Annual Giving Campaign - 2023-2024 is under way. Donate today by Clicking Here, and help us reach our goal.
So far, $574,612 has been raised out of a target of $ 5 Million. Click Here to donate today and help us reach our goal.
Registrations are open for Fall 2022 Programs and Courses now. Click Here to register today.
New Program in Fall Quarter 2022: Certificate Program in Shuddh Hindi.
New Program in Fall Quarter 2022: Certificate Program in Bhagavad Gita through Sanskrit.
Featured image: LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES FROM HINDU SCRIPTURES - Read full post: Leadership Principles from Hindu Scriptures

Leadership Principles from Hindu Scriptures


Is the Bhagavad Gita solely a manual for spiritual living? Are the Upanishads and other scriptures just esoteric readings? Can we derive leadership principles from Hindu scriptures to teach and guide us in our everyday corporate or professional lives? In an increasingly complex world faced with maniacal “celebrity” superstar promoters at one end of the employment spectrum to “quietly quitting” colleagues/team members at the other end, can we draw upon the sagacious wisdom contained in our ancient scriptures to help us operate and function optimally in the business world? In addition to our carefully developed resources of intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ), can we also build upon our “consciousness” quotient (CQ)?

Leadership Principles from Hindu Scriptures

 Leadership Principles From Hindu Scriptures

A Personal Dilemma 

As a finance professional working in corporate India, I have personally reflected on methods—empathetic but still effective—to garner the enthusiasm and support of my team members during trying business times. At other moments, I have been anxiously searching for answers to persuade peers in management to align with wider corporate goals that are sustainable in the long run in contrast to narrow short-term departmental goals.
A leader is influenced by the culture he or she is born in; the nuances of his or her culture will shape the leadership role and style. Rather than blindly copying an aggressive Western management style, I constantly wondered if there was an alternative approach to leadership—one that was more rooted in the Hindu culture. 
In my intrepid search, I was delighted to read a scholarly document authored by Shriram Sarvotham from the study material shared by the HUA in the course “Orientation to Hindu Studies.” This enlightening essay is sourced from the book whose title says it succinctly: “Inclusive Leadership - Perspectives from Tradition and Modernity”.
Shriram Sarvotham states that Yogic wisdom from authoritative yoga texts enunciates systematic methods to cultivate fundamental leadership attributes. His specific references to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Upanishads inspire wonder at the deep levels of practical wisdom that abound in the Hindu culture.
The author starts with the premise that the fundamental trait of a leader is his or her ability to influence people in their thoughts, words, and actions. The leader’s persuasive power inspires people to take action towards the chosen ideals, goals, and objectives. The art of persuasion has three distinct attributes namely, satyam (appeal to one’s credibility), yukti (appeal to the intellect) and karuna (appeal to the emotions). In the Indian tradition, Yogic wisdom from authoritative yoga texts such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras enunciates systematic methods to cultivate these triune attributes of satyam, yukti, and karuna.

Satyam: the inner work

Satyam is the power that comes from personal ethics and the pursuit of excellence. Satyam provides credibility to the leader and creates an aura of powerful presence. The words of one who has cultivated satyam carry enormous weight. They have the power to deeply influence people.
Maharishi Patanjali states:
सत्यप्रतिष्ठायां क्रियाफलाश्रयत्वम् ॥ 
satya pratiṣṭhāyāṃ kriyā phalāśrayatvam
For one who is established in truth, their vision becomes manifest
(Yoga Sutra, 2.36)
“Speak Truth to Power” is an oft-repeated quote—a maxim that resonated deeply within me. As the financial head of an organization, I internalized this maxim—particularly when reporting financial details and results to shareholders and stakeholders. 
The author expands on the meaning of satyam as being much more than speaking truthfully; it refers to the core ethical value of integrity. A leader can claim to be true to their ideals only by integrating them into their own lives and by living them. In addition to gaining the power to manifest a vision as stated by Patanjali, living a life of satyam accrues credibility. Others trust the words and actions of the leader once the credibility is firmly established.
In short, living the highest, most excellent version of oneself builds satyam.

