The word Samurai makes us visualize a warrior of great inner discipline and exemplary courage. The life of a Samurai is based on Zen philosophy selfless and devoid of ego. In a recent leadership program a senior level participant related the characteristics of a Samurai for success in contemporary leadership. Yes it did generate plenty of interest. On returning home I managed to locate a picture of a Samurai warrior statue taken by me in Tokyo years ago.

Samurai means to serve with steadfast loyalty to the leader, of implicit trust, high morals and ultimate sacrifice. The participant then explained the significance of why Samurai warriors wore two swords – one long and one short?  He explained that the purpose of each was different. The short sword was used in the tactical battle whereas the long one when dealing with grave situations having long-term strategic implications. This meant the warrior must have the ability to instantaneously assess & discern the situation to enable the use of the appropriate weapon.

Samurai in battle dress

This very much applies to our present day leadership which by getting bogged-down in day to day activities and lose sight of the big picture. In turbulent situations a leader must demonstrate nerves of steel and a still mind. Thus not be distracted by mind chatter.

To make this possible today’s leader will need to practice the ‘Samurai Way’ of honor, fairness and politeness. The Samurai tries never to get fascinated by his sword but believes in the larger cause. The Samurai Way to leadership is more of a lifestyle a mental game that needs years of discipline and practice. In essence great leadership is all about imbibing the ‘Spirit of a Samurai’ which can come by actually experiencing the heat of the corporate battlefield.

A Samurai quote No matter whether a person belongs to the upper or lower ranks, if he has not put his life on the line at least once he has cause for shame”Nabeshima Naoshige (1538-1618)

In this context two names come to my mind of our own Samurai warriors  they are:

Shanmugam Manjunath

Satyendra Dubey

Satyendra Kumar Dubey (1973 – 27 November 2003) was a project director at the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). He was killed in Gaya, Bihar after fighting corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral highway construction project.

Shanmugam Manjunath paid the price of his honesty and integrity. As a manager of IOC he had shutdown a pump that was selling adulterated fuel. It was International Men’s Day of 2005, when Manjunath sacrificed his life for this country.

Who is your Samurai?

About Dilip

An open mind! Love to share my thoughts and a keenness to learn. An engineer and a MBA I had a wonderful innings in the Army and later moved to consultancy and teaching. My current interests are music and growing culinary herbs. Love to play golf and do yoga regularly. I am serious on "Living life less seriously". A warm welcome to you be well and be cheerful always.

20 responses

  1. […] This poem was inspired by an interesting article and follow-up comments about the Samurai. […]


  2. Aquileana says:

    What interesting post.
    I truly enjoyed the reading and liked to know more about the meaning of the word and features… loyalty to the leaders sounds like a main prínciple of organizations, in so many different scopes and no matter which one in particular …
    An enlightening post, indeed.
    Thanks for sharing, Dilip.
    Best wishes, Aquileana 🙂


    • dilipnaidu says:

      Welcome dear Aquileana and I am so glad you found this post interesting. I am a great fan of such bold and dedicated warriors such as the Samurai having been in the Army myself 🙂
      Wit kindest regards to you 🙂


  3. wanda wong says:

    Who is your samurai?

    Simply pick the most corrupt politician you can find and you have your samurai. The bushido code was nothing more than rationalization for servility that has existed in every repressive society in some form and still does. The samurai was a class completely devoid of honor and integrity that used a mythical set of values to promote their own self interest and the interests of their rulers. Are we to idolize Hitlers SS for their unwavering devotion. Even in the romanticized fiction of movies the only honorable samurai is the ronin living outside the corrupt samurai culture. With this in mind I’d have to go with Jefferson Davis, Dick Cheney, or Barack Obama.


  4. Pat Cegan says:

    So glad you visited my blog so I could know yours. I, too, have a great respect for the value system of samurai although I am a “no kill” believer. How many people have the intergrity of the samurai? We not only betray others at time, but worse, we do not keep our intregrity with our own commitments. Good lessons here! Below is a poem your article and subsequent comments inspired. Thanks! hugs, pat


    • Dilip says:

      Thank you Pat for gracing my blog! Yes we must believe in Ahimsa (Hindi) or non-injury, abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever. And you are right its the Samurai’s ‘absolute integrity’ that inspires us. A Samurai is more than a warrior he is chivalrous and fearless.

      I found your blog is indeed a ‘Source of Inspiration’ and your poem on the Samurai’s Integrity so beautiful!

