Chanakya a.k.a. Kautilya’s 5 Crucial Advice to Leaders

The original Arthashastra is at least over 3,500 years old. Kautilya’s Arthashastra was written not more than 2,200 years earlier. It is by far the oldest as well as only text that concerns itself with leadership, management, politics and diplomacy in the most practical sense. It might be most fascinating to know that the modern education system has not one textbook on politics or diplomacy. Most of them teach only the history of politics and economics at best. If you desire to understand the nitty-gritty of practical aspects of management, leadership, politics, and diplomacy there is but one book available even to this day - Kautilya’s Arthashastra or Arthashastra edited by Kautilya.

Chanakya a.k.a. Kautilya was not the author of Arthashastra. He was its compiler, commentator, and editor at best. We know this for sure when we read Kautilya mentioning various earlier authors of Arthashastra, including Bharadwaj, Parashara, Pishuna, Shukracharya and the like. Unfortunately, Arthashastra of the earlier preceptors are lost and Kautilya’s Arthashastra is the only one that has passed down to us.

The original Arthashastra is at least over 3,500 years old. Kautilya’s Arthashastra was written not more than 2,200 years earlier. It is by far the oldest as well as only text that concerns itself with leadership, management, politics and diplomacy in the most practical sense. It might be most fascinating to know that the modern education system has not one textbook on politics or diplomacy. Most of them teach only the history of politics and economics at best. If you desire to understand the nitty-gritty of practical aspects of management, leadership, politics, and diplomacy there is but one book available even to this day – Kautilya’s Arthashastra or Arthashastra edited by Kautilya.

Here are five credible advice of Kautilya’s Arthashastra, specifically in a chapter named Artha Sutras, for political leaders:

  1. Confrontational policies yield disastrous consequences

Utilizing confrontational tactics and policies have become a norm, globally. Leaders have been using every possible approach in a way to create a direct conflict. Be that one-sided media debate, unrestful activism on the stress or even conflicting court battles, the clear objective here is to create an environment of discontent and chaos. This is a direct result of “if you cannot convince them – then confuse them,” approach. As a result, we see cases of extreme polarization. There is no more scope for being indifferent, or even neutral. “You are either with us or against is,” is the way. What people do not tend to understand is the fact that a confrontational approach is a double-sided sword. Confrontations yield no credible solution; particularly when looked as if the only solution. It paves way for distrust. In the absence of trust, nothing credible can ever happen. In the presence of distrust, there are no allies. In the absence of allies, there are no credible solutions. Catastrophe is certain.

  1. Vendetta and vengeance yields savagery

According to many legends, politics and prostitution are the oldest professions. Also, they are both born of the necessity of human urge; one for recreation and other for sustenance. According to Kautilya’s Arthashastra, the objective of politics is human welfare. According to various authors of Arthashastra, welfare is never possible in the presence of “lust, anger, greed, infatuation, ego, and envy.” These six detrimental qualities are qualified as Arishadvargas. According to these rishis, no leader possessing these six detrimental qualities can ever qualify to become a leader. And since vendetta stems from these detrimental qualities; they can seldom qualify as a virtue.

  1. Nurturing, encouraging and protecting wealth creators must be the core objective of leaders

Nations or organizations can seldom exist without Artha. Artha stands for wealth, true, but it also has a much deeper meaning. The word Artha also implies meaning. It is better to interpret Artha as Meaningful Wealth. Wealth creators in Arthashastra are those who offer their services for the nation’s/organization’s welfare. Without these wealth creators, neither the nation nor the organization can prosper. According to the preceptors of Arthashastra, prosperity is assured when the leaders ensure the welfare of these wealth creators through good leadership. A leader who fails to offer these to his subjects is considered an “incompetent leader.”

  1. Power and wealth are never equal; a person who fails to understand the difference between the two will seldom be able to retain a position of power

It is incorrect to interpret that power and wealth are the same. They never are. They will never be. Even though wealth has its own strength; power through position has its own. Any leader confusing the two is sure to have a tough time retaining both. Corrupt leaders often face such a dilemma. Kautilya’s teachings in Arthashastra explain the intricacies, nitty-gritty, and dynamics to the greatest extent. And since most politicians seldom understand this quintessential thing they often suffer holding on to power.

  1. Emotions in decision making are detrimental; leaders without emotions are disastrous.

Emotions are not always detrimental. Emotions provide us a sense of belongingness. They can also give us strength. To say one must shun emotions before you assume a position of power is not right. While it is important to care for emotions of the parties involved during decision making; it can cost a great deal when decisions are taken through emotions. Kautilya’s Arthashastra is by far the oldest available text on leadership, management, politics, and diplomacy to touch upon this topic in detail.

December 2, 2019

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