Yukti: clarity of perception and expression 

Yukti is the appeal to logic. Yukti builds a cogent, coherent, and clear flow of ideas that convince the intellect. Before articulating these ideas to others, a leader must convince himself or herself first. In the Yoga Sutras, Maharishi Patanjali provides the analogy of a flawless crystal (abhijātasyeva mani [Yoga Sutra, 1.41])—as a metaphor to depict the state of mind of a yogi. 
The author states that oftentimes, the intellect is muddied and dulled by laziness or even stupor. One can think of this as a veil of darkness that envelops the brilliance of the intellect, thereby eclipsing it. This darkness, termed tamas in yoga, is like the dark smoke that clouds the inner light from shining forth.
A well-known mantra from the Upanishads states:
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
tamaso mā jyotirgamaya
Lead me from darkness to light 
(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad; Nikhilananda trans.).
Yoga practices provide many methods to clear the tamas and allow the inner light of the intellect to shine forth. Patanjali says: 
ततः क्षीयते प्रकाशावरणम् ॥
tataḥ kṣīyate prakāsha avaraṇam
Pranayama removes the dark covering of avaranas [tamas] and allows the inner light to shine forth
(Yoga Sutra, 2.52)
As tamas is lifted and clarity dawns, the leader invokes the tremendous power of the intellect. He is able to use this power to prove the truth of his ideas and convince others of the same.

Karuna: the heart-to-heart connection 

Whereas yukti provides a dispassionate appeal to the intellect, karuna ignites passion by connecting with the heart. Unless we touch the other’s heart, we cannot win their full support. A leader provides a space of harmony in which others are made to feel valued and appreciated. 
The author states that the first step towards connecting with people at this deeper level is to respect them. According to yoga, respecting another is achieved by acknowledging and honoring the divine presence in them. The Bhagavad Gita states: 
ईश्वरः सर्व-भूतानां हृद्-देशेऽर्जुन तिष्ठति ।
īśvaraḥ sarva bhūtānām hd deśe arjuna tiṣṭhati
The divine resides in the heart of all beings 
(BG 18.61) 
When we acknowledge this divine presence in another, we elevate them in our eyes and see them as the precious beings that they are. We value them. Furthermore, a leader does not see another being as inferior. Each one is a divine being who is respected and appreciated, and whose contribution is valued.
In addition to the three factors related to influencing capabilities of an individual, Patanjali offers the following remarkable wisdom, which reveals a profound method for connecting with others:
मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षाणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम् ॥
maitrī karuṇa mudita upekṣāṇāṃ
sukha duḥkha puṇya apuṇya viṣayāṇāṃ
bhāvanātaḥ citta prasādanam
Be friendly to those who are happy; be compassionate to those who are sad, appreciate those who are doing good work, and overlook the mistakes of others
(Yoga Sutra, 1.33)
Using these four bhāvanas (ways to connect) for the four types of people, as enunciated by Patanjali, the leader always remains connected with others and evokes their full potential.


The three virtues of inspirational leadership—namely, satyam, yukti and karuna—make the leader highly influential. Satyam builds the power of credibility of the leader by using the principles of ethics and excellence. Yukti express the scientific and intellectual side of the leader that helps him or her appeal to other’s intellect. Karuna awakens the artistic and compassionate side of the leader, by which he or she sees beauty in others and values them. As in all powerful combinations, the coming together of satyam, yukti, and karuna creates great synergy: the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, the leader who embodies all three virtues has extraordinary power to influence others and potentially transform the world. The wisdom and practices contained in the classic yoga scriptures such as the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita provide valuable tools to cultivate satyam, yukti, and karuna.
This brilliant exposition by Dr. Shriram Sarvotham has provoked active interaction with my immediate team members. We have expanded the dialog by researching further writings on the theme “Leadership Principles from Hindu Scriptures.”
Back to Blog