Real Power Behind the Kings

Recognise the real power behind the kings

Who is more powerful? Is it a person holding a position of power, or is it the position itself? Radhakrishnan Pillai explains.

I was once conducting a workshop on strategy for a group of chairmen of various companies. I asked them, “Who according to you is the most powerful?” Most replied that it would be a person holding a high position, like the president, chairman of a large company, etc.

But when we went into a deeper analysis, we all ended up agreeing that it’s the ‘chair’, or the position a person holds that represents true power, and not necessarily the person himself.

We also referred to a verse from the Arthashastra: “He who sees policies as being interdependent plays as he pleases, with kings tied by the chains of their intellect.” (7.18.44)

Ever notice the secretaries, PAs and even key ministers who keep buzzing around VVIPs? These are the people who can guide and control power, even when they are not in powerful positions themselves.

These men, through their ‘sharp intellect’, guide kings and leaders. But they have not gained their proximity to the highly visible public figures just like that.

Rather, these people were already connected to the rising stars in various roles. Still, it’s vital that their choice is finalised carefully.


No powerful person will take any decision without the consent of his advisors. These advisors are always present behind the scenes and may be hardly noticed in public.

But an advice can make or break any king. These advisors can turn the way a nation or organisation runs. So it’s important that one is guided by good experts in each field for effective decision-making.

Gurus or teachers

World over, and especially in India, teachers play a very important role in a person’s life. We may call them our spiritual gurus or religious guides.

Whatever they may be known as, seek their opinion when you are in any moral dilemma. By virtue of their experience and value of their guidance, these people can highly influence a powerful person’s thinking.


Finally, we have the group of old friends that any powerful person spends his time with. In the Arthashastra, they were called Mitra. A leader has to be very careful in selecting a friend, for there are good and bad people out there.

After all, these people will become the king’s men, and will become more powerful than the king himself.

Remember, “Power can destroy, and power can create. But the question is to understand who really influences the powerful people.”

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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