India can justifiably boast of a long history of culture, tradition and values. Scriptures of Indian origin are a treasure trove of nuggets of wisdom. These continue to be relevant in the current context and also find ready application in the field of business management and administration.
- A Premium on Values
Sticking to some core values which are steeped in righteousness eventually leads to success. The main protagonist, Rama, is depicted in Ramayana as an epitome of virtue. He is an ideal king, an ideal son and a pragmatic person. He sets high ethical standards in warfare and invariably sides with dharma, or righteousness.
A random sample of all successful business houses which have been around for more than a century now – Siemens and Tatas, for instance – is ample proof that ethics in business do pay dividends in the long run. Names of such business houses enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market; understandably, that rubs off on their products as well.
- High on Motivation
To me, the Ahalyaa episode is all about a good leader enthusing a team of demoralized members who have become zombies over a period of time and have stopped delivering results. Once ‘woken up’, they are fully charged and start performing along expected lines.
Rama wages a war on Lanka with very limited resources, backed by an army which is pretty out-of-the-box or unconventional. It is an army which is highly motivated, expecting minimal facilities. Goes on to show the superiority of motivation levels over the availability of physical resources.
A CEO who is out to increase his market share needs the back up of a highly motivated sales staff which – if motivated well – would go all out to win the hearts and wallets of the company’s customers.
- Mergers and Alliances
When a merger is based upon a congruence of basic value systems of both the parties involved, long-term benefits accrue.
The alliance between Rama and Sita is a turning point in the Ramayana for more reasons than one. Sita is brought up in the household of the sage-king Janaka. When Rama gets banished to the forest after their marriage, she displays a clear absence of any hedonistic tendencies and chooses to accompany him to the forest. Without a synergy of this kind, the sequence of events could have been quite different!
Likewise, the friendship of Rama and Sugriva sets a good example of mutual cooperation between two people facing a similar predicament in life and career. What follows is Sita getting traced in Lanka and Ravana eventually getting vanquished.
When Etihaad decides to team up with Jet Airways, or when Tata Steel ties up with Corus, the parties involved are looking for synergies in their respective core strengths, so as to tap their joint business potential better.
- Succession Planning
Dasaratha’s plans for installing Rama on the throne of Ayodhya do turn topsy-turvy, but the existence of a clear succession plan can never be denied. This is meant to ensure continuity in governance. It helped that besides being the eldest son, Rama was liked by all and hence chosen to lead the kingdom once his father passed away.
As per Raghuvansham of Kalidasa, when the time comes to relinquish his body, Rama divides it equitably between his two sons – Lava and Kusha.
All well-managed companies ensure that the career development plans of their top performers are directly linked to succession plans. Ideally, good leaders invariably groom at least three managers under them. When one gets promoted to the coveted slot, it is quite likely that two others may seek greener pastures elsewhere. Whatever happens, the goals and the processes involved in achieving the same enjoy uninterrupted continuity.
- Leaving the Comfort Zone
When Rama gets ordered to remain in the forest for a span of fourteen years, Sita and Rama take it as an opportunity to engage with the ordinary citizens of their kingdom, rather than remaining confined to the comforts of their palace. This helps them to understand the ground realities better.
CEOs and marketing honchos of today who travel through the hinterland to get a better first-hand feel of the customer’s pulse do a far better job of servicing the market.
- Excellence in Execution
The plan to locate Sita gets brilliantly executed by Hanuman. The wisdom with which he conducts the search and the single-minded pursuit of the goal is an example worth emulating by managers at all levels. While crossing the sea, he declines an invitation from Mount Mynaaka to take some rest on the way.
The manner in which he assures Sita of his genuineness exhorts managers to conduct commercial negotiations by first setting the anxieties of the opposite party at rest.
- Concern for Environment
For three days, Rama prays to the god of the sea to grant a passage to his army. Nothing happens. Rama then shoots arrows into the bosom of the sea, whereupon the sea-god appears and explains that he is bound by the laws of nature, just like earth, air, space, light and all constituents of the universe. Creatures living under his shelter he cannot forsake, but surely a shallow area can be shown where a causeway can be built.