      With warm regards and good wishes!


  5. Geetha says:

    Dear Sir,

    I have read with absolute fascination your post on the Samurai and the very insightful comments too.

    I especially like the way Dheeman has acknowledged his father’s contribution to his life when he says:

    “lastly, my samurai is my father, as he has all the qualities ( and many more) listed above. It is because of him that I am able to write in this blog today”.

    Thanks and regards,



    • Dilip says:

      Dear Geetha,

      I am so grateful to you for picking-up an absolute gem i.e., Dheeman’s tribute to his father…”lastly, my samurai is my father, as he has all the qualities ( and many more) listed above. It is because of him that I am able to write in this blog today”. He is a young man with sterling qualities

      I consider myself blessed to have him as a friend.

      Thanks you very much Geetha!


      • suhas says:

        Hi Dilip,
        It is great that you touched on a very thought provoking subject. Also your authors on the blog are as well informed &well read.
        I learned many new things about Samurai through the blog.
        I am reminded of the days when ferocious animals like a hungry lion & a tiger were made to fight a armed soldier in a Collosium. One may call it inhuman but it made an impression on the younger minds. and attracted the cream of youth to the Roman army. Their thought would be “IF HE CAN FIGHT A FEROCIOUS ANIMAL; WHY CAN’T I ? ”
        Any way you are a great Guru who finds new subjects.


      • Dilip says:

        Suhas my friend,

        I am glad you liked the Samurai Fascination and the lovely responses of our readers. Its true as kids we were equally fascinated by ‘The Roman Gladiators’ and their fights.

        And ‘Ha Ha’ I ain’t no Guru 🙂

        Thanks for calling on!


  6. Very interesting! I love learning something new!


    • Dilip says:

      Hi there and welcome to my blog. Thanks for your encouraging words. Just had a quick look at your blog its super. What thrilled me was that it is lovely resource for young folk to help them in their professional careers.

      I am sure all our readers and students and me would learn a lot from ‘classy career girl’ blog. Do visit again share your insights.

      Thank you!


  7. “The samurai of thirty years ago had behind him a thousand years of training in the law of honor, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice….. It was not needed to create or establish them. As a child he had but to be instructed, as indeed he was from his earliest years, in the etiquette of self-immolation. The fine instinct of honor demanding it was in the very blood…”

    Feudal and Modern Japan, (1896)
    – Arthur May Knapp

    Dear Sir,

    I was delighted to see the article while browsing your blog. Since I was a child, I have listened to stories of the samurai from my grandmother, which induced a curiosity strong enough within me to explore and study their techniques as well as the code of honor ( THE BUSHIDO CODE). As you have mentioned, the samurai signifies the ultimate model of self-sacrifice, allegiance to the leader, and warrior spirit. I would like to describe a few things from my limited knowledge about the samurai warrior below:

    1. As You and Navin has mentioned, the samurai carries two swords, wazikashi (the short sword) and the katana (the long sword) for two different purposes. Other than the reasons mentioned, there is another use of the wazikashi, to commit seppuku, suicide by disembowelment. It signifies that the samurai will correct their mistakes themselves by using their own weapon. It does not require any help from outside, meaning self discipline and reliance.

    2. The samurai used to wear a iron armour, which propelled them way ahead of the erstwhile armies, transforming them to the ultimate killing machine of that period. No arrow or sword could penetrate that armour.
    This Armour signifies immunity to outside influence on the conscience of the samurai too. a samurai’s value system cannot be influenced, or changed. It is totally protected.

    3. samurai carries a longbow called the YUMI, which is lethal within 100 meters. A samurai can hit any target within that target and they miss once in a blue moon. This longbow symbolizes that achievement of a goal, however difficult, is possible by a samurai.

    Samurais underwent rigorous training from the tender age of 8. Sometimes, it began as early as 5-6 years of age. So, a child grew up following instructions, learning from the master, and seeing around him true examples of what he would become later in his life. This, in my view, shaped the mind of a samurai, imbibing all the skills, values and sense of honor that he requires. Indeed, if we have such leaders in every strata of our society, we will achieve peace and harmony among every one. But, I daresay in today’s world, it will be difficult to provide that kind of an environment, for that long a time, to a person.

    lastly, my samurai is my father, as he has all the qualities ( and many more) listed above. It is because of him that I am able to write in this blog today.

