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Archive for the ‘Management Lessons’ Category

Life is not fair. Once in a while, when one’s Guardian Angels decide to go off to enjoy a long furlough, it decides that merely throwing some brickbats at one is not enough. Instead, it derives a sadistic pleasure in hurling huge rocks at us. These are instances when it is no longer a question of one’s ego to be kept on a tight leash or just managing one’s basket of desires. The challenge in such cases is that of meeting one’s basic needs; of keeping one’s body and soul together. Even one’s survival could be at stake.

On one of those not-so-fine mornings, one gets called by the boss with a stiff upper lip and handed over a pink slip. Given advances in technology, one is told that one’s services are no longer required. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution 4.0, one’s career goes for a toss.

Or, a CEO who has built an enviable reputation for herself over the years, comes under the cloud of a corporate scandal which gets eagerly sniffed at by various regulatory agencies. This prompts her to put in her papers and face the legal consequences. The media, of which she was a darling till the other day, decides to start shaming her. A severe loss of prestige comes about. A glorious career comes to a sudden halt. Her feelings in a situation of this kind could not be much different than those of Napoleon after his Waterloo debacle.

Some once-in-a-blue-moon experiences

Allow yours truly to share few experiences from his personal life.

A low point in the career

While working in a company which was steadily going downhill due to very high overheads and also an unhealthy level of internal bickering and politics, a highly embarrassed moment had to be faced. In a meeting of all senior managers, I was somehow singled out to be publically lynched for much of what was going wrong with the operations. The unfairness of it, and that too delivered in wide public view, left me shaken to my core. Whereas all those who know me personally can vouchsafe for my chin-up attitude towards life, on this particular occasion, I confess that suicidal thoughts plagued my mind. Always appreciated for my work and sincerity, this was indeed the lowest point in my career.

Late evening, though, my boss offered his sincere apologies. Thoughts of a spiritual nature and a dash of equanimity helped me to regain my sangfroid, so to say. A few months down the road, I moved on to a much better position in another outfit.

The kidnapping fiasco

While working in a very senior position in a small town in India, on one fateful night, I and my son were kidnapped by a gang of four and kept in captivity overnight. They were under the impression that I was the owner of the business I was working with at the time. They had a ransom demand which I had no way of fulfilling.

While held in captivity, I could imagine the sequence of events if they decided to bump me off and dump the body at a desolate location. But faith in a higher power saw me regaining my confidence. Despite a language barrier, I could explain my financial constraints to them. We could eventually manage to get released without much physical harm by the time the next day dawned.

Swift police action followed. Based on my cell phone records, the miscreants were identified and nabbed. But it took me a very long time to mentally recover from the trauma suffered.

Partition blues

One of the heavy costs paid by the society at large when India became independent in 1947 and a new country known as Pakistan got carved out of it was the riots which broke out. Families had to leave their properties, home and hearth behind, and run across the newly formed border to safer sanctuaries. According to UNHCR estimates, partition led to a displacement of some 10-12 million persons along religious lines.

My wife’s Hindu family, located then at Bahawalpur in Pakistan, was one such which faced a trauma of this kind. Interestingly, it was a Muslim family which stitched ‘burqas’ for the entire family and assisted them in fleeing to India. From being rich landlords in Pakistan, overnight they became paupers.

It was by sheer dint of her father’s hard work and resilience that they rebuilt their lives in India from scratch. Prosperity and happiness rules the family today, thanks in part also due to the innate faith they have in their family deity. An old cot from Pakistan, donated by the family, is one of the items on display now at the Partition Museum at Amritsar in the Punjab province of India.

Crucial enabling factors

With the benefit of a 20/20 hindsight, one can analyze and identify the crucial underlying factors which enabled a successful handling of such challenges. If the low point in career could be handled with the help of humility and one’s own job knowledge, skills and attitude, the kidnapping incident could be overcome with faith and an inclination to surrender to a higher power. As to the partition catastrophe, hard work backed by my father-in-law’s own skill-bank and innate faith eventually led to success.

It is not difficult to discover traces here of what Bhagavad Gita proposes.