Rama accepts the sea-god’s apology and orders the building process to start. Thus, the objective is met without damaging the eco-system.
In the current context, governments all over the world are realizing the importance of striking a judicious balance between economic growth and environmental concerns. Rama’s approach inspires us to strive to find the middle path and ensure that Mother Nature is not unduly disturbed to pave way for crass commercialism.
- Dependence on Yes-men!
Ravana is a highly learned and accomplished person. One of the reasons for his downfall is to neglect the advice of nay-sayers. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chooses to listen to his courtiers who play on his ego and pride and advise him not to do so.
A couplet in Sundara Kanda of Ramcharitmanasa clearly advises us to ignore the advice of a paid deputy, a doctor and a teacher who speak positively out of either fear or expectation of a gain. A king who acts upon such motivated advice loses his kingdom, his body and his righteousness (dharma) as well.
- Humility in Victory
When Ravana is on his death-bed, Rama exhorts Lakshmana to learn the tenets of good governance from him. Lakshmana approaches Ravana rather haughtily first and fails. Rama then advises him to approach Ravana with due humility, whereupon Ravana speaks of the pitfalls of procrastination and shares his knowledge about statecraft and diplomacy.
- Power of Attorney
The sincerity with which Bharata takes care of the kingdom’s affairs while Rama is away speaks of true values of follower-ship. Upon his return to Ayodhya, Bharata informs him that the kingdom’s revenue had gone up ten-folds during the fourteen years he was away.
Here is an excellent example of a kingdom held in trust and good faith, much akin to the present day concept of a power of attorney getting appointed to take care of administrative and legal matters of a business when owners are not readily available.
- Make Haste, But Slowly!
Rama has won the war and is on his way back to Ayodhya. He decides not to rush back. Instead, he stays back at Sage Bharadwaj’s ashram for a night and makes enquiries about the state of affairs in Ayodhya. Also, he sends Hanuman upfront to break the news of his imminent arrival to Bharata who is living like an ascetic in Nandigram. He moves to Ayodhya only after receiving adequate feedback about its current situation.
- Leadership Traits
With the possible exception of his handling of Sita upon her return from Lanka, Rama conducts himself in an exemplary manner throughout the narration. Whether it is befriending Nishaad Raaj, refusing to return to Ayodhya when Bharat approaches him in Panchavati, conducting the last rites of Jataayu, accepting Vibheeshana in his fold or even when reuniting with his mothers and brothers upon his return to Ayodhya, he sets a high bar for humanity in general.
In the corruption-infested times we live in, his leadership traits inspire managers to do their best even under the most trying circumstances.
- Ram Rajya
The concept of being fair to all is the bedrock on which modern management is based. For those in power at the top, an impartial conduct of those in authority is a sine qua non for the morale of the people. Sita gets banished to the Valmiki ashram when an ordinary citizen casts an aspersion on her character. Rama’s role is not much different from that of a true-blue CEO whose loyalty to the company’s overall welfare is unflinching.
Skirt-groping CEOs who have a roving eye and managements which look the other way just because they accord a higher priority to business goals than to the character of their top honchos could take a leaf out of Rama’s conduct.
There are several instances when management has to divulge information on a ‘need to know’ basis. However, if the basic practices are perceived to be fair to all, even management policies which impact the employees adversely – like a down-sizing – are not taken amiss across the company.
Ramayana is rich with several other narratives which could be useful to management practitioners. Also, each narrative may be interpreted in several ways, depending upon how one goes about analyzing it.
Ramcharitamanas by Goswami Tulasidas, Valmiki Ramayana, Ramayana by C. Rajagoplachari, Raghuvansham by Kalidasa, Adhyatma Ramayana, Series on Ramayana by Narendra Kohli.
Illustrations Courtesy Internet