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5 Lessons from Bheeshm for CEOs and Leaders

Last month I finished reading the Mahabharat once again. I was equally impressed with Bheeshm's lecture to Yudhishtar as I was with The Bhagvad Gita. I am reproducing some of the most powerful advice from Bheeshm.

Bheeshm asks Krishan, “Why do you want me to give this discourse on the dharma of a kshtriya? Why do you not speak to Yudhishtar yourself”? Krishan smiled a gentle smile and said: “You are right. I can tell him everything. But I have decided to bring you everlasting glory. I want the world to remember you always: forever and ever......A man is said to live in this world as long as his fame lives. I want you to live forever. That is why I am asking you to speak”.

So, here are 5 of many lessons, for your consumption.

"Destiny is powerful but action is equally powerful. Both are potent. But to me, it seems that action is the more potent of the two. It is action which shapes the destiny.”

So whenever you are thinking of giving up and letting destiny take its course, think twice as destiny is waiting for you to take action.

"All accomplishments find a home in a king (read leader). His behaviour should be above reproach. Self-restraint, humility and righteousness are qualities, which you have to look for in a king if he has to be successful. He should have his passions under perfect control.”

A Leader has chosen the path less treaded and a conscious choice has been made. A Leader’s behaviour has to be above his followers, he has to make tougher choices and yet be unaffected by them. He can be questioned for his actions but not his behaviour.

"A king's conduct should be straightforward. Another danger for a king is mildness. He should not be too mild. He will then be disregarded. The subjects will not have enough respect for him and his words. Again, he should avoid the other extreme. He should not be too fierce because then the subjects will be afraid of him, and that is not a happy state of affairs.”

Leadership is a balancing affair. It cannot come under the influence of either of the extremes. It is highly judgemental and intellectual. Leaders unconscious actions can make him ignominious.

"Righteousness is the watchword of a king. Nothing is greater than that in this world. His counselors should all be pure in heart and pure in mind. Malice should have no place in the heart of a king. His senses should be perfectly under control. He should use his intelligence and he will then be glorious: swelling in greatness like the ocean fed with the waters of a thousand rivers.”

Leader has to have his team selected carefully and he should be able to manage them well. He has to have a large heart and able to forgive mistakes and errors of judgement.

“The highest duty is self-restraint. Just as the great sin covetousness leads to all sins, self-restraint leads a man to the highest glory. It has a number of good qualities born of it: forgiveness, patience, abstaining from injuring others, impartiality, truth, sincerity, modesty, speech, benevolence, freedom from malice. A man who is self-restrained will never be a slave to the attachments of the earth. He attains emancipation. He is almost on the threshold of it when he becomes self-restrained.”

Leader has to listen more than others and have to bite his tongue twice before speaking for his words carry far more impact than he realises.

These lessons can guide you timelessly if you are playing the role of a Leader/CEO. Yudhisthar needed to learn them since he was a soft king and would not have been able to lead his people effectively. He needed to learn the balancing act of being kind yet tough. All the lessons imparted by Bheeshm were for keeping the balance intact. I have expounded on them from my perspective, the reader can draw her own inspiration and takeaway from these.

Leader’s job is tough. She has to be balanced all the time yet be discerning as to which action of her will yield the best result for her and the team while keeping the bigger picture in mind. She has to walk the path of dharm even in the most trying circumstances

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