अमानित्वमदम्भित्वमहिंसा क्षान्तिरार्जवम् |
आचार्योपासनं शौचं स्थैर्यमात्मविनिग्रह: || 13.8||
इन्द्रियार्थेषु वैराग्यमनहङ्कार एव च |
जन्ममृत्युजराव्याधिदु:खदोषानुदर्शनम् || 13.9||
असक्तिरनभिष्वङ्ग: पुत्रदारगृहादिषु |
नित्यं च समचित्तत्वमिष्टानिष्टोपपत्तिषु || 13.10||
मयि चानन्ययोगेन भक्तिरव्यभिचारिणी |
विविक्तदेशसेवित्वमरतिर्जनसंसदि || 13.11||
अध्यात्मज्ञाननित्यत्वं तत्वज्ञानार्थदर्शनम् |
एतज्ज्ञानमिति प्रोक्तमज्ञानं यदतोऽन्यथा || 13.12||

Humbleness; freedom from hypocrisy; non-violence; forgiveness; simplicity; service of the Guru; cleanliness of body and mind; steadfastness; and self-control; dispassion toward the objects of the senses; absence of egotism; keeping in mind the evils of birth, disease, old age, and death; non-attachment; absence of clinging to spouse, children, home, and so on; even-mindedness amidst desired and undesired events in life; constant and exclusive devotion toward Me; an inclination for solitary places and an aversion for mundane society; constancy in spiritual knowledge; and philosophical pursuit of the Absolute Truth—all these I declare to be knowledge, and what is contrary to it, I call ignorance.

Here, one has a virtual ready reckoner of certain mental and emotional attributes, moral attitudes and ethical principles. These are held to be the essential prerequisites for one to discover – and act in tandem with – the Self within.

 

तमेव शरणं गच्छ सर्वभावेन भारत |
तत्प्रसादात्परां शान्तिं स्थानं प्राप्स्यसि शाश्वतम् || 18.62||

Surrender exclusively unto Him with your whole being, O Bharat. By his grace, you will attain perfect peace and the eternal abode.

Much like a Senior Vice President who gets promoted as a CEO after the seniors notice a potential in her to shoulder a higher responsibility, coupled with a match between the value system of the incumbent and that of the business, and a deep sense of loyalty (read surrender) to the organization, Lord Krishna also stipulates the condition under which His grace would help a person to attain perfect peace – exclusive surrender. A conscious realization that it is not one’s own efforts alone which get success in life, and that it is one’s destiny also which plays a crucial role, helps one to surrender in such a manner. 

Challenges and evolution

Each of the demeaning experiences faced by yours truly led to some inner growth. A public rebuke made me learn the value of sensing dangerous turbulence on the flight path in advance, and punching the eject button in the cockpit before things spun out of control. Likewise, the kidnapping incident taught me the importance of having some acquaintance with the law and order and regulatory agencies in the country. As an additional perk, each incident revealed the true friends and foes of those around me at the time. An enriching string of experiences, one would say in retrospect.

When a pink slip gets dished out, one finds an opportunity of reassessing one’s strengths and weaknesses and act on them. A fall from grace eventually ends up increasing the depth of one’s inner reservoirs of patience, equipoise and fortitude.

Challenges come in all sizes, hues and degrees of seriousness. Each challenge faced by one in life eventually results in speeding up one’s progress on the tricky path of evolution. One gains maturity and experience. One learns to be grateful when one is feeling unduly elated, and graceful when feeling totally down. One learns to be more careful and patient. Challenges are blessings which bring about changes which uplift and enrich one.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/divine-grace-works-all-the-time)

 

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“Little did I imagine that someday Professor Rao will do an empirical study and bring out a book on this subject. The book brings out leadership mindsets so clearly and analyses these based on research and experiential wisdom. The thing that struck me most was the linkage of these styles with the three gunas in Hindu scriptures: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The book does not prescribe any style but makes the reader think through what his style is and what he would like it to be. Then, it provides the reader with a pair of new glasses and suddenly one starts seeing things in a different perspective.”

Satish Sekhri

Formerly Managing Director

Bosch Chassis Systems Ltd,

Pune, India

(An excerpt from the Foreword to the book)

“I think the leader mindset proposed in the book is “Indian tinted”. As someone from the “West”, I am pleased to enrich my understanding with “your views”. You make a good contribution to enlarge our perspectives on how you see the leader mindset.

