PANCHATANTRA – LEADERSHIP STARTS EARLY


Illustration of the popular tale of monkey and crocodile story from Panchatantra

When we hear the ideas or lessons of leadership, what comes to our mind are successful CEOs and their autobiographies or humungous books on leadership and management. But little do we know that the leadership qualities and lessons are imbibed in a kids book that too written centuries before. Such was the level of sophistication and development in our Indian Culture. Recent research dwells on leadership styles in different environment, complex business structure, etc but it should be noted that the qualities of a leader such as values, empathy, authenticity, etc., are the same everywhere in all studies. The stories of Panchatantra address the quality part of leadership and hence can be considered universal in its teachings and learnings.


So why does Panchatantra tackle the issue of quality of a leader so early? What is the understanding there and most importantly why to speak about it in a kids’ story? It is simple. Leadership starts early. The qualities of a leader can be taught at an earlier stage of life and each individual will go on his/her own path of becoming true and authentic leaders. It should be noted that it is not a coincidence that the values which make you a leader also make you a better human. Hence, to be better leaders, you need to be a better person. Therefore, the leadership lessons taught early will make you a better version of yourself and address the leadership issues at large.


There are hundreds of Panchatantra stories out there and each one has its own learning and experience. The story of the industrious Jeevardhana, who mortgaged his iron to travel the world only to return and find he has been cheated by the sly merchant who claimed that his iron was eaten by a rat. Yet he did not to lose hope and maintain his calmness to get justice for the merchant’s act. Everyone would have heard about the story of the monkey and crocodile. The stupid crocodile heeding to his wife’s evil words, wanted to kill his friend but the monkey was quick witted to escape from it. A wise leader would always be quick on his feet and think well in advance of the complexities that may arise out of any business relationship. How could one forget the story of the four brothers and the dead lion where the three educated brothers were able to bring the dead lion to live but not possess the sense of the youngest one to save themselves thereby stressing on the point that having knowledge is one aspect to betterment but having the presence of mind to use it in another thing.


The stories don’t stop here. It stretches beyond our imagination and each story gives us a pointer or a lesson on the nuances of being a better leader or a better part of the team. Be it critical decision-making skills, working under pressure or the next big topic in leadership called ethics, Panchatantra has a lesson for everyone. So, in conclusion before we start reading autobiographies of successful leaders, listen to podcasts and get that motivational speech recordings playing, let us start with Panchatantra, one of the greatest collections on management lessons and leadership learnings.

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