Dr Nitin Parab

Dr Nitin Parab is the author of “Leadership Learnings From Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj”.

Iconic Leadership: Chattrapati Shivaji

Dr Nitin Parab


Some leaders are destined to greatness.  The situation and circumstances are just ripe for them to emerge and leave a legacy. Chhatrapati Shivaji was one such leader. Even today, on the anniversary of his coronation, lakhs of people gather to pay homage to his glorious reign. As a king, he did not build palaces but he built fortresses and lived in the hearts of people.

What helped him in establishing his name and legacy? How did he carve out a niche for himself against all odds? How did he resonate with the people of his times and transformed ordinary folks into extraordinary individuals?

To rule and govern a state or to run an organisation successfully, the principles of leadership remain the same. This belief also inspired my book “Leadership Learnings From Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj”. Shivaji took up the reins at a very young age. He was barely 16 years of age when he strode across Maharashtra inspiring people through his words and deeds. He romanced with the idea of Hind Swaraj, a separate empire based on values and ethics where there would be a just society living with principles of love, care and concern. He also wanted the common man in his empire to live a life of dignity and it won over the ordinary people of his time.

Assembling an army out of scratch was truly a great achievement and by the age of 19 he was a formidable force to reckon with. Both the Sultanate of Bijapur and the Mughals acknowledged his influence as a fierce warrior king who ruled with exemplary courage and fortitude.

In this article I shall cover two Mantras out of the 13 that have been featured in my book.

First Mantra says, “Lead with Emotional Quotient – Conquer Hearts”

Shivaji was able to empathise with his people. He intermingled with his people across the hierarchy and was with them during their hour of need. He could feel their pain and wanted to do his best to elevate the status of his subjects. He was able to combine the brilliance of a well-developed strategic mind with true and genuine human feelings, thereby establishing a chord of oneness. It was this emotional chord that was instrumental in making his people follow him readily with utmost trust and faith.

One of his army captains was on a military expedition when he had to prolong his stay more than what had been expected. During that period, the captain’s son was scheduled to get married and the wedding preparations were underway.

Shivaji personally ensured that all arrangements for the wedding were looked into with great detail. He also attended the wedding and showered blessings on the young couple.

The absence of the father of the groom was not felt as much and Shivaji’s personal presence created a positive emotional experience for the entire family and guests. This is how he was able to connect with his people.

Today the concept of Servant Leadership is an evolved concept in the management thought. This concept becomes attainable when the leader reaches a high level of maturity and thinks beyond himself and his personal benefits. He starts looking into the extended eco system – his colleagues, departments, suppliers, customers and all stakeholders. Shivaji developed, practiced and put in place this evolved aspect of leadership 300 years before western management practitioners could conceive it. Thus came upon him the title janata raja or ‘conscious king’ or the king that knows all and does all for the betterment of his people.

Shivaji’s spiritual guru was Swami Ramdas, one of Maharashtra’s greatest saints. After capturing Satara, Shivaji built an aashram (monastery) for his guru in the neighboring hill fort of Parli (Sajjangarh).

It always concerned Shivaji that his guru Swami Ramdas would go out on his daily round for bhiksha (roughly translates to alms), though his royal disciple had provided him with all possible amenities, facilities and wealth. So, one day Shivaji put a deed at his guru’s feet which gifted his entire kingdom to the guru. Swami Ramdas gracefully accepted the gift and then appointed Shivaji as the caretaker of the kingdom on his behalf and bade him to rule not like an owner or autocrat, but like trustee, responsible for all his acts to the higher authority of the divine lord himself.

Shivaji then made the red-saffron colour of sanyasi (one who renounces) the color of his flag, known as the bhagwa zenda or the saffron flag. This signified that he fought and governed in the name of the lord for justice and upholding the dignity of his people.