Very few of us are internally STRONG to accept negativity; also, the contexts that most of us live with is toxic. So, “I Am Something” approach can be extremely healthy.

When you try to explore the role of human values in the face of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (AI, Robotics, etc), you may consider the fact that the drivers of technology ARE weak in terms of human values.

I think that we are headed towards a phase of self-inflicted extermination, possibly leading to the emergence of a new species. Before the end of this century, we will have ourselves and the others species. We will be creating living beings among us and, little by little, we (little and fragile creatures) will fade away, hopefully graciously. We do not wish to change ourselves. We also do not have the collective will power to change the context in which we operate. So, the next evolutionary step of our civilization may get taken much earlier than most of us may think.”

Marco Paulo Abrunhosa Cardoso 

Serving in boards in different jurisdictions

Finland

“The writing is excellent. As the editor of a journal, I rarely see papers with no errors. Your book is thus a rarity. I initially wondered why some words like “Student” and “Maternalistic” are capitalized. I now realize that there is a meaningful reason behind it.

I see that the style is half-way between a discourse and a scholarly
paper. If you are positioning it as a scholarly paper (like a journal
article or academic book), it certainly needs more references. The book has some quotations which too need references.

This book is obviously positioned as to not tap into management
literature on leadership a lot (at least in part 1). Rather, it offers another way to look at leadership.”

Ram Mohan Pisharodi 

Marketing Professor/Chief Editor, Alliance Journal of Business Research at Oakland University

Greater Detroit Area, USA

“From an Australian’s point of view, I found that the thesis of the book provides a fresh perspective on the issue of leadership – a very sub-continental perspective and interpretation.

It appears that the intent of the book is to provide aspiring (or current) leaders with a way for them to become a happier and more contented person. Greater contentment would lead to a warmer and more positive individual. The thesis is supported by research and empirical observation.

My conclusions include the following issues:

