A vast majority of our management professionals may typically scoff at the idea of any common areas between the realms of spirituality and management. After all, management is all about getting things done, irrespective – perhaps – of the means deployed. Result orientation, MBO, resource optimization, mentoring, etc, have been the key words in the better part of the last century. On the other end, spirituality is widely perceived as one being decent and nice to others, of being considerate and empathic. This sounds more like a surreal concept, because then, it is commonly feared, there is a good chance of either insubordination, or an emotional blackmail by others in the organization, thereby diluting the chances of achieving one’s goals effectively and efficiently.
In other words, management is perceived to be at one end of the spectrum whereas spirituality is believed to be at the opposite end. However, if one were to look a little deeper, one is likely to find not only several dots which join the two apparently diametrically opposite view points, but also a new vision and strategy to manage affairs more effectively than ever.
What do we understand by spirituality? Sure enough, it is not being good to others around us. It has more to do with an inner call and a yearning to do better, whatever may be the chosen field of one’s activity. Like perfection and happiness, which are not destinations in life but the journey of life itself, being spiritual is a process in itself. An inner process of self introspection, development and improvement is what makes a person spiritual. Spirituality is awakening oneself and developing one’s unique abilities to the maximum, thereby maximizing one’s innate potential to achieve excellence in management.
Spirituality is not about withdrawing from the worldly activities; instead, it is about an active engagement with the mundane affairs of life, whether pertaining to managing an enterprise, or related to one’s personal life and self-development,
A manager is not an exception to this fundamental truth. In fact, armed with his systematic approach, he would chalk out a plan to achieve the goal of becoming spiritual in all his dealings. And that would make him even more spiritual than he originally would have been!
ATTRIBUTES OF A SPIRITUAL MANAGER
A manager who is keen to realize his own self would be more empathic towards his team mates’ problems. He would instinctively know when to motivate whom and when to pull up a defaulting team member. He would never rebuke a team member in public and praise in private. He would do his own home work in advance, and base his plans on feedback and suggestions from his team. Invariably, he would go into minute details of the plan, thereby striving for and achieving perfection. Failures would be taken as stepping-stones of future successes, and not necessarily used for witch-hunting. He is a leader as well as a mentor.
Why did Krishna choose to teach the essential principle of detachment to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra? Because due to a misplaced sense of attachment, Arjuna was deviating from his karma. The Lord was obviously a smart leader, so he decided to motivate him at a crucial juncture in his career. If the goal was to facilitate a win for the Pandavas in the war and avenge injustice and humiliation suffered by them at the hands of the Kauravas, he got it done very effectively indeed! Would it then be wrong to label Krishna as a Spiritual Manager?!
MOVING OVER TO “SQ” – A SPIRITUAL QUOTIENT
Management thought and practice has evolved dramatically over the past few decades. The early 20th century saw our civilization coming up with an index for our cognitive and intellectual abilities – the IQ. Then in 1985, Howard Gardner came up with his research on “multiple intelligences” in his book Frames of Mind. Later, John Mayor and Peter Salovey co-propounded a new concept of “emotional intelligence” that is said to shape the quality of our inter- and intra-personal relationships. Reuven Bar-On coined the term “EQ” and described it thus:
It is thought that the more emotionally intelligent individuals are those who are able to recognize and express their emotions, who possess positive self-regard and are able to actualize their potential capacities and lead fairly happy lives; they are able to understand the way others feel and are capable of making and maintaining mutually satisfying and responsible interpersonal relationships without becoming dependent on others; they are generally optimistic, flexible, realistic and are fairly successful in solving problems and coping with stress without losing control.
Daniel Goleman published his book Emotional Intelligence in 1996, confirming that success in life is based more on our ability to manage our emotions than on our intellectual capabilities; also, that a lack of success is more often than not due to our mismanagement of emotions. Some factors comprising emotional intelligence are “self-awareness, seeing the links between thoughts, feelings and reactions; knowing if thoughts or feelings are ruling a decision; seeing the consequences of alternate choices; and applying these insights to choices.”
