Leadership Lessons from Shri Ram 

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By Nitu Walia Kanwar

Leadership Coach 

Pune, 22nd January 2024: As a child growing up in 1987, every Sunday, my family and I eagerly gathered in front of the television to watch the epic Ramayana by Ramanand Sagar. This mythological masterpiece introduced me to the life of Shri Ram. Fast forward to 2024, on the 22nd of January, the day that Indians all over the globe are again eagerly waiting for. It marks the inauguration of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir and the Pran Pratishtha Ceremony of Shri Ram’s Idol. People from around the country are converging on the city of Ayodhya, the birthplace of Shri Ram, to offer their prayers to their beloved Lord.

While many of us have the Ramayana in our homes and offer prayers to Shri Ram and the holy book, it’s crucial to recognize that merely praying is not enough. The true offering, we can make on this auspicious day is to incorporate the teachings from Shri Ram’s life into our own.

This leads to the question: Are the events of the Ramayana, which unfolded some 7000 years ago, still relevant to our current world?

Beyond religious beliefs, Shri Ram’s life imparts valuable lessons that resonate with our present-day lives. As a leadership coach, I find numerous leadership lessons in Shri Ram’s life that apply to leaders today and in the corporate world. Shri Ram, known as Maryada Purushottam Ram, was not just a great son, husband, brother, student, friend, or king but, above all, a great leader.

Let’s explore some of the key leadership lessons we can learn and implement, regardless of religious sentiments, drawing from the life of Shri Ram—that were already practiced some 7000 years ago. 

1. Leaders Keep Their Promise in Adversity:

When Sita, the wife of Shri Ram, was abducted by Ravana, Shri Ram, the chosen king of Ayodhya had the option to mobilize his substantial army to rescue Sita. However, committed to honouring his promise of a 14-year exile, relying only on what the jungle provided, Shri Ram chose a path that exemplifies unwavering commitment.

In the face of adversity, Shri Ram opted not to take the easy route of deploying his mighty forces but, instead, ventured into the jungles seeking help from the monkey king, Sugreev and Hanuman to find Sita.

As leaders when promises are made to a team, standing by those commitments becomes paramount, regardless of the obstacles encountered. This leadership lesson drawn from Shri Ram’s actions serves as a timeless reminder for leaders to navigate challenges with unwavering commitment, just as Shri Ram traversed the jungles in his pursuit of rescuing Maa Sita.

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2. First Give, Then Ask:

Sugreev, whose brother Bali took control of their kingdom and took away Sugreev’s wife, was forced to hide for his safety in the mountains. When Shri Ram needed Sugreev’s help to find Sita, instead of immediately asking for assistance, Shri Ram first helped Sugreev. He rescued Sugreev from Bali, helped him regain his kingdom, and ultimately killed Bali.

In a world where everyone often wants something from others, Shri Ram shows us a different approach. Before expecting our teams or people to achieve the organization’s goals, it’s important to give them what they need. This includes clear directions, respect, appreciation, and the tools necessary to reach those goals.

So, just like Shri Ram prioritized helping Sugreev before seeking his help, leaders should focus on supporting and empowering their teams first. By creating an environment of guidance, respect, and appreciation, we set the stage for better collaboration and success in achieving shared goals. “Give first, then ask” is a timeless principle that can guide leaders in building strong and effective teams.

3. Choose the Right People:

Bali was very strong and skilled, so much so that he could have rescued Sita all by himself from Lanka in just one day. But when Shri Ram needed help, he didn’t choose Bali. Why? Because Bali wasn’t an honourable person; he took over the kingdom and Sugreev’s wife in an ignoble way.

Even though Sugreev wasn’t as skilled as Bali, he had something very important – goodness. He was a good and ethical person. So, the lesson here is that leaders should pick people not just based on their skills but on their willingness to do the right thing. Skills can be learned, but being a good and honest person comes from the values inside, and that’s something not easily changed. Leaders should always choose people with a higher willingness and integrity to do a task over just higher skills. 

4. Fostering Team Collaboration: 

Upon Sugreev’s initial encounter with Shri Ram, he put all his attention and importance to Lord Ram while treating Laxman as a subordinate. Recognizing this imbalance, Shri Ram decided to address the issue when the time was right.

When the need arose to confront Bali, Shri Ram devised a plan. He directed Sugreev to engage in combat with Bali, intending to eliminate Bali from behind a tree with an arrow. However, the confrontation did not unfold as planned. Bali, being more powerful, overpowered Sugreev, leaving him battered and bloodied, awaiting Shri Ram’s intervention.

Surprisingly, when Sugreev, somewhat dejected, inquired why Shri Ram had not acted against Bali, Shri Ram revealed a crucial dilemma. Both Bali and Sugreev looked identical during the fight, making it impossible for Shri Ram to distinguish between them and risking the chance of inadvertently harming Sugreev. This revelation prompted a strategic solution.

Shri Ram, showing his understanding of team dynamics, called upon Laxman to craft a garland and place it around Sugreev’s neck. Encouraged by this strategic intervention, Sugreev, though initially hesitant, bravely faced Bali again. Following the plan, Shri Ram successfully eliminated Bali, reclaiming Sugreev’s throne. In a gracious acknowledgment of Laxman’s pivotal role, Sugreev extended his gratitude to Laxman for his contribution, fostering a closer bond between Sugreev and Lakshman. 

Shri Ram strategically worked to connect Sugreev and Laxman. He made a plan so they could understand each other better. When Sugreev faced a tough situation, Shri Ram used it as an opportunity to bring them closer. 

He made sure they could work together towards their goal – finding Sita.

This shows us that great leaders pay attention to their teams. If they see disconnection, they take smart steps to bridge the gaps. They want everyone to work together, making the team stronger and reaching their goals faster. It’s like making sure all the pieces of a puzzle fit perfectly. Shri Ram’s leadership teaches us the importance of teamwork and connection in reaching our big goals.

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5. Take the Hard Decision:

Shri Ram was asked by Vishvamitra, to deal with a demon named Tadka. Tadka was causing a lot of problems in the kingdom, disrupting scientific and religious activities, and creating chaos.

Now, Shri Ram had a challenge. Tadka was a woman, and Shri Ram, following his upbringing, hesitated to kill her. But Vishvamitra explained to him that, as a king, his main job was to protect the people. Tadka was a threat to them so he needed to make a hard decision.

Even though it went against what he believed about not harming women, Shri Ram chose to take a tough step. Instead of killing Tadka, he decided to cut her nose and ear to stop her from causing more trouble. But unfortunately, Tadka driven by her demonic nature, continued to be a threat.

In the end, Shri Ram had to make an even harder decision, and he decided to take the necessary steps to protect his people by killing Tadka.

This story teaches us that sometimes leaders have to make tough decisions that might go against their personal feelings. It’s about putting the well-being of the team or organization first, even if it means sacrificing your own beliefs. Leaders need to be strong and make decisions based on what’s best for everyone, not just guided by their emotions.

In conclusion, Shri Ram is not just a religious figure but a leader and teacher who inspired generations through the value of his deeds and actions. The adversities of Shri Ram’s 14-year exile transformed him into Lord Shri Ram. Implementing his teachings in our lives today can transform us into effective leaders of tomorrow. It is, in essence, the most profound prayer one can offer to Shri Ram when the whole country is rejoicing in his homecoming.

Nitu Walia Kanwar

(About the author: Nitu Walia Kanwar is an internationally certified Executive Coach and Personal Branding Consultant. For more details visit her website www.empowerimage.com )