  1. As relevant as is the thesis and its accompanying discussion, the esoteric nature of the discussion, notwithstanding the empirical support provided, will struggle to resonate with Western audiences who are both unfamiliar with some of the philosophers and others cited.
  2. The “I am Something”, in my view, rests on the concept of profound empathy. One of the principles of Spandan is the “belief in innate divinity.” Implied in this is that someone who does not possess “a belief in an innate divinity”, can’t be empathic and therefore can’t develop superior leadership. If that is not so, then why must one have “a belief in an innate divinity” if one can be empathic without it?
  3. That of course highlights a view of leadership through a “religious” lens, which will be problematic for many people who separate organizational leadership from religion, spirituality or personal belief. There are effective and humanist leaders in every spiritual dimension, including atheism.
  4. It depends what the leader is leading. Altruism, another axiomatic dimension of Spandan, implies that to be a “good” leader, you need to be altruistic. One can be driven by one’s own well-being and still have empathy and still be a good and effective leader – it’s just that the person knows what the objective is and what will help them achieve it. Is that wrong? A leader of a commercial enterprise may pursue a financial reward for shareholders (or self) and treat staff and other stakeholders empathically and responsibly.
  5. Individuals, as noted in the book, find it hard to change themselves – because they’re human and self-change is difficult.
  6. Leaders within organizations are not only at the head of the organization; they are also found throughout the organization. People who have even one person for whom they are responsible are leaders. Therefore, the lower in the organization a leader is located, the harder it will be to make the systematic and operational changes suggested in the book, even if they want to. Even if the leaders can effectively change themselves, the organization may not be willing to cooperate.
  7. Some people can’t achieve an empathic capability because of the way they are; they may have an authoritarian approach to the business. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will fail, but it might lower the chances of “effective and humane success.”
  8. A leader is not necessarily a leader in every aspect of their existence, nor is a follower, a follower in everything. Every individual is both a leader and follower in a diversity of contexts throughout their lives.
  9. In relation to “Maternalism” I have found that men can also act, behave and care maternalistically in organizations (and elsewhere). They inevitably possess strong empathic skills, values and attributes. The stories abound of strong leaders who were loved by their staff for their capable, caring and empathic attitudes.
  10. The nature of empathy may be uniform, but the level of empathy needed to make a noticeable difference will vary. Where an organizational culture is strongly empathic and positive, a leader who “ups” their level of empathy may not even be noticed by those who are affected. That same level of additional empathy will act as a massive change stimulus if occurring in a brutal and savage culture.
  11. I Am Something’ believes that I am neither above you, nor below you. I am neither in front of you, nor behind you.” The issue here is that if someone possesses empathy, they don’t need to “pull their rank” to get things done. But to say that leaders believe they are neither above nor below is unrealistic. The effective, empathic leader knows they have the authority but don’t need to exercise it.
  12. For any meaningful change to take place, leaders themselves have to take the initiative.” For most people, such a change is a serious threat to their self-image. They may need the change, but it’s not as easy as just stating it.
  13. Facilitating others remake themselves along similar lines.” Philosophically, it sound nice, but it may not be necessary. It is not true that everyone in every organization needs to be empathic and “nice” for the leader to achieve. Everyone benefits if they are, but it’s not a truism that they must be transformed for the leader to be effective and for the organization to achieve its KPOs. Sad but true.
  14. The research undertaken appears to have a fairly small sample size to be statistically significant.
  15. On the topic of A.I., robotics and similar, I am of the view that “leadership” and “followship” will still be with us for many years to come. I am also of the view that the nature of leadership and followship will inevitably evolve. Notwithstanding predications of A.I. being able to eventually emulate Man in some areas, I believe that such advances are inevitable, but Man will still call the shots. And the importance of effective human interaction will be as vital and important as ever. And it may be that the attributes (“I am Something) of the book will be more important then, than they are now. In other words, the quality of the human interaction and the leadership that directs it, will be elevated to a higher level because much of the “low-level” stuff will be provided by machines.
  16. In my line of work, I reckon I’ve pretty much seen it all – brilliant leaders through to outright destructive maniacs, and everything in between. Over 35 years of being and working with and talking to leaders has generated mixed emotions: from being inspired and in awe, to turning around and running as fast as I could. What I see in this community of the ‘number 1 citizens’ of their organizations, are mistakes that are repeated over and over again. Things that corporate rhetoric and intellectualization would speedily deny, but things that I see and hear from those affected and things that I see with my own eyes.
  17. I can’t recall any relationship I have had with a leader, where their motivation wasn’t ‘to do the best for their organization,’ and therefore for themselves by so doing. Unfortunately, though, subjectivity and self-interest get in the way. This article is not intended to explore this point, since I’ve done it before, but rather to identify the categories of behaviours that trap many leaders and subvert effective leadership.
