Saturday, 15 January 2011

Lessons from The Ten Commandments: A Management Student's Perspective

I just watched The Ten Commandments again, one of my dad's all time favourites. It stunned me to see how many underlying messages it held of management and marketing. Here's what you can learn from the 1956 movie, starring Charlton Heston and the ultra awesome and exotic Yul Brynner (remember The King and I? Etcetera etcetera etcetera).

Disclaimer: This is in relation to the events in the movie The Ten Commandments (1956) and ONLY the movie and is NOT a religious post. It is not my intention to hurt anyone's sentiments so don't accuse me of blasphemy or disrespect. Prophets were many things, this is just one aspect that has not been previously discussed. Please take it in the right spirit. Now read on :)

1) Offer your slaves, er employees, incentives and they will be happier workers.
While Moses is still the Prince of Egypt, the Hebrew slaves are whipped and driven mercilessly to give their all in construction of the temples in time for the Pharoah's jubilee. Prince Moses is sent to oversee the work as Rameses' methods are not bringing in quicker results. What does Moses do? He treats the people with respect and kindness, gives them more rations of grain by raiding the temple granaries and granting them a day off every week. In short, he gives them incentives. The people though not satisfied in the circumstances of course (let's not forget they're still driven like slaves), are motivated to work.
Lesson: Offer relevant incentives that will motivate and satisfy employees. Most importantly, don't treat them like slaves else they will leave your company like the Hebrews left Egypt.
2) A brand ambassador with a great personality can work wonders.
When the Hebrews are rushing through the parting of the Red Sea, Joshua, Moses’ second-in-command, suggests to him - 'stand on that rock, you'll give them hope.' Seeing the wisdom of the suggestion, Moses takes his advice.
Lesson: Strive to be a figure of inspiration, a brand ambassador to your company and the world.
3) The importance of a leader having reliable backup cannot be undermined.
Joshua does his fair share of organizing the tribes and cattle of thousands in the exodus. He is a good man, very likable, a motivator with unshakable faith in Moses, while extremely efficient in getting things done. As seen in the point above, Moses values his feedback and takes his suggestions seriously.
Lesson: Invest in competent and loyal managerial staff, giving sincere thought to their ideas and suggestions. Encouraging two-way communication and incorporating a system of decentralized decision making will keep employees motivated and ensure the company runs smoothly and successfully.
4) Beware of employees that hold their interests above the good of the company.
Dathan is a Hebrew slave, an extremely annoying character in the movie who has wormed his way into the Pharoah's good graces. When the Hebrews are freed, he loses his position of authority over the slaves as he too must join the exodus, albeit against his will. The snake that he is, he consistently tries to turn the people against Moses and towards himself, but never succeeds, as Moses always has a wondrous miracle that reassures the people.
Lesson: Be wary of employees sowing discord in the office by spreading malicious lies, and who wouldn’t think twice about stooping low enough to malign the company if it meant furthering their own interest.
5) Customer loyalty cannot be taken for granted.
While Moses is at Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, most of his people think he will not return. They astonishingly renounce their age old faith and, enticed by Dathan’s inflammatory speeches, turn away from their beliefs.
Lesson: Don’t take your existing customers for granted. Failure to execute timely communication or advertising will result in your customers feeling neglected, giving your competitors an ideal opportunity to lure them from you.
6) Make your own decisions.
Nefertiri, the wife of the Pharoah Rameses, goads her husband into going after Moses and to defy God. Rameses, the egotist that he is, ignores the advice of his counsellors and is incited against his better judgement, consequently following Moses and his people with his army in bitter rage, which eventually leads to his own decided destruction.
Lesson: Listen to what all your Board members and officers have to say, but ultimately any decision rests with you. Rely on your own intelligence, morals and experience; keep sentiments and ego strictly out of business, else you might end up like Rameses, losing everything.

So let it be written.

(Note on the text: The position of the Hebrews changes from employees to customers because of the change in their relationship with Moses, who goes from Egyptian prince to Hebrew prophet).


  1. Ur comment on people start commenting--I found it very motivating so here it goes :-- Mizzu this blog is nicee...totally different..kudos to u, u explored a different topic and made it lot more interesting..keep writing on such varied subjects :)

  2. Hahahaha! I absolutely loved it! And so very true! I laughed at ur last comment on's definitely something to think about... :)

    My verdict: Love it! Love it! Love it!

  3. It is an entirely different perspective of seeing the movie... I'm sure the makers too would b out of their seats after reading your highly observant, skilled, brilliant article ... How they missed the opportunity of making more moolas , making the script a compulsory subject for the Management Courses . U should try n make it reach to more n more people.

  4. Great post! Imagine the Ten Commandments giving advice on business matters :D

  5. After spending the last 17 years in retail management I only have one thing to say.. AWESOME!!!
    Maggie xx

    ps what a clever author writes His commandments so they are still as applicable today as they were thousands of years ago ;)

  6. Good lessons learnt, and for learning lessons people have found any muse: Gita, mom, lover, Gandhi, Mayawati, Jayalalitha, ...

  7. I like ur style its very different and compelling. You force peepz to think. You hav an exceptional gift of writing it stimulates and it intriges the reader, I'm impressed :)

  8. @K: As inspiration hits me, I will.
    @Kagome: Yea it sure is!
    @Andalib: It should be shown at b-schools.. History and management principles taken care of ;)
    @Mav: I know right :D it shocked me as much!
    @Maggie: Which is why he is all-knowing ;)
    thanks a lot for reading!
    @r.k.p: I believe there's always something to learn from a person no matter how small the something. Thanks for commenting.
    @Anonymous: High praise indeed. I'm totally bucked. Thank you so much.


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