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11. Leadership Lessons from Ashoka and Akbar

Updated: May 25, 2020

Two Indian Emperors, who because of their wonderful goverance can legitimately consider “Great”, Ashoka in the 3rd century BC and Akbar in 16th Century AD.

This is an attempt of decoding and diagnosis of their their Administrative and Leadership styles, which will helps to understand how they have built such Formidable and Wealthiest Empires in their life time.

1) Ashoka and Fundamental Principles of his Life

Ashoka, last major emperor of Mauryan dynasty India , who ruled Indian Subcontinent.

After bloody conquest of Kalinga country on the east coast, he remorsed sufferings of war victims and renounced armed conquest and adopted a policy that he called “conquest by dharma” (i.e., by principles of right life ) and adopted to Buddhism.

Fundamental Principles of Ashoka's Life :

1) Compassion and Empathy

  • Under influence of Buddhism , he resolved to live according to, and preach, the dharma and to serve his subjects and all humanity.

  • Determined practice of the sociomoral virtues of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, mercifulness, benevolence, nonviolence, considerate behaviour toward all including animals.

2) Religious Tolerance

  • He spoke of no particular mode of religious creed or worship, nor of any philosophical doctrines. He spoke of Buddhism only to his coreligionists and not to others.

  • Toward all religious sects , he adopted a policy of respect and guaranteed them full freedom to live according to their own principles.

3) Communication and Transperancy of Policies

  • In order to gain wide publicity for his teachings and his work, ensured means of oral announcements and by engravings on rocks and pillars at suitable sites.

  • Transparently communicating through inscriptions—the rock edicts and pillar edicts (e.g., the lion capital of the pillar found at Sarnath, which has become India’s national emblem) of actions and provide information on his life and acts.

  • His extremely frank and sincere in his Deliberations and utterances .

4) Lead the Team and Walk the Talk.

  • Ashoka went out on periodic tours preaching the dharma to the rural people and relieving their sufferings.

  • He ordered his high officials to do the same, in addition to attending to their normal duties;

5 ) Common Justice to All

  • He directed All administrative officers to be constantly aware of the joys and sorrows of the common folks and to be prompt and impartial in dispensing Justice .

  • A special class of high officers, designated “dharma ministers,” was appointed to foster dharma work by the public, relieve sufferings wherever found, and look to the special needs of women .

6 ) Humanity and Humility

  • He dispense services and got better results by explaining his deeds with logics and rationality.

  • He has developed abnormal zeal to serving his subjects with founding of hospitals for men and animals and the supplying of medicines, and the planting of roadside trees and groves, digging of wells, and construction of watering sheds and rest houses.

  • Orders were also issued for curbing public laxities and preventing cruelty against animals. .

7 ) Everlasting Philosophy ( Ethos and Values )

All men are my children. As for my own children I desire that they may be provided with all the welfare and happiness of this world and of the next, so do I desire for all men as well.

2) Akbar and his Fundamental Principles of Life :

Akbar has established righest empire in 16th Century with estimated annual income of 100 million pounds covering several countries . However, what made Akbar the Great is not the Wealth and Political Power , but his wonderful personality and his amazing governoring principles.

He remained as a agnostic, belived that either God might have been existed

or not, and believed all religions must be true or illusionary treating either segment of the people with equal respect.

Fundamental Principles of Akbar's Life :

1) Tolerance for other Credos and Communities .

  • He prayed to Hindu Gods and chanted mantras.

  • His son Murad was given Christian education and exposed to Christianity.

  • His Hindu Rajput wives need not convert to Islam and they freedom choose relion of their choice.

  • The Pinnacle of his religious tolerance is Pictures of Christ, Mary, Moses and Muhammahis were placed in his dining room .

  • As most of his subjects are Hindus, so he abolished the jiziya tax and respected the sentiments of his people and “prohibited the slaughter of cows and the eating of their flesh”.

3) Meritocracy .

  • He given importance to meritocray as Todar Mal and Man Singh were as powerful and influential as Bairam Khan and Shirazi.

  • Man Singh is highest paid Commander or Courtier or Employee of the Mughul Empire.

4) Innovation and Adaptation .

  • He followed abnormal speed and innovation in warfare contrary to traditional practices and given the belief that, he was able to bend the very forces of nature to his will.

  • His innovations include " ingenious rockets” and “lightweight canon " inspite of his unschooling and illiteracy.

5) Goveranance ( Performance ) and Compassion.

  • He also manged to provide means and standard of living to subjects better than any other parts of the world during that time.

  • He ensured dignity for each and every person in his empire inspite their social status and creed.

  • He was a Vegeterian during weekends along with his fellow Vegetarian Courtiers and Officials of Administration..


Human virtues like empathy, compassion, tolerance to other beliefs, transparency and sincerity ( walk the talk ) are cornerstones of leadership to lead any congregation, community, religious group, company or country.

Anyone ready to undertake the enterprise of establishing an everlasting Organisation or Institution must follow these above principles .

These legendary Emperors have shown the way by imbibing and following these virtues and left trail in human history and hence people adorably called them The Great, after their names.

MM Rao


Sources : Some information from Internet and Wikipedia

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