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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ideal leadership qualities for India’s next Prime Minister according to Chanakya


Ideal leadership qualities for India’s next Prime Minister according to Chanakya

-          Radhakrishnan Pillai

(Author – Chanakya’s 7 secrets of leadership along with D.Sivanandhan)

We are a young nation with an old tradition. Young because as a newly formed nation in 1947, we are just 67 years old. While we have taken forward a wisdom which is over 5000 years. As we are in the process of electing our next prime minster what are the insights we can draw about the qualities that are expected in such a person. Can our ancient wisdom of ancestors come to guide us in this aspect? Why not – we have documented proofs of good governance in many of our scriptures like Ramayana - an epic that talks about Ram Rajya, the pinnacle of a happy kingdom. We can learn from Mahabharata – where Bhishma guides Yudhistira on leadership. And of course we have the magnam opus Kautilya Arthashastrawhere  Chanakya is the leader of all king makers who provides six thousand sutras on leadership, governance, economics, foreign policies, law and war and various other topics related to nation building.

Lets us look at a few sutras from the Arthashastra where an ‘ideal’ king is defined by Chanakya. One may consider that a king is no more relevant in the era of democracy. But we need to understand that more than the form of governance; the leader plays an important role. One may have the best form of governance, yet people may not be happy. On the other end, if we have a good leader, he or she can create good systems and make people happy.

India is known to be the largest Democracy in the world and yet one which falls short of flawless leadership skills and accountability. As goes the saying, “Yatha rajah – Tatah Prajah”.

What makes a good prime minister according to Chanakya? Let us look at a few ideas given in the Arthashastra. Kindly note, these sutras are to be taken as gender-neutral given this day and age. After all as they said about Indira Gandhi, she was the only man in the parliament.

1.      Energy

“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)


One may use different words to explain this quality – dynamic, passionate, enthusiastic, charismatic, but the central quality is that the leader has to be a go-getter. Thus he needs to be a role model for the entire system. Walking the talk, leading by example, doing what he says, delivering on the promises made.

Where does he get the source of such energy? – From within oneself, says Chanakya. When problems are around, he is the solution. He is the one who charges up the nation for a higher cause. 

2.      Attitude of a leader

“In the happiness of the subjects lies the benefit of the king and in what is beneficial to the subjects is his own benefit. What is dear to himself is not beneficial to the king, but what is dear to the subjects is beneficial to him” (1.19.34)

The leader should be able to connect to everyone. Their happiness becomes his prime responsibility. Chanakya says that a king is like a father. He cares for the children, nourishes them, gives them security, educates them and makes them fit for life’s challenges.


Even 6 decades after India’s independence, why is it that the nation’s billions continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and disease? Until the last individual in the country is not relieved of all troubles, the government’s work is far from over.
Given that India was free 6 decades ago,

3.      Speed

“He should hear (at once) every urgent matter, (and) not put it off. An (affair) postponed becomes difficult to settle or even impossible to settle” (1.19.30)

Apart from having a vision he should be a good executor and get them implemented in the given time frame. It also means taking timely and quick decisions so that we are not just analysing but moving things forward. The outcome is what every Indian wishes to see; we will not rest on false promises.

We need to work on war mode to solve problems like electricity, roads, infrastructure, water and what not. Get set go and make sure things get done. Swami Vivekananda had said ‘stop not till the goal is achieved’.

Hello Prime minister… are you listening to Chanakya’s wisdom?


You need to Mr. Prime Minister… because our Indian wisdom is not just ancient – it is eternal. It has survived the test of time and can once again help us to bounce back and get our dignity back at the global level.

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