By Changing Your World, You Change Our World

Lead Like a Mughal King

  2014-10-20 11.11.11

What does it take to be a good leader?

While touring around ancient, Indian temples and palaces I pondered this very question.  In today's world we grapple with the question of leadership.  What is it, how do you get it, when do you use it.  

Looking at the history of the Mughal kings, descendants from Genghis Khan's original Mongols, while visiting New Delhi and Agra recently it struck me how we in modern times could learn from the Mughals.

The original Mughal king, Babar came to northern muslim-ruled India in the 16th century to raid and conquer.  Like any good mongol leader, he came, he saw, he conquered.  And left to do more.

The mughals repeated this process until it came to Akbar, one of Babar's great-grandsons.  Akbar must have taken a leaf from the Roman playbook.  He came, he conquered and he stayed.  But importantly he integrated.  

Akbar allowed all religions to flourish; embracing Islam, Hindu and Christian religions in his court.  

Akbar integrated art and architecture.  Hindu architecture was mainly square lines with lots of embellishment – animals, gods (with faces) and flowers.  Persian architecture was all about the curve.  Curved arches in doorways, windows and lintels.  No faces or over-the-top adornment in Persian architecture.  Hindus had mastered the craft of stonework or masonry without mortar.  Persians used bricks and mortar.  Akbar combined these methods and crafts to create art and architecture that combined the stonework of Hindu masons with the mortar of Persians and the embellishment (without faces) on their palaces, tombs and temples.  

Art, religion and architecture flourished under the Mughals.  Akbar's grandson, Shan Jehan was the builder of the Taj Mahal, the apex of art and architectural expression of the Mughal empire.

The people under Mughal rule enjoyed freedom of religion, expression of culture through art and architecture and a good life.

What can we learn from the Mughals?

Integration is powerful.  Embrace rather than reject.  Allow room for more than one viewpoint.  The perspective of many is greater than the perspective of one; collective wisdom.  

Culture is complex, when you integrate culture through art, architecture and freedom of expression you enable talent and human potential.  

Be inclusive rather than exclusive.  History does have something to teach us.


D'Arcy Barron is exploring Mindful Leadership at and writes a blog at 


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