Thirukkural (திருக்குறள்), also known as the Kural, is a classic Tamil ‘sangam’ (3rd century BC to 4th century AD) literature composition. It has 1,330 couplets or ‘kurals’. It was authored by the renowned poet Thiruvalluvar.
The Thirukkural is one of the most important works in the Tamil language. This is reflected in some of the other names by which the text is given by such as ‘Tamil marai’ (Tamil Vedas); ‘poyyamozhi’ (words that never fail); and ‘Deiva nool’ (divine text).
Just like ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’, ‘Bhagavad-Gita’ and other scriptures, Thirukkural is also replete with words of wisdom. It is simple and contains profound messages.
Thirukkural has 133 chapters, each containing 10 couplets. Broadly speaking, all the 133 chapters can be divided into three sections: Righteousness, Wealth and Love. In the text below, the serial number of each couplet appears on the top, followed by its Tamil text and then by its near-literal translation in English.
Practising as well as aspiring managers could draw quite a few lessons from Thirukkural. Here is a modest attempt to capture a few of its facets.
Leadership is more of an attitude and a way of living and behaving. It is about opening one’s heart. It is about inspiring those around one. It is about leading others by example. It is about standing up for others and shielding them from harm.
A good leader is an avid listener. He encourages dissent.
A leader’s life is not easy. Following ‘dharma’ (righteousness) is his/her foremost trait. Being impartial and just is another.
Intuition plays an important role in the life of a leader. Steve Jobs’ life is a living example of this trait.
Leadership is about human experiences and not about processes.
Mergers and acquisitions often follow the rule of tying up with a former adversary in business. Google acquired Android, YouTube and Motorola Mobility, so as to extend the reach of its business as also to diversify into related verticals.
Brand Image of an Organization
Thirukkural has chapters which are intended for developing and managing kingdoms. The attributes of an ideal kingdom mentioned in the ancient text are equally applicable to the contemporary corporate world.
This can be interpreted to mean that a great company is one which has a strong brand image amongst all its stakeholders. Healthy and vibrant employees form the backbone of a company. By generating a surplus for its shareholders, wealth gets created. A culture which enables fertile imagination and innovation ensures its long-term survival and well-being. A result-oriented but relaxed culture results into greater happiness of its employees. Guarding the company’s assets – material as well as intellectual – ensures survival in a highly competitive environment.
Managers need to be resolute, decisive and action-oriented. Loyalty to the management and operating within the company policy paradigm are two of the several qualities they need to have.
Stephen Covey has spoken of the habit of ‘sharpening the saw’. The poet also emphasizes the need to keep upgrading our subject knowledge, so as to do well in our careers.
Planning, and thinking ahead, needs to be given a high priority. Want to beat the competition? Know its strengths and review your plans accordingly.
Restraining anger is important. Anger is also an important weapon in a manager’s arsenal. It can be used to put in place a team member who might be getting too big for his boots. When held back and allowed to simmer within, it can be used very effectively. Patience and forbearance are recommended. We also need to have the knack of getting our timing right!
Management is all about getting things done. A smart manager would know what needs to be done, who is the best person for doing it, and the right time to get it done.
Here are some guidelines on when to speak, how to speak and what to speak.
Planning and Execution
The poet exhorts us to avoid procrastination.
Whether we are hiring a chartered accountant or an engineer, the cultural fit with the company is of great importance. People who sound the same based on their CVs are all different. Their value systems are determined by the family they belong to and the environment they have grown up in. Their personality traits are not the same.
Would they fit in with their immediate team members? Would they vibe well with the culture of the organization? These are some of the questions to be asked so as to ensure that we make better hiring decisions.
The poet also exhorts us to make a hiring choice with due diligence.
Managing the Self
Like all spiritual texts, Thirukkural also extols the virtues of connecting with one’s inner self.
Being amiable and speaking positively helps.
Helping others in a self-less manner may result into long-term loyalists getting developed. However, help rendered to an ungrateful person could be a waste of one’s time and efforts.
Forgetting and forgiving helps us to reduce our own stress levels.
Self control is the real treasure. So is walking on the right path.
Loose talk, inane gossip and back-biting happen to be some of the tricks of making enemies and losing friends!
Gems of General Wisdom
When it comes to cautioning leaders and managers against amorous advances within the confines of their place of work, Thirukkural is silent. However, it is interesting to note that in the Love section, it does deal with matters of romance, sex and lust. If there are observations from the view-point of the so-called sterner sex, we also find insights from the delicately nurtured amongst us. To that extent, the text may be held to demonstrate a decent level of gender parity. Chivalry is far from being dead!
Each ‘kural’ is complete in itself. It deserves to be meditated upon, one at a time, and imbibed in our day-to-day lives. One wonders at the keen observations of the poet, his sagacity and the effort he has taken to collate and compile this beautiful work, replete with words of wisdom which continue to be as relevant today as they were in the days of yore.
(My sincere gratitude to various persons and texts which enabled this compilation)