asked the king to send Rama on a 14-year-long exile to the forest and to declare her son Bharata as the next king of the kingdom. In business, you cannot trust anyone. Make sure, you have all the your contacts in black and white.
3. Learn from the experts:
King Dashratha sent his son Rama to sage Vishwamitra for learning the art of warfare. As the promoter or owner of the business, learn to send your children to the most suitable teacher. Raise your next generation of leaders by putting them in challenging situations. Help them develop the skills they must learn to face a challenging business environment.
4. Be willing to compete:
When the King Janaka organised the wedding of his daughter Sita, fearsome warriors were invited to participate in a ‘Swayamvar spardha’- the competitive act of choosing one’s husband’. The king organised a competition in which Rama defeated all other warriors and emerged as the most suitable candidate. As a business owner, expect strong competition and learn whatever it takes to win what you want ethically.
5. Do not covet what does not belong to you:
If you see the entire story plot of Ramayana you will realise that it is made up of storylines where human greed took charge. Kaikeyi wanted her son to be the next king; Ravana’s sister Surpanakha wanted to marry Laxmana, who rejected her evil advances and ended up cutting her nose; King Bali abducted the wife of his own brother Sugreeva. Likewise, Ravana wanted to possess Sita, who was the rightfully wedded wife of Rama. Ravana – blinded by his desire to possess Sita – ended up abducting her. The entire battle of Lanka was fought to free Sita from the shackles of the evil king Ravana. In your business too, learn to play ethical. Do not do anything illegal or overlook laws to secure a quick win.
6. Keep wise counsel:
Queen Kaikeyi kept an evil maid Manthara as her counsel. Over time, the woman managed to poison Kaikeyi’s mind against Rama. King Ravana avoided the counsel of his wife Mandodari who told her to return Sita respectfully to her husband. He did not listen to his own brother Vibhishana and kicked him out of his kingdom. Do not have subordinates who always try to flatter you. Surround yourself with a team of people who tell you what you need to know and not what you like to know.
7. Choose your joint venture alliances carefully:
Rama, in order to win, needed a powerful ally. Yet when it came to making an alliance, he choose Sugreeva over his powerful brother King Bali. Bali was a very powerful man who had already defeated Ravana once, and yet Rama did not join forces with him because he was an immoral man. He kicked his own brother Sugreeva out of the Kishkindha kingdom and abducted his wife. If you partner with wrong and unethical people you may win in the short run, but in the lose run will lose your reputation.
8. Negotiate and do not fight disruption:
Before declaring a full-scale war, Rama tried to negotiate with King Ravana by sending Angada as his emissary. Later on, even Hanumaan offered peace to Ravana, but he was so blinded in his ignorance that he failed to see a more powerful force. Innovate on your strategy regularly. Choose innovation over ignorance. A low of businesses die because their leader could not negotiate and adapt well to a powerful force of disruption. The businesses which do not change with time, eventually get destroyed.
Be a curious student and see what you should learn from Ramayana to take your professional life to the next level.