Crafting Your "A Team" & Advisory Circle: Leadership Lessons from Lord Rama

Discover how Lord Rama's insights guide leaders to cultivate a collective spirit, align with spiritual values, and identify key traits in team members

A few years ago, my mentor, Tamie Callahan, shared invaluable insights about the power of having a formalized advisory board as a business owner. While I've always had a group of trusted individuals I turned to for guidance, making the concept more structured hadn't crossed my mind until Tamie shed light on its advantages. The notion of creating a formal advisory team prompted me to reach out to individuals with diverse expertise and experiences, and soon, I found myself surrounded by a well-rounded group of advisors.

Whether you're steering the ship of your proprietorship business or leading a company where you are at the helm, the concept of advisory teams takes various forms. There's the essential C-suite collaboration, the personal board of advisors, mentors, coaches, and a network of individuals providing strategic counsel for the leader's and the company's growth. In this context, let's delve into the timeless wisdom of Lord Rama from the Ramayana, exploring how his teachings on leadership can guide us in selecting and working with our own modern-day advisory teams.

Lord Rama imparts crucial lessons on leadership to his brother Bharat when Bharat comes to meet him in chitrakoot and request him to come back to Ayodhya. Among the valuable teachings are insights into the significance of choosing the right advisors, a lesson that holds relevance not only in ancient kingdoms but also in today's corporate world. Let's explore these teachings and extract valuable guidance for leaders seeking to build a strong and effective team.(Reference Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, Sarga 100)

1. Valiant, Learned, Masters of Senses

Lord Rama emphasizes the importance of having ministers who are valiant, learned, masters of their senses, of noble birth, and skilled in interpreting internal sentiments through external gestures. Translating this into a modern business context, leaders should seek team members who embody these qualities. Look for individuals with courage, a healthy risk appetite, a solid educational background, emotional intelligence, and a deep understanding of the industry.

The source of victory for kings, as Lord Rama suggests, lies in concealed counsel. Leaders should surround themselves with advisors who are well-versed in their respective domains and can keep strategic thoughts close to the chest. This requires hiring individuals with expertise in the field and the ability to navigate complex situations with discretion.

Questions for leaders to consider :

  • Have I assembled a team of leaders who exhibit courage, possess strong subject matter expertise, and demonstrate emotional intelligence? Can they strategize as a team with confidentiality?


2. One Wise Person vs. Thousands of Mediocre Perforners/Advisors :

Lord Rama's advice is clear: prioritize wisdom over sheer numbers. A wise advisor can be invaluable in navigating difficult matters. When building a team, leaders should prioritize quality over quantity, seeking individuals with a track record of making sound decisions and offering valuable insights.

Lord Rama says: Even if a king employs thousands of fools, they will not be helpful. However, a single wise, valiant, sagacious, and efficient minister can secure great prosperity. In a corporate context, leaders should focus on hiring individuals with a proven track record of success, strategic thinking, and the ability to contribute significantly to the organization's growth.

Here is a quote from Steve Jobs about the importance of assembling A Players:

"...I’ve built a lot of my success on finding these truly gifted people, and not settling for “B” and “C” players, but really going for the “A” players. And I found something… I found that when you get enough “A” players together, when you go through the incredible work to find these “A” players, they really like working with each other. Because most have never had the chance to do that before. And they don’t work with “B” and “C” players, so it’s self-policing. They only want to hire “A” players. So you build these pockets of “A” players and it just propagates"

When Steve jobs is talking about A players- he is not just talking about intellectual horsepower but they also bring drive, integrity, role modeling, sound decisions, mature insights and leadership to make others better on the team as A players have growth areas too.

Questions for leaders to consider:

  1. Am I prioritizing the quality of my leadership/advisory team over sheer numbers? Do I have wise and experienced executives who can navigate and contribute meaningfully in challenging situations?
  2. Have I recognized the significant impact that a single wise and efficient executive can have on the prosperity of the organization? Is my leadership team comprised of individuals with a proven track record of success and strategic thinking?


3. Collective/ Singular Deliberation with Caution:

Next Lord Rama talks about engaging with ministers. He advises consulting with three or four ministers collectively and and also deliberating with them individually. This underscores the importance of diversity in thought and the value of seeking input from multiple perspectives. Leaders should assemble a team that encourages open communication, diverse viewpoints, and the ability to work collaboratively towards shared goals. While meeting them together and seeking collective input, Lord Rama recommends that a leader should also meet his advisors individually and discuss their inputs on strategic matters.

Leaders should carefully consider each proposal collectively and individually, ensuring that decisions are well-thought-out and align with the organization's objectives.

Questions to ponder upon:

  1. Are my executives encouraged to express diverse viewpoints during decision-making processes? How effectively am I fostering a culture of open communication and collaboration within my leadership team?
  2. Do I carefully consider each proposal collectively and individually, ensuring well-thought-out decisions aligned with organizational objectives?
  3. Am I guarding against the potential pitfalls of deliberating alone or with numerous individuals without due caution.


4. Is having a team of smart A players enough ?

In the pursuit of building a formidable team, it's not merely about assembling a group of A players; it's about cultivating a collective spirit aligned with spiritual values and a shared commitment to the business's goals and principles. Lord Rama's sage advice echoes through time, underscoring the significance of individuals adept in diplomacy, possessing political strategy, and fearlessness. However, a stark warning emerges: those seeking to break the loyalty of the team must be swiftly removed. The leader, much like a king, risks peril if such individuals persist.

Defining the organizational culture becomes paramount, a task made feasible when leaders foster a personal strong inner culture grounded in spiritual values. Lord Rama emphasizes discernment during the hiring process, urging leaders to identify those who resonate with the organization's ethos. Lord Rama also emphasizes that some individuals may be perceived as knowledgeable, yet they lack a connection with the divine principle. Despite their extensive knowledge, their intelligence becomes tainted due to the absence of surrender to the divine. Consequently, they fall short in fostering a culture of engagement and often squander valuable time in unnecessary arguments. Leaders are strongly advised to steer clear of such individuals at all costs.

Questions to ponder upon:

  • How well is our team aligned with spiritual values, and to what extent do these values contribute to a collective spirit within the organization?
  • Are there mechanisms in place to swiftly identify and address individuals who may pose a risk to team loyalty and cohesion?
  • In what manner does my personal inner culture, grounded in spiritual values, influence and shape the broader culture of the organization?
  • How can we integrate discernment into our hiring processes to ensure that new team members align with our organization's ethos and values?Thinking about these will help leaders be vigilant, creating a culture that thrives on spiritual values, integrity, and a collective commitment to the greater good.


Closing Notes

In conclusion, the teachings of Lord Rama offer profound insights into the art of choosing advisors and building teams. As modern CEOs & Entrepreneurs, it is crucial to heed these lessons by surrounding ourselves with executives who possess wisdom, courage, and a proven track record. Building a leadership team that collectively strategizes, deliberates cautiously, and values diversity in thought is the key to success. A leader's spiritual inner cultivatation is helpful

Categories: Leadership