Five Management Lessons from Mahabharata for MBA Grads

MahabharathaUndoubtedly, Mahabharata is one of the greatest epics mankind has ever heard or read. With so many possible interpretations of its characters’ behavior and the plot, it becomes much more engrossing for the audience. Similar to Bhagvad Gita, which contains meanings to life, and the various facets and nuances to way of life, even Mahabharata should not be just considered as a religious scripture.

According to me, the saga of Mahabharata is a great testament to the management lessons one can derive out of it. Not only for the proficient managers in an organization, but also for the aspiring managers and wannabe MBA grads, this mythology holds lot of relevance and value in terms of parallels that can be drawn from it. Be it in the area of marketing or leadership skills or people management or any other management related aspect, Mahabharata holds key to several work life management problems.

In this article, I have discussed few of the lessons which every MBA grad can derive from Mahabharata by analyzing its events and characters.

  1. Importance of Networking and Relationship Management

Much before the war was fought, Pandavas were hugely outnumbered by Kauravas in terms of the military might. But they built their network with the like-minded kings.  They maintained good relationship with their existing friends and developed new alliances. In professional life too, an MBA grad must build his network and manage relationship with them. After the MBA, most of you will be focused on building your career path in the organization. But you must never lose sight of the role played by your peers of b-school and alumni network. In workplace, you should reach out to as many people as possible. You never know when your network might come to your rescue when need arises. In the function of sales and marketing, bigger your network is and better your relationships are, you stand a better chance to strike good deals. In today’s world, social media platforms like LinkedIn must be leveraged to build your network.

  1. Nurture a pool of Leaders in your Team

Either today or tomorrow, you will be entrusted with greater responsibilities in an organization. This means that as a good manager and leader, you must assume the role of a mentor. It is always good to have a pool of leaders in your team who can take up diverse responsibilities when time comes. A good leader or manager always provides direction to his team members, and is a source of constant motivation to others. Only then the team functions effectively. Being a manager, you must build this culture in your team, irrespective of leading a smaller big team.

In the Mahabharata, army of Kauravas was led by just one general – Bhisma. This followed one-man leadership hierarchy pattern. On the other hand, Pandavas were led by multiple leaders, owning up different battalions of the army and its operations at different periods of the war. This multi-leader strategy proved more effective in winning the war. Similarly, in an organization context, every function or department must develop second line of leaders, which is often termed as succession planning.

  1. It’s about Team Play with Common Objectives

An aspiring MBA grad must understand that he alone cannot shoulder the complete responsibilities of the team, forget achieving the goal. It is the team spirit which wins the war or competition. Kauravas lacked team spirit completely. Every important member in their team had his own personal motives and aspirations with no common objective as a team. Only Duryodhana was in favor of war. Most of the warriors were against the war. But Pandavas were knitted together with one common goal – to win the war and earn back their kingdom – rather than just showcasing their individual prowess.

When a team is confronted with a bigger objective or target, everyone in the team must share the responsibility, and be accountable. Rather than having a centralized decision-making process, the manager must consult peers and other leaders in his team and allocate responsibilities to them. This allows others also to showcase their skills, which is good for the organization in long-term. This leads to maximum contribution from every team member.

MBA Graduates

  1. Seek Mentors in your Career

Even the best managers need mentors who can guide them in time of crisis. Why only crisis, these mentors from their own experience can provide words of wisdom to MBA grads while taking everyday decisions in the workplace. An MBA grad must always look for a mentor in the workplace. It could be a senior manager from within the same organization or another organization. In the b-school, his or her teacher and professor can play this role.

In the great war of Mahabharata, even though Krishna never fought the war, he was the key strategist for the Pandavas, who guided them at each important step of the war. In the workplace, a mentor shows the path, which itself is sufficient for a good manager to understand and make a decision. Having a good mentor is important to grow up professionally. No matter how talented you are, one must seek mentorship. Arjuna, the best warrior in the epic with all kinds of weaponry in his arsenal, also required a mentor in the form of Krishna.

  1. Choose your Resources Wisely

This is so true for HR students and in the case of recruiting managers in an organization. As a manager, irrespective of whether you are in the recruiting team or not, at some point of work life, you will have the opportunity to recruit new team members. At the top level in an organization, board members choose CEOs and CXOs. One must plan properly for the kind of skilled workforce required in the organization. Then engage the right people at the right places. A good manager is one who has an eye for talent. It is up to the acumen of the manager to spot the hidden talent in his team members and provide them opportunities to grow.

In Mahabharata, both Pandavas and Kauravas had the option to choose Krishna for their team. But displaying complete lack of vision and acumen, Kauravas selected Krishna’s army, and hence lost the war. Whereas Yudhishthira made a wise decision and opted for Krishna, who ultimately played a strategic role in their win. This also shows that even one resource can make a difference in an organization. Hence, a manager must never underestimate the power of one.

In conclusion, I must say that Mahabharata is a great source of knowledge and management lessons, which must be well understood and assimilated by every MBA grad.

Contributed by Suyash Chopra ( Class of 2010, IBS HYDERABAD ) can be contacted at and twitter: @suyashchopra1

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