In the previous episode we had witnessed yet another offshoot from the main discussion on some of the “Charismatic” leadership qualities. Here Vidura explains in such a way that these are the qualities that are to be imbibed by any ruler, if he should be hailed to be a successful person. Hence, as a righteous king, one of Vidura’s key advices is to avoid unwanted talks and gosipps about others. This, of course as discussed yesterday, has two primary implications – One is that the king is wasting his precious time by talking unwanted stuff. The second implication is that, he would end up losing trust amongst others. This is applicable not only to kings, but also to all of us in the modern day. The message here is that if we aim to be successful and revered by our employees and the society at large, we should make sure that we do not talk ill of others unwantedly and especially in that person’s absence.
“Yasmaath trasyanti bhoothaani mrighavyaadhaan mrigaayiva!!”
Now moving on to the next important quality of a “Charismatic Leader”, Vidura explains that a king should be approachable to all his people at any given point in time. Not even a single person should feel afraid or scared to meet their leader, just like the deer, which feels scared while seeing a hunter. A leader should be kind enough to warmly welcome each and every one of his subjects at any situation. People should be able to raise any issue with their king with ease. People should have that trust in their king that he would be the person who would stand up to their problems and resolve them swiftly.
This is exactly what Vidura advises King Dhirdiraashtra, “Oh King! You should always make sure that people can come to you freely at any point and at any situation. They should never ever be scared to come near you. But when will people come to you? Firstly you should exhibit a pleasing appearance. Secondly, you should create that atmosphere of “trust” amongst your people and this trust would automatically attract them towards you! Thirdly, you should back this trust up by your actions – You should prove to the people that your actions are aligned in such a way that you walk the talk of righteousness!”
How applicable is this to the modern day? Today’s leadership theory too emphasizes this same point in a phenomenal way – Leaders should always be approachable to their people. This means that leaders should go down to the level of their people to interact and understand their concerns. We can see this in the corporate setup today. For instance, when I was doing my PhD, I was interviewing a few airhostesses from our national airline, Air India. They were comparing their experiences with the top management over a period of years and how things have changed today in the organization. There was one airhostess who shared a very interesting accord in this regard. She says that when the new CEO, Mr. Ashwani Lohani took over the administration of Air India in New Delhi, things started to change for good and in the positive direction. I was curious to probe her more on this and she explained that this person, Mr. Lohani was a great leader – He used to interact with people personally at all levels irrespective of whether they are ground staff, baggage handlers, airhostesses, etc. across all destinations wherever Air India flies to. He used to sit with his employees one on one too if required, to understand their problems and needs. This generated a huge shift in the mindset of employees and that trust factor crept in. Employees started to feel confident that the top management is hearing their concerns. Of course this was backed up by swift actions to eradicate problem-creating activities with stringent rules and regulations. “On-time” performance began to be the prima facie motto of the airline organization and employees were adequately rewarded for maintaining punctuality. Thus employees of Air India lauded Mr. Lohani for his exceptional work and the main reason here is his approachability to his employees.
This is exactly what we too discussed in one of the sixteen “Kalyaana Gunas” discussed in the Valmiki Ramayana. Our readers might be able to remember that the Vaalmiki Ramayana commences with this point wherein Valmiki Maharishi asks a set of sixteen questions to Sage Narada. The first out of the sixteen questions was “Gunavaan” or “Sousheelyam”. We saw this in Lord Rama as he accepted Guha – A person from the hunter community as his friend. He accepted Sugriva – Leader of the monkey community as his brother. He also went on to accept Vibhishana – Leader of the Raakshasas as his own brother! Thus Lord Rama exhibitied this important characteristic by transcending down to the level of these people and proved to the world that he was an approachable person for anybody at anytime to pour out their problems and worries.
Hence the message from today’s episode is that, leaders in order to be successful and revered, should first develop the quality of being approachable to their people – Be it employees of an organization or cadres of a political party, or team members of a sports team, etc. The moment this person is approachable, trust starts building and if the leader backs it up with his swift actions, he is going to be revered and successful.
So for today, let us introspect this important point of leadership and let us try to put it into practice in whatever domain we are! We shall wait till the next episode to find out more! Stay tuned! 🙂