The Preface: Akbar The Great was the Mogul Emperor who ruled India from 1560 to 1605. He himself was illiterate, but he invited several learned people in his court. Among these people, Birbal washis most favorite minister because of his wit and intellect. There are number of folklore on Birbal in India. As an Executive Search & Recruitment professional during last two decades, I Unlearned (learned new lessons) a lot from these stories and tried to use it in my profession for the benefit of my clients and talented individuals I met and interviewed.

The Story

Apart from his sharp intellect, Birbal was also a devotee of Sri Rama and would not miss his prayers at any cost. Wherever Akbar went, he used to take Birbal along with him. During one such instance, they took a route through a dense forest. They lost their way and both were totally exhausted and famished. So they decided to rest for a while. Akbar wanted to look around the place to see if he could find a house to get some food. Birbal asked Akbar to excuse him and went on to his prayer. Akbar looked at Birbal and preached “Mere chanting of the names of the Lord will not fetch you food. You have to put in your own efforts. You cannot achieve anything otherwise’.

Akbar left in pursuit of food. In a little while he spotted a house. The inmates of the house were overjoyed to see the Emperor coming to their doorstep for food. They treated him to the best of their capacity. Akbar finished his meal and took a little food for Birbal too. He gave Birbal the food. “See Birbal, I told you.I made some effort to find food and I got it. You were just sitting and chanting Rama Nama and you did not get any food.”

After finishing the meal given by Akbar, Birbal looked up at Akbar and said, “I have just now experienced the power of Rama Nama, like never before. You are the ruler of the land. But today even you had to beg for food. And look at me, I was just chanting Lord’s Name here and the Rama Nama made the Emperor himself to get me the food. Such is the power of Rama Nama!”

The Unlearning:

Most take the credit for resolving a crisis during which they had factually done nothing except for praying to their GOD.

Professional Observation

As an Executive Search Professional after having identified the individual,it is very important to differentiate these traits otherwise it can prove detrimental  At MAGNA Global we give lot of importance to these aspects to safeguard the interest of our clients. How can we be reasonably sure that the person we are recommending to our clients is the actually the one with right traits? After lot of hit and trial, I devised some matrices for evaluating Managerial and Leadership positions. One of them is named as ‘AAA’ Traits.

  1. 1st A – Anticipation – A Manager / Leader must be able to anticipate forthcoming problem or needs. In this story both Birbal & Akbar failed to anticipate the need for carrying the food with them in their journey.
  2. 2nd A – Act – They must act in time to avert or resolve it. In this case, Birbal failed to act at all though it seems to be his prime responsibility. Akbar took upon himself and lead from the front to resolve the crisis.
  3. 3rd A- Align – Akbar is yet to align the organization to find permanent solution to solution

By questioning prospective probable on AAA traits, during the interview & selection processes, one can reasonably judge the capabilities of the individuals.

Some examples are:


  1. Why were you or your company not able to anticipate the problem / need in advance? When did you actually realize the likely hood of the problem?

One who is used to anticipate will start giving many logically deduced indicators and explain the reasons for failure. One who is not used to anticipation will generally start putting the blame on someone else.

  1. How did you act? What made you to take a particular direction in response to the situation? E.g. in this story how did you decide which direction to take to find food (Of course, searching on Google cannot be the answer).

One who is the acting type will enumerate number of ways & means at his/her disposal to avoid or resolve the crisis. And you know what other kind does!

  1. Align – How did you ensure that it does not happen again in future or does not happen unexpectedly? This is true leadership trait. Managerial level can only give operational solution. The type of answers will decide their capability and maturity level.

In this story Akbar is yet to find permanent solution to align which he did later on by putting service posts with water and food along the journey path.


This matrix can also be used for self-evaluation. I suggest rate yourself objectively and in an unbiased manner (on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 being the lowest & 5 being the highest) and see how you Score on AAA Matrices. The best way to do is to take at least 5 situations/ anecdotes from your professional, personal & social sphere in the recent past and rank yourself on AAA matrix. Find out which ‘A’ you excelled and which you ‘A’ you did not do well. If a pattern emerges then that a particular “A” you seem to be lacking or excelling. That will give you a way to improve. How to improve is another question which is outside the purview of this article and frankly also beyond purview of my specialization.Rate others while selecting and see how it works for you. Ratio of each A will be different from position to position, role to role and from organization to organization. We are also trying to embed these matrices in the assessment module of my new venture Universal Recruitment platform – SURPaaS. I am sharing my Unlearning experience with a hope that it will help others and sincerely request critical comments to improve it further.