Kautilya has clearly specified the rules for an Ideal King.
Such ideal kings were called Raja Rishis (Sage King).
Extract below from The Arthashastra translated by LN Rangarajan.
A Raja Rishi is one who:
- Has self-control having conquered the the six enemies:
- Kama(Lust), Krodha(Anger), Lobha(Greed), Mana(Pride), Mada(Arrogance or Conceit) and Amarsha (Fool hardiness).
- Cultivates intellect by association with wise men and elders
- Keeps his eyes open through spies
- Is ever active in promoting the security and welfare of the people
- Ensures the observance of Dharma by the people, by setting a personal example and authority.
- Improves his own discipline by continuing his learning in all branches of knowledge
- Endears himself to his people by enriching them and doing good to them.
Such a Raja Rishi should:
- Keep away from another’s wife
- Not covet another’s property
- Practice Ahimsa(non-violence) towards all living beings
- Avoid daydreaming, capriciousness, falsehood and extravagance
- Avoid association with harmful persons indulging in harmful activities
There is no need for such a king to lead a life of total austerity and deprive himself of all sensual pleasures, so long as he does not infringe his Dharma or harms his own material well-being.
Some teachers say that the three objectives of human endeavour [Dharma, Kama(Desire) and Artha(Wealth)] are interdependent and must be pursued equally. Excessive importance to any one brings harm not only to that objective but to others as well.
Kautilya, however, says: Artha (Wealth or Sound economics) is the most important; for, Dharma and Kama are both dependent on it.
A Raja Rishi shall always respect those councillors and purohitas(wise scholars) who warn him of the dangers of transgressing the limits of good conduct, reminding him sharply (as with a goad) of the times prescribed for various duties and caution him even when he errs in private.
Only a just king commands the loyalty of people.
The subjects of a just king attacked by another will follow him until death, even if he is weak.
On the other hand, when a strong but unjust king is attacked, his people will either topple him or go over to the enemy.
Learn to recognise and work for good leadership and never work for bad leadership
As a modern day update to the fundamental truths by Kautilya, I also wish I read this excellent article by NK Carlson on the qualities of a bad leader 15 years ago. It would have changed my career options for the better
It is an eye opener and warning never to work for a bad leader.
Good leaders communicate transparently, but only to the point of necessity. Bad leaders communicate either too transparently or not transparently enough.
Good leaders communicate with compassion. Bad leaders communicate with no compassion. When bad leaders communicate, they do not take the feelings of others into consideration. Bad leaders communicate in a way that is cold and distant. The root of this is those bad leaders don’t actually care about anyone other than themselves and their own power. Along with this, bad leaders will never say, “I’m sorry.” They won’t say they are sorry for something they did, they won’t even say they are sorry that a situation is bad. A bad leader never apologizes.
On the other hand, a good leader cares about people and takes others’ feelings into account. Most importantly, a good leader communicates bad news in a way where employees leave the conversation knowing the leader cares about them.
A good leader is helpful and answers questions and concerns. A bad leader ignores questions or dances around them. This goes with the transparency issue above. A bad leader will withhold information for their own purposes. Even when you could be transparent and give answers, they will not, especially when those answers would undermine their power. A bad leader is far from helpful. In many cases, a bad leader will ignore questions or even attack question askers.
A good leader welcomes questions and answers each one, even if that answer is, “I’m sorry, I am unable to answer that question due to confidentiality.” A good leader wants more information available rather than less. A good leader wants to foster understanding when decisions are made. A good leader will help their employees understand through questions and answers. A good leader has nothing to hide about how a decision is made and why.
Above all, good leaders seek to communicate with clarity. Bad leaders do not seek clarity, because many times, a bad leader makes decisions that would not pass scrutiny. Ironically, bad leaders may use more words to communicate decisions.
A good leader will communicate clearly in as few words as possible because they know that many words often bring more fog than clarity. A good leader is direct. Listening is also a sign of good communication. A good communicator listens to concerns rather than monopolizing the conversation so they can better address those concerns. Good communicators and leaders know that face-to-face conversation is usually the best way to communicate, especially when communicating bad news.
Good leaders choose the proper medium so that clarity can be maximized.