    Best regards,



    • Dilip says:

      Dear Dheeman,

      What a stunning narrative on ‘The Samurai’ from you. It’s well researched and makes very interesting reading. Like you I too have always been fascinated by the Samurai. Its true the Samurai’s prowess is a result of rigorous training – physical and mental.

      The quote by Arthur May Knapp describes the whole Samurai phenomena beautifully. Your comments reveals your personality and makes me feel you would have made a fine officer in the Army.

      Thank you and Jai Hind!


  8. Rakesh Kotti says:

    Dear Sir,
    First of all I would like to state that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article as I personally feel that the cardinal cause of most of the problems in today’s world are due to a leadership deficit at all strata of society.
    I read the article yesterday and decided to ponder over what struck me the most after reading it—the last line, i.e. “Who is your samurai?”
    I feel these last words are as important as the article itself. It is not enough to be disciplined. We need to marshal our energies towards building a just society—a society where every stomach is full as much as every mind is free.
    I say this because, if we take an amoral perspective, even the terrorists are highly disciplined, focussed and motivated. This is common knowledge. Therefore what we need to be careful about is our focus. Focus on what we want to be. On what kind of world we want to establish? And on what we contribute to establish that world we desire. This requires “knowledge”. I stress on knowledge so as to differentiate it from mere literacy. We often then to confuse ourselves between the two. We seem a little preoccupied with degrees and seldom transcend our immediate world. Considering the dearth of resources in the world, I feel every human being who has enough to eat, who has a shelter and who can read and write is truly blessed. We ought to work towards building a just and humane society. From the grassroots to the global level.
    This era, in my opinion is the most beautiful period of globalisation, as it is pregnant with opportunities for leadership at all levels. I say so because we have more or less globalised our economies, but not globalised our polity. Unregulated free trade leads to “bubbles”. And when they burst, the consequences are catastrophic. We all know what happened in 2007-2008. And we can all see the euro crisis unfold right in front of our eyes.
    One of the cardinal reasons for this I feel is the lack of citizen involvement in the way our world works. Far too many of us are alienated from the system. Far too many of us have given up. And far too many of us are looking for heroes to descend from the cosmos and set things right. Unfortunately, heroes never fall from the skies. They have almost as a rule risen from the soil. Leaders, build their power to set things right. They get a feel of the social inertia and act accordingly. Leaders don’t just stand in the front. They ensure that people follow them. Which means the followers are as much leaders as the leaders themselves!!!
    I personally feel we should stop looking for leaders and make an attempt to lead. But with caution and compassion. As Socrates once said “He who knows right shall do right”. What we need now is not knowledge, enlightenment. Empowerment will follow.
    Lastly, to answer your question on who my Samurai is, I would state that I am spoilt for choice. That is because, I have taken the liberty to equate Samurai to mean inspiration…a person/idea/philosophy, which is my guiding light. However I would state two very beautiful women who have shown the world that one needn’t be fierce to be strong.
    1. Irom Sharmila, who has been agitating against the AFSPA and has been on a hunger strike for the past eleven years!!! It takes a lot of courage to speak out against our own government, as it is easy for our detractors to brand us traitors!
    2. Aung San Suu Kyi—This lady amazes me with her grit and dedication in fighting against the military junta for establishing democracy in Myanmar.
    I hope my views are not too long and vague!!!
    Looking forward to more such discussions.


    • Dilip says:

      Dear Rakesh,

      A Welcome to you! I read with great interest your comprehensive views on the main cause of most of the problems besieging our society to day. And yes I agree one of the reason is the deficit of values based leadership at all levels. This article makes me feel certain that you on joining the Civil Services will use your power and authority do good for the common man. I wish you a very rewarding and illustrious career.

      The fact that you have chosen Irom Chanu Sharmila the “Iron Lady of Manipur” or “Menghaobi” the young civil rights activist, political activist, journalist and poet from the state of Manipur and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myaanmar a Nobel Prize winner speaks very highly of you. I am sure your value systems are an outcome of your school – Lawrence School Lovedale.

      Thank you and wish you lots of luck. Be awesome!


