Leaders are built from within

Chanakya thoughts: Leaders are built from within

Corporate guru Radhakrishnan Pillai talks about Chanakya's three-step process that can make a leader intelligent and successful.

A leader is trained in a different manner. Many assume that leadership is about skills. Communication skills, financial skills, ability to give motivational speeches, having a charismatic personality, outward appearances among others.

To some extent all this is fine. Yet, the development of the inner personality is more important than the outer personality. One of the most important aspects of training of a leader is to create a learning ability and love for knowledge.

Chanakya says, “(From) Continuous study ensures a trained intellect, from intellect (comes) practical application, (and) from practical application (results) self- possession.” (1.5.16).

Chanakya has given us a three-step process to make a leader an intelligent and successful one. If one follows the above method from Arthashastra anyone can become an ‘ideal leader’.

Continuous study

Those who want to be leaders have to give utmost importance to study. Not just during the full-time student days, but as a lifelong habit. In the current generation it has become a habit to study only for exams. Our education system has become like an examination system.

But, a good student loves reading and learning irrespective if it is exam time or not. The word used here is ‘continuous’ study. It is like sharpening the axe on a regular basis. Without it, the woodcutter will never be effective. Similarly, a leader should always have an attitude like a student.

According to Arthashastra, a king has to study every day for three hours. It is part of the daily routine of a leader. One may wonder, for busy schedule, the king has, how can he study for three hours? How can one take out that much time for studies? In reality, it has to been seen differently: “If the leader does not study for three hours, he will not be productive for the next twenty-one hours of a day.” Studies are a must at the leadership level. Leaders are readers.

Practical application

Chanakya is warning us here that only studies are not enough. From studies, should come practical application. Even though Chanakya is suggesting continuous study, he is not making him a full-time student. A leader should be able to apply his knowledge—that too ‘practical’ application in the given situations and circumstances.

What is the use of gathering degree after degree and more academic qualification alone? It may look good on your CV, but there is no value beyond it if it does not give some practical benefits to the society. Therefore, one should be smart and practical.

Leaders are the ones that have the power to execute things. So, if they have got a brilliant idea from the regular studies and trained intellect, that should be tried out in the real world. So, make a project, create a plan and apply the ideas you have. Your team will be inspired to work out the plan for you. This is where missionary leaders are different from just visionary leaders. Visionary leaders have a vision for long term. But, great leaders convert that vision into a mission.

When leaders get into the ‘mission mode’ of working, there is high level of energy in the work and everyone in the team is inspired and motivated.


This is the highest level of leadership. It is the feeling of being calm, composed and confident. Once a person achieves the goals, there is a sense of satisfaction and contentment.

Leaders should be satisfied with the success they have achieved from the mission they have undertaken. Such a leader is also respected among his people. They look upon this kind of a leader with respect. The leader also feels dignified within.

In this three-step process we find that it is a combination of three factors: Becoming intelligent (through studies), practical (through application) and satisfaction (through results).

This is the kind of life that Chanakya himself lived. He was a great student and continuous study made him a brilliant intellect. He applied his intelligence to create a great India. And, finally, he was totally satisfied internally.

Friends, let us apply these Chanakya thoughts in our lives too, and awaken the leader inside us.

Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai is an Indian management thinker, author, and Founder of Atma Darshan and Chanakya Aanvikshiki. Dr Pillai has extensively researched Kautilya’s Arthashastra, the 3rd century BC treatise and incorporated it into modern management.




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