One day, as King Bhoj and his soldiers approach a field, a farmer is heard screaming, “Stay away, stay away, you and your horses will destroy the crops. Have some pity on us poor people!” Bhoj immediately moves away. As soon as he turns his back, the farmer begins to sing a different tune altogether and says, “Where are you going, my king? Please come to my field, let me water your horses and feed your soldiers. Surely you will not refuse the hospitality of a humble farmer?” Not wanting to hurt the farmer, though amused by his turnaround, Bhoj once again moves towards the field. Again, the farmer shouts, “Hey, go away. Your horses and your soldiers are damaging what is left of my crop. You wicked king, go away.” No sooner has Bhoj begun to turn away than the farmer cries, “Hey, why are you turning away? Come back. You are my guests. Let me have the honour of serving you.”
The king is now exceedingly confused and wonders what is conspiring. This happens a few more times before Bhoj observes the farmer carefully. He notices that whenever the farmer is rude, he is standing on the ground, but whenever he is hospitable, he is standing atop a mound in the middle of the field. Bhoj realizes that the farmer’s split personality has something to do with the mound. He immediately orders his soldiers to dig up the mound in the centre of the field. The farmer protests but Bhoj is determined to solve the mystery.
Beneath the mound, the soldiers find a wonderful golden throne. As Bhoj is about to sit on it, the throne speaks up, “This is the throne of Vikramaditya, the great. Sit on it only if you are as generous and wise as he. If not, you will meet your death on the throne.” The throne then proceeds to tell Bhoj thirty-two stories of Vikramaditya, each extolling a virtue of kingship, the most important being generosity. It is through these stories that Bhoj learns what it takes to be a good king.
The story is peculiar. In the first part of the story, the throne transforms the stingy farmer into a generous host. In the latter half, the throne demands the king be generous before he takes a seat.
In organizations, we expect a man in a particular position to behave in a particular manner. We assume that he has gained this position because he has those qualities. But what comes first: gaining the qualities or acquiring the position. Can a king be royal before he has a kingdom, or does the possession of a kingdom make him royal?
Can a person who seeks Durga from the outside world give out Durga? Or should a king have enough Shakti within him to be an unending supply of Durga to others?
Sunder was great friends with his team before he became the boss. The moment he was promoted, he started behaving differently, became arrogant, obnoxious and extremely demanding. Was it the role that had changed him or had it allowed him to reveal his true colours? Sunder blames the burden of new responsibilities and the over-familiarity of his colleagues as the cause of friction. That is when, Kalyansingh, the owner of the company, decides to have a chat with him.
“Do you know why you have been given a higher salary, a car, a secretary, a cabin?” Sunder retorts that these are the perks of his job. Kalyansingh then asks, “And what is your job?” Sunder rattles off his job description and his key result areas. “And how do you plan to get promoted to the next level?” Sunder replies that it will happen if he does his work diligently and reaches his targets. “No,” says Kalyansingh, “Absolutely not.” Sunder does not understand. Kalyansingh explains, “If you do your job well, why would I move you? I will keep you exactly where you are.” Looking at the bewildered expression on Sunder’s face, Kalyansingh continues, “If you nurture someone to take your place, then yes, I may consider promoting you, but you seem to be nurturing no one. You are too busy trying to be boss, trying to dominate people, being rude and obnoxious. That is because you are insecure. So long as you are insecure, you will not let others grow. And as long as those under you do not grow, you will not grow yourself. Or at least, I will not give you another responsibility. You will end up doing the same job forever. Is that what you really want?” That is the moment Sunder understands the meaning of Vikramaditya’s throne. After all, it is not about behaving royally, but rather about nurturing one’s kingdom. He must not take Durga, he has to give Durga.
Note: Excerpted with permission from Aleph Book Company from ‘The Leadership Sutra: An Indian Approach To Power’ by Devdutt Pattanaik.