  9. Abhay Shirke says:

    My Samurai in the present context will be none other than Anna Hazare, the social crusader par excellence. In a country where corruption is a way of life, this man has taken the cudgel to stand up in defiance and pass a law which will bring the guilty to book and will deter future aspirants of corruption.
    The instruments he is using are also unique: no violence, no holding back public or private machinery (rasta roko or go slow) and no gimmicks. Only a deadline after which he is ready to sacrifice his own dear life.
    Its a pity the state is still beating around the bloody bush to procrastinate matters. The will to set things right is woefully missing. The thrust seems to be maintain the status quo, ensure the votebank and continue ruling! Why allow integrity and accountibility to take centre-stage?
    I do hope Anna wins though for the sake of transparency.
    Best Regards Abhay Shirke


    • Dilip says:

      Hi Abhay,

      Delighted to read your response by citing the example of Shri Anna Hazare. Yes of course his cause and the simple straightforward approach adopted by him is exemplary. Yes it is not easy to take on the ‘System’ whose malaise is deep rooted and complex. But his sincerity of purpose and the need of hour has triggered a powerful wave for change. And I feel the change for the better is bound to happen.

      We all need to do our bit too. Hope we the citizens start setting example by taking conducting ourselves morally and ethically in all our actions in our work-life as well as in society.

      Thank you Abhay and wish you all the best. Kind regards.


  10. Navin Kumar says:

    Dear sir,

    I guess the two swords, a wakizashi(the short sword) and a katana(the long sword) symbolise two distinct capabilities required of a leader which ensure the building and sustenance of any organization’s competitive advantage. It is the ability to see the overall purpose (big picture) and its completion through day to day operations(the short sword). Balancing when to use which sword was essential to a Samurai’s existence and this is exactly what today’s business leaders are expected to do.

    When numerous responsibilities require a manager’s attention it becomes all the more important to be able to put the noise aside and focus on the task at hand. Now, that’s where a Samurai Leader’s guiding principles help to create focus that matters; it is easy to become sidetracked by the circus of illusion, especially if our own perception adds to the complexity.

    Samurai Leadership’s goal is to make things simpler by focusing on what’s truly important and avoid “paralysis in the face of flashing steel.” We may never have to worry about a Samurai sword hurling toward us, but we have all experienced the unsettling distractions of the modern business environment. In both circumstances the proper frame of mind is crucial to survival.

    The Samurai leadership style as described in the book “The Swordless Samurai” a book by Masao Kitami of leadership advice based on the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a peasant who became the supreme leader of Japan and the Emperor’s proxy during the final decade of the sixteenth century. Hideyoshi, describes his philosophy known as Precepts of the Swordless Samurai in the following 3 ways:
    The best soldier does not attack
    The superior fighter succeeds without violence
    The greatest conqueror wins without a struggle

    The word samurai originally meant “one who serves,” and referred to men of noble birth assigned to guard members of the Imperial Court. This service ethic spawned the roots of samurai nobility, both social and spiritual. Nitobe Inazo’s interpretation of Bushido Code aptly coaxes it’s followers to transcend loyalty to the so called system & power center because if it was not the case Inazo’s efforts would not be labeled as romanticized yearning for a non-existent age of chivalry. No wonder putting up relentless fight against all the odds while upholding justice is a natural outcome of adopting Samurai style of Leadership.

    Naoshige’s quotation carries the essence of being able to finding out whether we are courageous or not because it is almost impossible to claim that we have not witnessed or tolerated injustice. And even once if someone who claims to be courageous, selflessly and without fearing for life stands against injusitice or wrong doing is a true Samurai. Someone like Bhagat Singh and scores of unsung revolutionaries could fit the bill. In the corporate world those whistleblowers who lodge irregularities and lapses despite little security could also be rightly called real Samurais. Because clinging to one’s value system which does not allow any scope of injustice and wrongdoing is not an ordinary task.

    Thanks & regards,
    Navin Kumar


    • Dilip says:

      Hey Navin another masterpiece from you! Your comments are like a treatise on the Samurai. And it sits very well on the small note I wrote. I am quite thrilled to read the terms “wakizashi (the short sword) and a katana (the long sword)” as it is the size and use of swords that we draw our lessons from.

      And yes I would very much love to read and learn some inspiring stuff from “The Swordless Samurai”. Your last para does provoke us to introspect whether we are doing our bit when the situation demand us to do so. Or are we satisfied by mere talk? Yes Shaheed Bhagat Singh is a shinning example and if I may add Maharani Laxmibai the brave warrior Queen of Jhansi is another. We too can in our daily lives do little acts of help for the those in distress. Even kind words and boosting the other’s morale is equivalent to valor in the battlefield.

      Many thanks for your time.