After the victory at Kurukshetra, after 36 years of being kings, the Pandavas renounced the world, gave the reins of the kingdom to Arjuna’s grandson, Parikshit, and set out for the forest and beyond, to the mountains. They were convinced that owing to their meritorious deeds, they would be allowed to enter Swarga, the paradise of Indra, with their mortal bodies. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Draupadi slipped and fell, then Nakula, then Sahadeva, then Bhima and then Arjuna. For they were not perfect. Their crime? Draupadi had played favourites and preferred Arjuna over her other husbands (folk narratives say she secretly loved Karna). Nakula was vain about his looks that made everyone who saw him fall in love with him. Sahadeva was arrogant that he had knowledge of the future that no one else had. Bhima was a glutton and Arjuna insecure.
These are the lessons for the corporate world that we can learn from the Pandavas, the great heroes of the Mahabharata.
Do not play favourites when you are managing a team.
Do not be vain about one’s charisma.
Do not be arrogant about one’s predictive abilities.
Do not be greedy, indifferent to other people’s needs.
Do not be insecure when you see other talented people.
Easier said than done, considering they were mentored and coached by Krishna himself, who is considered kingmaker, strategist, God personified. In conference after conference, successful entrepreneurs are invited to share their stories. This is meant to inspire people, motivate them, give them tips about success and failure. Lessons follow lessons, presentations follow presentations, workshops follow workshops. We want to learn, we want to be inspired and motivated–but still the rate of success of these workshops and presentations remains non-measurable and unpredictable. Perhaps because the Pandavas are not Krishna. They exist in different bodies and different contexts; each one is unique with different capabilities and capacities. Knowledge transmission does not guarantee success, or failure. What works for one does not work for another. We have to forge our own path as everyone exists in a different context.
Would Bhima be the aggressive force had he not been a glutton? Would Arjuna practise as hard as he did had he not been insecure?
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.