  18. Some leaders just aren’t ethical and condone (or even initiate) unethical behaviour. These days, it’s enough to merely say ‘Volkswagen” to prove this point. And if you think that they are the only ones, then you’re kidding yourself. I personally know of companies where the leader fired staff to capture their share entitlements; where a major multi-national milked the balance sheet to avoid showing an operating loss; leaders who condone deceptive advertising; and so on and on and on. These are not nice people.
  19. The corporate rhetoric is about delivering for shareholders (in a for-profit organization) or for members (in an NFP organization). The reality is that executives define what shareholders will get (or should I say ‘what the executives are prepared to give them’) and then define their own benefit by the KPIs set against the criteria they have set for themselves – screwing shareholders in the process. See the research in my book Corporate Crap. Not one single listed corporation in 2015 asks all its shareholders what they want from their investment – they merely (and incorrectly) assume an outcome or use institutional shareholders as a proxy for all shareholders.
  20. Almost all leaders miscalculate (i.e. underestimate) the complexity of change.
  21. Many leaders communicate by issuing edicts and believe that just because they have said or written something, that is what is heard, understood and accepted or adopted. What they don’t understand is that every communication requires both a sender and a receiver. What is said does not necessarily get interpreted the way the sender intended – the receiver absorbs the communication through their own filters, perceptions, subjectivities and contexts – always. And then leaders wonder why instructions, visions and intentions aren’t complied with.
  22. Too many leaders rely solely on their own interpretation or judgment. Many leaders can’t talk with people down the organization because issues or plans once discussed will generate thoughts and actions in those who were party to the discussion. Sometimes, those issues get resolved and plans don’t get adopted, yet people still have feelings, fears and need for security. These feelings ignite the moment the matters are discussed. Sometimes they lead to more severe reaction in the organization – an IR backlash or even organizational sabotage. Conversely, the leader can’t take every issue to the board as the leader was employed to have most answers. Therefore, leaders rely on their own judgment. What they should be doing is networking with independent and non-competitive peers with whom they can bounce ideas and gain the benefit of others’ experience.
  23. Many leaders suffer from the Devil Ego: not the Good Ego that ignites their passion and drives them to excel, but the negative one that poisons relationships and destroys self-confidence in others.
  24. Leaders must have a keen radar for identifying individuals worthy of their trust. When you don’t trust anyone, then no one will trust you – and you will not be a very nice person to be around. To be able to trust others, you must have mature emotional intelligence, a strong sense of self-worth and therefore self-confidence (but not arrogance), and an ego that is not in a permanent ‘self-defense’ position. If you are unable to trust, then you’re unable to delegate effectively, and if you can’t delegate effectively, then you can’t lead a large organization.
  25. I constantly see leaders who are unable to straddle the right and left-brain hemispheres of leadership – they must be able to envision an effective and fulfilling future for their corporation/organization, yet simultaneously watch over their shoulder how the organization is performing to deliver that vision. Being able to envision without managing performance is as fruitless as watching performance but not knowing where you’re going.
  26. Many leaders don’t walk their talk. And when they do, “many walk funny and talk crap” as quoted by a well-known commentator on leaders and leadership.
  27. It is tragic to encounter leaders who believe that the only people in the organization who can come up with good ideas is the leader themselves or their ‘C’ suite executive team. Not only is this detrimental to the organization, but one hell of an insult to its people – particularly when people within the business who are ‘down the organization’ often understand the mechanics and detail of their operational responsibility better than the managers at the top.
  28. Too many leaders look for someone to blame. Instead they should seek the learning from the issue to grow. Leaders who blame will find that mistakes are hidden, truth is guided by self-interest and evolution is subservient to revolution. Poor leaders ‘put down’ a peer or subordinate in front of others or even in private. Instead they should identify the issue, identify the better path, and give the ‘culprit’ a chance to redeem themselves (within reason). The blame culture is toxic.
  29. Poor leaders often think simplistically – and they are lousy at managing nuance – and after all, that’s what management is all about. As an example, it is easier to believe that everyone is motivated by money, than it is to acknowledge that different people are driven by different motivations and that to build a culture that works with that knowledge is difficult – yet worth doing (or at least worth trying.)
  30. Poor leaders talk a lot and really listen infrequently.
  31. Poor leaders never show gratitude to those who provide extra effort, extra performance, extra consideration, extra support to others, and who share their knowledge and experience. That’s because the leader interprets gratitude as a sign of their own failure to do that which they should be grateful for.
  32. Lousy managers pursue the status quo because they are afraid of the unknown, of the future, and of their ability to deal with it.”

