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Management Lessons from ‘Mahabharata’:


Mahabharata is considered as the largest epic of the world. ‘Mahabharata’ has many management lessons for the present day business leaders and managers. Greed, jealousy, quest for power, trying to achieve goals irrespective of the fairness of the means deployed – all these contradictions in life are very poignantly brought out. It’s said that whatever is not there in Mahabharata is not anywhere else. So, we will try to find out some intricate management messages that are relevant even today. Our main focus would be the Great War that changed the course of the Third Age of Man.

Here are some lessons which could be drawn from the “Mahabharata”.

Merit over Birth:

When it comes to announcing a successor to his vast kingdom, King Bharata does not choose any of his own sons. Instead, he names Bhumanyu whom he considers more capable to manage the affairs of his kingdom. In a dynastic rule, seeds of democracy are thus sown.

In India Inc’s power rankings, professional CEOs are on the rise. Five years back, K V Kamath was the only professional in the top ten.

In a reversal of an openly declared of Infosys, Chairman N R Narayan Murthy recently stirred a hornet’s nest by insisting on bringing his own son as a team member. Only time will tell if the decision pays of; as of now, seniors in the company are a bit shaken up with the move.

Transform your weakness into strength:

Like how Pandavas transformed their weaknesses to strengths during the years of exile, you need to have the urge to improve on your weakness. Mahabarata gives many an examples to highlight the importance of utilizing time to overcoming your skills like how Arjuna went on a mission to attain the Divyastras or Yudhisthira mastered the Game of Dice. You need to have the passion to dedicate adequate time to learn those skills that can help you overcome your weakness only by which you can be a great manager.


For Shantanu’s happiness, Bhishma swears never to marry. Throughout his life, he remains committed to the kingdom of Hastinapur. He leads a vast army against the latter. However, his conduct is very transparent; he openly tells Duryodhana that though he is fighting for Kauravas, he shall not harm any of the Pandavas.

Many organizations have deeply committed silent performers who stick by it irrespective of the business ups and downs being faced. In times of crisis, such people tend to be pillars of strength for the company. However, there could be situations when they need to be taken on board merely as advisors and not as executors, so younger blood in the organization also gets a chance to prove its mettle.

Share your responsibilities:

Efficiently sharing responsibilities is the mark of a good manager and the great Indian epic gives the best example for this. Pandavas fought the war as one team with one goal in mind while Kauravas lacked the team spirit and they all fought individual wars. It advises the managers not to make the decision-making process a dictatorial one, rather involve everyone so that the best of ideas will pop up.

Learn the art of teamwork:

It was not a common war for Kauravas as they never showed the unity. But the way Pandavas fought is a lesson for managers as it highlights the significance of sticking on to the common goal while meeting the individual targets. The great story teaches the golden lesson that only a combined effort can bring in success.

Failures are Stepping Stones:

Bhishma abducts three sisters – Amba, Ambika and Ambalika – to get them married to Vichitravirya. However, Amba claims she is already in love with Salya and cannot accept anyone else as her life partner. Eventually, she is rejected by both Bhishma and her own ex-lover Salya. She takes this failure as a challenge and ends up being born as a person of mixed gender –Shikhandi – in King Drupad’s family. Eventually, he/she becomes the cause of Bhishma’s death in the battlefield.

Those who take their failures as a challenge have the capacity to introspect. They identify their weaknesses and take steps to excel in areas in which their arch rival is strong. Ultimately, victory is theirs.

Know the ground realities:

Pandavas spent one year in exile with the poor people and the years of exile helped them to reach out to people from various strata of the society while Kaurava’s had no experience of the ground reality as they lived a royal life. Managers need to understand the realities to lead their team in the right direction. They need to break the barriers to get in touch with their subordinates to understand their problems and identify ways to make their work easier.

Take calculated risks:

Krishna has acted as a greatest crisis manager showing how to take calculated risks at the time of crisis. Management is all about taking calculated risks. Shying away from challenges is not a sign of management, rather well-assessed decisions to on facing the challenges is the trademark of good management.

Loyalty to Boss:

Karna faces humiliation at the hands of Pandavas for not being born in a royal family. Duryodhana realizes his potential as an ally and immediately comes forward to confer kingship upon him. They become life-long friends. Karna’s loyalty towards Duryodhana is so strong that even after realizing that he is the eldest of the five Pandavas, he chooses to fight against them, for Duryodhana. Here is an example of unflinching loyalty to a boss!

Strategy and Leadership:

In a careful reading of the major turning events in the whole narrative, Krishna emerges as an eminent strategist. He keeps Draupadi’s frustration under check. He knows that Kauravas would never agree to let Pandavas have their share of the kingdom in a peaceful manner. Yet, he himself goes to plead their cause so that peace is given a last chance. One of the basic concepts enunciated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita is that of the everlasting nature of the soul. The concept of a soul now finds a resonance even in modern management literature.

Avoid Arrogance:

One of the several sub-plots in ‘Mahabharata’ is that of Nahusha who falls from grace after having occupied the throne of Indra, king of the Gods. His fall comes about because of sheer arrogance and pride.

Power and pelf bring in severe obligations in their wake. Successful CEOs understand this, take extra care to keep their pride in check and tailor their inter-personal relationships accordingly. ‘Mahabharata’ is rich with several other narratives which could be useful to management practitioners. Also, each narrative may be interpreted in several ways, depending upon how one goes about analyzing it.







Category : Flatons Advisors Blog



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