Management Lessons from the Ramayana

The Ramayana is one of the greatest epics of Hindu Mythology. It is not just a story, but also an educational medium used by the ancient sages to espouse the importance of doing your dharma (duty). Lessons from Ramayana are a part of teaching leadership, management and governance at many prestigious management institutions. Here are a few lessons that we can comprehend from Ramayana and how they can be applied in the corporate world.

Team motivation is vital

One of the most obvious incidences, in which use management principles is very clearly visible is that of Hanuman going to Lanka. His mission was to locate Sita there and give her Lord Ram’s message. When it became clear that Sita was in Lanka, Jamvant asked Hanuman to go there. He helped him in realising his true potential and motivated him to go in the enemy’s camp.

SWOT Analysis

Once mentally prepared for the job, first thing which Hanuman did after reaching Lanka was to do a complete analysis of the situation. He did a complete study about the Lankans, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, the various threats and opportunities which he had in the enemy’s camp.

Work on strategic alliances

In Ramayana, Sughriv has shown some of the best managerial characteristics. As a successful manager he had Ram to work accordingly and got his kingdom back from a brother who was far mightier than him. Using his managerial skills he even had Angad to work for him. If Sughriv would have been a bad manager then the same Angad would have turned into one of his arch enemies.

Value your subordinates

In the same Ramayana, again and again Ravana has shown the signs of a bad manager, and hence led to the demise of his kingdom. From the starting itself he ignored the suggestions of his managers and got his kingdom in the state of war with Ram

Leaders need to create more leaders

After the discovery of Sita’s whereabouts, Hanuman, of his own volition, set aflame the city of Lanka. Hanuman’s decision of burning Lanka displeased Ram. And so after that, Hanuman stopped taking decisions. To rectify the damage done, Ram had to remove himself from the scene so that Hanuman could rediscover his decision-making abilities. During the course of the war, Mahiravan, managed to abduct both Ram and Laxman and take them to Patal lok. Only Hanuman had the intellectual and physical prowess to rescue them and eventually, Hanuman succeeded in rescuing Ram. Ram had thus created a leader.

No one is bigger than the brand!

The challenge in building the bridge to Lanka was to make the stones float (as all stones will sink the moment it is thrown into the ocean). It is said that a solution was offered by supporters of Lord Rama, i.e. inscribe the name “Rama” on the stone and then throw it in the ocean. The same was done and it worked! At one point, Lord Rama decided to extend a helping hand so he picked up a stone and threw it in the ocean. Surprisingly it sank without a trace!

Importance of communication

When Bali fought demon Mayavee and entered a cave during their fight, Sugreeva was ordered to keep a watch outside till Bali emerged. After nearly a year’ wait when neither Bali nor the rakshasa (demon) came out, Sugreeva thought they had both been killed. He went back to Kishkindha and became its ruler and made Tara, Bali’s wife, his queen.However, Bali returned and seeing Sugreeva as king, Bali thought he had been betrayed.

Believe in your team

The Rakshasa army was a powerful one, which had defeated the formidable, devas and vanquished powerful kings. In contrast, the army of Rama comprised of soldiers who were perhaps aboriginal tribes who had never encountered a sophisticated army before. Yet Rama maintained confidence in the ability of his army to surmount this seemingly impossible odd and enthused by his confidence his army fought to achieve victory.

Succession planning

Dasaratha’s plans for installing Rama on the throne of Ayodhya do turn topsy-turvy, but the existence of a clear succession plan can never be denied. This is meant to ensure continuity in governance. It helped that besides being the eldest son, Rama was liked by all and hence chosen to lead the kingdom once his father passed away. As per Raghuvansham of Kalidasa, when the time comes to relinquish his body, Rama divides it equitably between his two sons – Lava and Kusha.

Leave the comfort zone

When Rama gets ordered to remain in the forest for a span of fourteen years, Sita and Rama take it as an opportunity to engage with the ordinary citizens of their kingdom, rather than remaining confined to the comforts of their palace. This helps them to understand the ground realities better.

Excellence in execution

The plan to locate Sita gets brilliantly executed by Hanuman. The wisdom with which he conducts the search and the single-minded pursuit of the goal is an example worth emulating by managers at all levels. While crossing the sea, he declines an invitation from Mount Mynaaka to take some rest on the way.

Recognize and stay away from the ‘Yes-men’!

Ravana is a highly learned and accomplished person. One of the reasons for his downfall is to neglect the advice of nay-sayers. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chooses to listen to his courtiers who play on his ego and pride and advise him not to do so.

Always stick to the plan

When Rama killed the demon Maricha who came disguised as the golden deer, the demon called out “Lakshmana! Sita!” in Rama’s mimicked voice and died. Sita, upon hearing it, urged Lakshmana, who was standing guard to her, to go and help Rama, who seemed to be in trouble. Lakshmana’s patient counseling against it could not convince her. She accused Lakshmana of nurturing an evil idea of having an illicit relationship with her in the absence of Rama. Lakshmana, shell shocked by hearing such an abominable accusation, left immediately, leaving her alone. Ravana utilized this opportunity to abduct her.

Have a clear vision

Rama’s clear vision was to rescue his wife Sita and defeat the evil forces. This clarity about the goals as well as the process enabled his army to put its heart and soul in the battle to rescue Sita. A foreseen vision will always be a motivating factor to focus on the goal and to not get deviated. Every leader needs to have a clear vision of what he is aiming for and what will it bear him in future. Also he needs to think in parallel to his followers who will support him to achieve his goals.

Beware of dubious attractions

Sita, in the forest, got madly attracted by a beautiful golden deer. She refused to heed to her husband’s counsel that such a deer could not be a natural one and it could be a demon in disguise. It is her incessant pestering to acquire the deer to be her play-mate that forced Rama to go behind it. It paved the way for her getting separated from him and she got forcibly abducted by Ravana.

Maintain cool during crisis

Following Sita’s abduction, Rama wandered destitute and penniless in the forests searching for Sita. The Ramayana is full of poignant details of Rama’s sadness and his memory of Sita. Yet this grief did not prevent him from searching for allies even when the enemy was unknown. Even throughout the battle with Ravana, Rama maintained his courage even at the darkest hours and in doing so inspired his army to not only continue the unequal fight, but also win it.

Put a premium on values

Sticking to some core values which are steeped in righteousness eventually leads to success. The main protagonist of Ramayana, Rama, is depicted in Ramayana as an epitome of virtue. He is an ideal king, an ideal son and a pragmatic person. He sets high ethical standards in warfare and invariably sides with dharma, or righteousness.

Empower subordinates

When Vibhishan defected, Rama took him under his protection. He then had a talk with the various army chiefs some of whom disagreed with Rama. Instead of punishing them, Rama assuaged their suspicions and got them to accept his decision. Everybody felt that their opinions had been heard and that their objections had been clarified. Empowerment of subordinates to question his decisions was a key and unique quality of Rama which one cannot but help comparing with Ravana who never allowed anybody to contradict him

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