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Leadership Qualities: Mahabharat- Shanti Parva

The Shan­ti Par­va of the Mahab­haratha, which is the longest book and hav­ing the most num­ber of vers­es, has excel­lent insights on lead­er­ship and gov­er­nance. We shall see the 36 qual­i­ties to be pos­sessed by a leader as spo­ken by Bhish­ma Pita­mah to Yud­hishti­ra. Bhish­ma Pita­mah, who is bad­ly injured in the war, is lying on a bed of arrows. Shri Krish­na, Yud­hishti­ra and oth­er sages and kings approach him for coun­sel. Bhish­ma ji says that Shri Krish­na, being a more com­pe­tent per­son on these mat­ters of life and lead­er­ship, should take the lead in coun­sel­ing. Shri Krish­na replies that Bhish­ma hav­ing mas­tered var­i­ous prin­ci­ples should be known to the future gen­er­a­tions through his words and achieve­ments. Hence it would be bet­ter that Bhish­ma ji him­self coun­sel them so that Bhish­ma ji’s fame will last for sev­er­al thou­sands of gen­er­a­tions. In the 76th chap­ter of Shan­ti Par­va, Bhish­ma ji lists 36 qual­i­ties to be pos­sessed by a leader. It is amaz­ing how these vers­es of Bhish­ma ji are time­less and are applic­a­ble to lead­er­ship of all eras.

  1. Obser­vance of virtues with­out wrath and mal­ice

  2. Not aban­don­ing kind­ness

  3. Hav­ing Shrad­dha

  4. Acquir­ing wealth with­out per­se­cu­tion and cru­el­ty

  5. Pur­su­ing plea­sure with­out attach­ments

  6. Approach­ing with Cheer­ful­ness

  7. Lib­er­al but with cau­tion

  8. Prowess with­out cru­el­ty

  9. Mak­ing alliance avoid­ing the wicked

  10. Not act­ing with hos­til­i­ty towards friends

  11. Not employ­ing untrust­wor­thy per­sons as spies

  12. Accom­plish­ment with­out aggres­sion

  13. not dis­clos­ing pur­pose before the wicked

  14. Speak­ing of oth­ers mer­its but not one’s own

  15. Tak­ing wealth from sub­jects but not from those who are help­ful through oth­er means

  16. Not employ­ing those with neg­a­tive qual­i­ties

  17. Not inflict pun­ish­ment with­out prop­er enquiry

  18. Nev­er dis­clos­ing plans

  19. Giv­ing away char­i­ty but not to cov­etous

  20. Hav­ing con­fi­dence on trust­wor­thy sub­or­di­nates

  21. Not cher­ish­ing mal­ice

  22. Pro­tec­tion of spouse

  23. Pure in thoughts words and deeds

  24. Not indulging in too much plea­sure of com­pan­ion­ship

  25. Par­tak­ing food that is whole­some

  26. Pay­ing regards to elders and respect­ed per­sons

  27. Wor­ship­ping Gods with­out pride

  28. active­ly seek­ing pros­per­i­ty with­out doing any­thing that brings infamy

  29. Serv­ing oth­ers with humil­i­ty

  30. Good busi­ness acu­men but should wait for appro­pri­ate time

  31. Com­fort­ing peo­ple with prop­er words and not emp­ty speech­es

  32. Not aban­don­ing some­one who has been sup­port­ed

  33. Nev­er act­ing out of igno­rance

  34. Nev­er indulging in repen­tance (con­sid­er­ing that the actions have been based on dhar­ma)

  35. Dis­play tem­per only when it is nec­es­sary

  36. Should be mild but not to those who have offend­ed


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