The learning from this mantra is that human beings are socially ingrained by nature. As communities of likeminded individuals get formed at the work place regular interventions of the top management (Core Committee) need to take place so that the workforce at large feel included in the collaborative growth of the organisation. Only when the people start feeling emotionally attached to their company’s activities, will superior performance standards get set. Any leader, who is genuinely concerned about the physical and emotional welfare of his people, commits time and other resources and takes action to ensure their well being will always succeed. He will leave behind an impact, a legacy which will guide generation of leaders.

Action practice points from mantra one

  • – Empathise and speak aloud with your heart. That is the purest language.
  • – Sympathise with the less fortunate and be in harmony with your own self and the environment. Your path will become easier.
  • – Positive emotions resonate and bring people together in synergy. Practice developing positive attitude in all circumstances.


Shivaji in History ( Blue Screen)

Mantra Two: Merit and Talented People – The Leadership Key to Successful Recruitment

Before I throw light on this crucial mantra, let me quote Nobel Laureate Shimon Peres – President of Israel (2007-2014) from a news report I read, “Israel grew because our only resource was people.” Israel was a tiny piece of land with the desert in the south and the swamps in the north. Not a drop of water. No natural resources. They really had nothing. When material resources grow thin, a leader is wise to recognise people as resources. History is brimming with stories of people having blessed the land and not vice-versa. A great leader from the beginning learns the art of cultivating people.

Shivaji had developed through practice a great knack of utilising the right talent and skilled people for the onerous task of building an empire.

Society develops due to technological advances, but food still remains the basic requirement of any society. Food production comes first, then its distribution and then revenue generated from its sale across the state. Shivaji identified and utilised the services of the Kumbi clan (farmers) and the Malis to cater to the food requirement of his kingdom. On similar grounds, the seafaring communities like the Bhandaris, the Kolis, the Agris were selected to build the navy. Their knowledge of fishing, tides, storms, sea-currents, weather, boat making etc. were effectively channelised. Simillary, the Tambolis, Rangaris, Suthars, Lohars etc. were systematically selected and engaged in the process of creating the great Maratha Empire as they had the natural skills in their area of expertise which they contributed whole heartedly. Looking at the ramparts of hilly forts like Shivneri, Panhalla, Devgiri, it is obvious that under harsh conditions, only the right use of skilled workforce could such magnificent structures get erected.

Shivaji’s gift for judging and evaluating character was one of the main reasons for his success. His selection of generals, governors, diplomats, secretaries was never at fault. This made him one of the most able administrators in history to rule and govern a kingdom.

In Shivaji’s time most individuals were brought through a referral system. It ensures that the positions were filled on the recommendation of trusted people, who knew the type of people who would fit the bill. In addition, the background check is already ensured by the person who is recommending the new recruit. This system also fosters a feeling of oneness and brotherhood throughout the ranks and files. At the same time Shivaji personally interviewed people for the selection of middle and senior levels. He tested them not only for their skills to do the job right, but also evaluated their character and loyalty. Since he was personally acquainted with the strengths of various individuals, he could place the right person for the right job.

The ideas of engagement, empowerment, co-creation and collaboration that are spoken of so highly in today’s leadership circles, were put into practice and adapted in creating an organisation based on merit, purpose and commitment by Shivaji nearly three centuries ago.

The learning from this mantra is that organisational Interest needs to be considered first at all times. A leader has to have self-discipline and the ability to be assertive and say NO. He must not succumb to bias, influence or pressure to have an inappropriate person for a key job. It is natural that leaders being human display a certain amount of bias towards their chosen favorites in selection and promotion, but Shivaji demonstrated that a good leader can rise above it through self-discipline. Leaders need to be hands on in the process of talent acquisition through thoroughly understanding the strength and limitation of any individual before taking him on board in a decision making role for their organisation. With the right man in the right job, a major part of the leader’s job is done.

Action practice points from mantra two

  • – Right people in the right job. This promotes performance.
  • – Get clarity of the role before assigning the role. Understand what is expected and anticipated.
  • – Build strong networks to attract right people to the organisation. Establish a performance culture

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