Now, the time is coming for another paradigm shift – that of considering SQ – a Spiritual Quotient. Managers of tomorrow not only need to unlearn what they have learnt so far in business – their own or others’. To be effective, they need to refurbish their arsenal of managerial techniques by bringing in a spiritual awareness in whatever area they work in. Work, tempered with a liberal dose of contemplation alone would hold the key to managerial success in the days to come.
SELF-REVERENCE, SELF-KNOWLEDGE AND SELF-CONTROL
The young executive today has excellent media exposure. A completely different set of rules at home have ensured an upbringing which is quite different from that of the earlier generation of managers. Undoubtedly, HR professionals today have a far more challenging job at hand in attracting as well as retaining the people.
The other day, the HR manager of a reputed software company bemoaned that unless one gets used to such inane tantrums as the aroma of toilet soap provided to employees in the wash rooms of their sprawling campus, and took care of the temperature at which a pizza or a hamburger was served in the canteen, the guy who is worth a couple of million dollars worth of revenue to the company might just decide to call it quits!
When it comes to appraising their team members, how many leaders are comfortable to be candid and straightforward? The underlying cause is for them to mix up between the person and his performance. Irrespective of the amount of rating scales developed, judging a person remains a subjective affair. But when it comes to rating performance, a great deal of objectivity is essential as well as desirable. A sense of detachment is of great help in such situations.
Likewise, when there are separations to be handled, true blue HR guys would handle the same with professionalism – in other words, with a sense of objective detachment.
Leaders have to make great sacrifices on the personal front so they may set a good example to their followers. “Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control – these three alone lead life to sovereign power”, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in Oenone, the poem named after the daughter of Mount Ida, who precipitated the Trojan War. Leaders without a spiritual compass in hand could result in their teams going astray.
THE HEART-MIND CONNECT
The heart, considered to be the seat of our spirit, isn’t a sentimental or an emotional entity. It is now understood to be intelligent and powerful in its own right. Its intelligence manifests itself as an intelligent flow of awareness and insight, or simply put, as intuition.
Several ancient civilizations, like the Egyptian, the Greeks and the Indian, have held the heart to be a primary organ capable of influencing our emotions, our morality and our decision-making abilities. Similar views are echoed in the Bible as well as in Chinese, Hindu and Islamic beliefs and scriptures. According to pioneering work done by Doc Childre, Howard Martin and Donna Beech: “All these conceptions have a common view of the heart as harboring an “intelligence” that operates independent of the brain yet in communication with it.”
Unlike the mind, the heart processes its intelligence in a more intuitive and different manner. The heart is not only open to new possibilities; it actively seeks from the environment newer understandings. The head “knows” but the heart “understands”.
In spiritual practice, we have streams which focus on quietening the mind; we also have systems in which the focus is on the “divine light” in one’s heart. All forms of spiritual practices nevertheless lead to better clarity of thought. This eventually translates into higher effectiveness and productivity at the work place.
THE AGE OF THE SPIRITUAL MANAGER
The following are some of the ways in which a spiritual manager stands to benefit:
- Improving his self management, resulting into better effectiveness and improved personal productivity.
- Radiating his positivity to those around him/her, thereby improving organizational climate. This surely has a long-term impact on the operations.
- Improving communication, thereby enhancing his capability of getting things done.
- Facilitating sustained invigoration of operational strengths and continuous replenishment of organization’s resources.
In the future, thanks to shorter attention spans of consumers and an information overload, businesses would be facing higher levels of uncertainties. Managers with a high SQ would invariably have a higher chance of succeeding in meeting their goals.
Thanks to Lehman Brothers and the ensuing economic meltdown, there is an increasing realization in the west that there are serious pitfalls in the culture of materialism. No wonder that Harvard, MIT and Sloan are a few of the business schools which are now actively collaborating with management education institutes in India. This gives a unique opportunity to their students to learn the Indian culture and ethos first-hand. Management lessons from Gita, socially relevant projects and mentoring of under-privileged children in Indian slums are some of the points of interest to them.
Sure enough, the age of the Spiritual Manager is likely to dawn upon us rather early.
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