Dr Jack Jacoby

Executive Chairman

Jacoby Consulting Group, Australia

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Quite a few CEOs, when they wake up the day after having secured a crucial business deal, experience a sense of calm happiness within. The flowers are in full bloom, the sun shines with due benevolence, the birds and the bees hop around doing what Mother Nature has ordained them to do, God is in heaven and all appears to be fine with the world.

If they happen to be at a resort with a fresh water lake nearby, they prefer to splash about a bit and invigorate themselves. While taking a leisurely swim, they even start exercising their vocal chords, belting out a favourite song of theirs, generating in the process an off-tune gruesome sound which is calculated to startle the stoutest. Two bees, buzzing among the roses, stop as one bee and look at each other with raised eyebrows. Snails withdraw into their shells. A squirrel practicing for her athletic performance in the upcoming Olympics on a nearby tree nearly falls off its branch. A deer roaming around in the bushes nearby, its reverie disrupted, decides to scoot off to a quieter location. But such CEOs, blissfully unaware of the confusion being caused in the animal kingdom by virtue of their expression of inner bliss, persevere in their endeavours.

Bhagavad Gita speaks of three kinds of happiness – the Sattvic (Pure) kind, the Rajasic (Passionate) kind, and the Tamasic (Dull) kind.

Sattvic: The unalloyed bliss of happiness

The happiness that a CEO experiences when she has executed a business plan successfully, or has convinced the board of directors of the merits of an acquisition proposal, would be that of the pure kind. A path-breaking approach has been taken. Her vision, courage and conviction are easily visible. Much hard work and effort has gone into the work accomplished. Details have been examined with a fine tooth comb. While working on such plans, the proverbial midnight oil has been burnt. Some personal sacrifices have been made. Initial pain and difficulties have been suffered and overcome. A combination of the hard work put in, the self-control exercised in the process, and the resultant sense of self-perfection leads to this kind of happiness.

When we use the term Peace, this is indeed the kind of happiness we refer to.

यत्तदग्रे विषमिव परिणामेऽमृतोपमम् |
तत्सुखं सात्विकं प्रोक्तमात्मबुद्धिप्रसादजम् || 18.37||

That which seems like poison at first, but tastes like nectar in the end, is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness. It is generated by the pure intellect that is situated in self-knowledge.

For those of you who have come across the movie Invictus, the visionary leadership of Nelson Mandela comes across very clearly. He blunts the edge of apartheid by using the game of rugby to unite his populace, when they cheer Springboks, the team of the South African Rugby Union, to a victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The title of the movie could be translated from Latin to mean ‘unconquered’. Here is the poem bearing the same title:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

 

(William Ernest Henley)

 One can well imagine the kind of unalloyed happiness experienced by those at the helm of affairs in a challenging situation of that kind.

Many CEOs keep fighting the battle of the abdominal bulge. When they take their doctor’s advice seriously and start either jogging or brisk walking, the initial pain and resistance from within act as a deterrent. However, once a habit gets formed, they enjoy better health and happiness.

Rajasic: The mundane shade of happiness

The passionate kind of happiness gets experienced when her ambition of a C-suite gets fulfilled. Or, when she gets a reserved parking slot earmarked for her vehicle. Or, even when the security guard and the liftman salute her upon entry to her fiefdom. Power, pelf and prestige present a package which gives rise to a fleeting sense of happiness in her bosom. But beneath the happiness is a layer of anxiety, because none of these can be taken for granted. In fact, the risk of her developing a queen-size ego and believing that she is omnipotent is pretty high. A major setback in career could just be around the corner, sneaking up and striking her with the stuffed eel-skin of business life.

विषयेन्द्रियसंयोगाद्यत्तदग्रेऽमृतोपमम् |
परिणामे विषमिव तत्सुखं राजसं स्मृतम् || 38||

Happiness is said to be in the mode of passion when it is derived from the contact of the senses with their objects. Such happiness is like nectar at first but poison at the end.

Indira Nooyi, ex-President of PepsiCo, says:

‘Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.’

 

Tamasic: Happiness which leads to a fall from grace

The dull kind is one which is based entirely on the gratification of senses. Lord Krishna points out three specific causes which result in a happiness of this kind:

  1. When emotional and mental sleep leads to one not being able to understand the reality, or one trudges through life without a clear goal in life;
  2. A state of inertia of the intellect when one decides to let others govern one’s life, or allows one’s instincts and impulses to govern her decisions and approach to problem solving.
  3. Ignoring the ‘inner voice’, one perfects the art of heedlessness and often gets into an adventurous mode, indulging in sensory gratification, eventually leading to a spectacular downfall.

यदग्रे चानुबन्धे च सुखं मोहनमात्मन: |
निद्रालस्यप्रमादोत्थं तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् || 39||

That happiness which covers the nature of the self from beginning to end, and which is derived from sleep, indolence, and negligence, is said to be in the mode of ignorance.

Ask Martin Winterkorn, the former chairman of the board of directors of Volkswagen AG, who put in his papers during September 2015, several days after the infamous emissions cheating scandal came up. He also resigned as chairman of Audi on 11 November 2015, after further information associated with the scandal was revealed in regard to VW’s gasoline-powered engines. He was criminally indicted over the emissions cheating scandal in the USA on May 3, 2018 on charges of fraud and conspiracy. In April 2019, he was criminally indicted on charges of fraud in Germany. His is a clear case for the kind of transient happiness CEOs should not aim for.

