Leadership Qualities – from Ramayana

The Ramayana is one of the most important epics for Hindus. Several people are credited with for narrating the epic story of Lord Rama. Ramayana written by Maharishi Valmiki is considered to be oldest and base for all other Ramayanas written later.

A particular section in the epic is relevant for this discussion. After Rama was sent to exile for fourteen years, Bharata (his brother) was to be crowned as King. Bharata refused to accept the Kingship and he goes to meet Rama in exile. He  requests Rama to come back and accept Kingship.

When Bharata meets Rama in his exile, Rama first enquires from him on his Kingship (read Leadership). The verses are provided below.

Verse from ramayana

These verses, in essence, define the character of Good Leaders. The terms used in these verses need to be reviewed in the context of the period of Kingship. For understanding  Leadership Qualities from these verses, the following correspondence should be considered.

Blog Ramayana Table

The lesson is structured by explaining what a leader must not be. Poor characteristics of a leader based on these verses can be represented as below. The boxes in “cloud” shape is explained further after the mind map:


Non- Believer

While the word in the verse translates into an “atheist,” it is important to understand that one who does not believes himself or in his/her abilities can never be a good leader. Belief in self is the most important characteristics of an individual from any perspective.

Deciding without consulting

While a leader has to take the final decision, but not involving key people in the process of decision making has a greater risk for the organization. In today’s complex business environment, the knowledge lies with several experts within and outside the organization.

Taking advice from incompetent people

Consulting incompetent people is worse than deciding without consulting. The impact could be worse.


Hunting in the Ramayana period refers to the passing time of kings. The practice was to go for hunting. However, hunting can be a big distractor for kings if that becomes a priority. Secondly hunting in a way a destructive approach to the natural resources.

In his advice to Bharata, Rama identified the type of people who should not be considered as Leaders. The mind map below would help one identifying such people.

The boxesin “cloud” shape is explained further after the mind map.:


Criticize Gods and Brahamans (can be read as Brahmin also)

If one ignores the religious and caste context to it, (based on the understanding of the period that the epic corresponds to), God corresponds to Regulatory and Legal authorities. Brahmans represent the Inteligencia Class. One cannot succeed by merely criticizing these sections of the society. Business has to be carried out in a given regulatory environment. One can manage and influence regulatory environment depending on the status in society, but cannot go against it.

Without Armed Forces

Armed Forces for King is same as capable resources for a leader in the organization. A leader’s success is dependent on the follower that he(she) builds.

Penalised by Gods

A convicted person should not be a leader of an organization.

Qualities of Good Leaders

Essential knowledge

  • Vedas

Vedas represents principles of life and its ecosystem. The leaders need to have the understanding of philosophy and principles of organization and business. One must recognize that this is nothing to do with educational qualification. This refers to the maturity of an individual. There are many successful leaders who are school dropouts but have vast knowledge.

  • Farming

Farming also means Operating and Growing. The leader must know how to operate and run his system. A good leader must be able to grow himself, his team, his organization.

  • Cattle farming

Cattle also means  ‘Stocks”.  Stocks in the modern business sense can imply Inventories and the shareholding. A good leader should manage his/her inventory and the shareholding to protect the interests of all stakeholders.

  • Legal/ regulatory

The leader must understand the legal and regulatory of the business in the country of business. Ignorance is not bliss. This knowledge is essential to make effective use of the statutory provision to enhance once business. The regulatory framework is part of the environment. The difference between successful and rest is how one has understood the framework and effectively used.

Essential Abilities

  • Stay connected with the enemy

Read the enemy as a competitor. Keeping a tab on what is happening in competitor space is essential. The ability to get such information is an integral component of the organizational strategy.

  • Engage in battle

The days of monopoly is always short. In today’s context, it is more relevant as one cannot avoid competition in most business. One needs to engage in competition. Engaging in battle here could mean the leader must be able to keep positioning differently in the market and also keep building strategies for creating differentiation internally,

  • Attack enemy

At some stage in the business, one may need to take on the competitor directly in the marketplace.  Price wars in the market space are prevalent. One has also seen the battle in courts between competitors.

  • Wait for opportunity

Patience is a great virtue. One must wait for the right opportunity. Leaders can sight the opportunity and strike at the right time. Untimely initiatives often boomerang.

  • Multipronged startegy

Plan A and Plan B are the most commonly known term in the context of organizational planning.  Looking into different aspects identifies weak spots and hence increase the chances of success.

  • Collaborate with enemy

Coopetition is the norm for many successful businesses today.  This is also known as cooperative competition. However one must be watchful of such practice. It is easy to move from collaborating to forming cartels. Cartels in the most regulatory environment are not permitted.

  • Recognising External threats

The organization who work on Business Continuity Plan understands this well. One needs to be prepared for external threats of nature. The epic lists the dangers that were possibly prevalent then. They are Fire, Flood, Epidemic, Famine.

  • Recognising Internal Threat

The biggest threats are the ones that come from within. Some of them are the acts of greed (seeking gratification) by the Leader, his Officers and his Close Aides. Also, a good leader should be aware of the thieves and enemies person within he / her organization.

Disclaimer: This is my interpretation of the text. This does not be considered as a translation of the Epic Ramayana.

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