A wise CEO who happens to be aware of different hues of happiness would manage the wild horses of her desires, her egoistic tendencies and her anger and resentments in such a manner as to truly aim for the Sattvic variety of happiness. In other words, do a great job and experience the inner glow of contentment.

Peter Drucker is also of the opinion that happiness is irrelevant in the management context:

‘Never mind your happiness; do your duty.’

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/looking-for-a-ceo-who-is-peaceful-and-happy

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/a-quest-for-true-happiness)

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Much like a proficient swimmer participating in a competition, a smart CEO needs to operate in two  diametrically opposite styles at the same time – one of attachment and another of detachment. She needs to be an enthusiastic participant in the operations and swim along with the current. Often, she also needs to sit back on the banks of the river, keenly observe the direction in which she is headed and make a detached and objective assessment of the situation. There is thus an inherent duality embedded in her role. Her role as a passionate participant must always embrace that of the intellectual spectator. The “who” and “why” of her concerns should constantly enfold the “what” and “how” of our methods.

With maturity, a person gains the ability to detach from passionate participation in the operations and do a pitiless analysis of the overall shape and working of the system. Successful CEOs know that after all the analysis is done, they still have to throw themselves back into the mix. One may call this art a hybrid style of functioning.

Detachment in Action

A sense of detachment, as brought out by Bhagavad Gita, is not about one losing the sight of the objective sought to be achieved. Nor does it recommend a defeatist attitude in one’s life and career. Rather, it is about handling successes and failures in a balanced manner. Smart leaders, who have achieved a spectacular success, do not become complacent. They remain humble. They determine the critical success factors and store these at the back of their minds, ready to be recalled when necessary. When faced with dire failures, they shoulder the blame, get requisite feedback and take steps to ensure the failure gets avoided the next time round. If they lose interest for some time, they bounce back with renewed enthusiasm and work towards delivering results. In other words, detachment helps one to be more objective.

Peter Drucker, when he dished out advice to CEOs, invariably acted as a dispassionate observer. He was critical but fair, assisting some of the best brains in the American corporate world in their crucial jobs of scaling up huge businesses so that their vastness became an asset rather than a liability. He refrained from developing a sense of attachment towards any of the CEOs he interacted with and maintained a critical detachment. He studied and commented upon the latest key issues without selling universal truths to his clients, followers and managers everywhere. This was one of his key qualities which added to the greatness of his thoughts.

If one were to go through the history of the Apollo series of missions launched by the National Aeronautical Space Agency of USA during the 1960s and 1970s, one would be struck by the kind of tenacity and equipoise demonstrated by the participating astronauts. Despite losing several of their colleagues in accidents, they remained committed to the overall goal, delivering some spectacular results for our scientists and technocrats to work upon. The same trend continues till date. Airspace disasters notwithstanding, we keep sending missions to Mars and to Sun. The quest of humanity to explore our universe continues unabated.

Inner Resilience and Equanimity

Attaining a state of detachment gets facilitated if a professional were to improve upon her levels of Inner Resilience and practice Equanimity. This is what Bhagavad Gita says in this context.

योगस्थ: कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय |
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्यो: समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते || 2.48||

Be steadfast in the performance of your duty, O Arjun, abandoning attachment to success and failure. Such equanimity is called Yoga.

Professionals need to know not only what is to be done, but also how it has to be done. Lord Krishna does not fail them. He recommends an ‘evenness of mind’, the tranquility of inner composure in handling all the pairs of opposites in their careers and lives – success and failure, praise and reprimand, hiring and firing, sprees of expansion and down-sizing, products and services which are at opposite ends of their life cycles, mergers and demergers, favourable and unfavourable circumstances, and the like. This, indeed, is held to be the real ‘Yoga’.

In the process, we need to give up our false expectations, wrong imaginations, daydreams about the fruits of our actions, anxieties for results, resistance to change, and fears about future events which are still in the womb of the universal force called Time.

The traits of a Super Leader

Hers is a balanced personality, free of unreasonable desires which pose the danger of her losing sight of her sense of righteousness. She does not have a binding attachment with her emotions. Nor does she have a jealous preference for her pet ideas or for her pet people. She scoffs at any signs of nepotism. She encourages her team members to be nay-sayers, so voices of dissent could be heard and judiciously dealt with. She radiates positivity all around her. She is committed to the organization’s goals and looks after her team members much like a lioness would protect her cubs.

Such a person of steady wisdom is described in Bhagavad Gita as a Stitha-Prajna. Consider the following:

दु:खेष्वनुद्विग्नमना: सुखेषु विगतस्पृह: |
वीतरागभयक्रोध: स्थितधीर्मुनिरुच्यते || 2.56||

One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

Two concerns may arise here. One, could there really be persons who could be held to have all these qualities? Two, is it really possible for one to be free of one’s basket of desires and one’s ego?

In his book ‘Beyond the Last Blue Mountain’, R M Lala quotes the case of Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the Tata group of companies. It was he who gave the group a unique position in India. In his later years, he did not ask ‘What enterprise is the most profitable?’ but, ‘What does the nation need?’ Since the answer in his times was steel, hydro-electric power or an institute of science, he made his best efforts to fulfill that need.

He is reported to have once said something very basic:

We do not claim to be more unselfish, more generous or more philanthropic than other people. But we think we started on sound and straightforward business principles, considering the interests of the shareholders our own, and the health and welfare of the employees the sure foundation of our prosperity.’

Alfred Sloan is reported to have once remarked, ‘What is good for General Motors is good for America.’ J R D Tata always thought the other way round. ‘What is good for India is good for Tatas.’

Theirs is only one example of a business house which is clear in its goals and in its priorities. Several others could be quoted in the current context, like N R Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys.

Getting rid of desires and ego is no cakewalk. A CEO may introspect and fine tune her desires so the same are aligned with the values of the organization she works for. In the process, her personal desires take a back seat. Likewise, getting rid of one’s ego completely has a flip side. One could end up becoming a doormat and getting taken advantage of by all and sundry. Arguably, her wisdom and intuition can help her to retain her individuality even while letting go of the ego. Ask any CEO who has ever worked in a single-owner driven company, and she would attest to the basic principle of leaving the ego at the office gate itself!

Professionals who remain undistracted by transient entrapments have the ability to be rational and calm. They are steadfast in reaching their goals and go on to make successful business leaders.

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Hapless leaders keep getting bombarded with an overdose of new ideas these days. Other than leading their followers into a world where the roses would always be in bloom and where the sun would never set, poor souls are expected to work upon path-breaking ideas. Consultants keep dishing out advice, followed by hefty bills. Other leaders whose scintillating speeches act like Botox shots to the sagging visage of their organizations have to be incessantly tracked. Political outfits of all hues and shapes need to be kept in good humour. Hellhounds of various taxation departments have to be kept at an arm’s length. Relentless window-dressing of quarterly accounts leaves them no time to pause and reflect on the basic meaning of life. Being connected to operations makes it impossible for them to relax and unwind.

Authors and intellectuals, whose contribution to the evolution of our species is dubious in any case, also do not leave them in peace. They keep churning out literary tomes and books which a leader would not touch with a hundred foot pole even on a space flight to a distant galaxy.

Take the case of the latest book on Leader Mindsets. Here are some reasons they can avoid picking it up.

  1. Even though the focus of the book is on universal human values, it appears to be based on an Asian view point. When leaders think of this part of the world, they only remember irrelevant scriptures, outdated religious beliefs, widespread poverty and illiteracy, and a certain lack of decency in public spaces which others on the planet could readily deride. In other words, there could not be much to learn from the book.
  2. At a time when leaders are grappling with the upheavals being caused by Industrial Revolution 4.0, the need is to understand and adapt newer technologies. The underlying belief is that in the times to come, the human dimension is going to be less important. Understanding machines is what should be a priority. Human behaviour has already been mapped thoroughly. Even if one were to understand it better, one would run the risk of ending up being a ‘soft’ leader who is unable to take ‘hard’ decisions, thereby compromising one’s effectiveness as a leader.
  3. The book appears to be based on the premise that to become an effective leader, one has to change oneself – a tough proposition, indeed. There is nothing wrong with the leaders in their present mould; hence, there is no need to tweak anything within them.

The book goes on to propose that having changed one’s mindset, one should help others to change their mindsets. If the first step is undesirable, this one is near impossible; and the next one – that of changing the entire organization – even more so.

After all, management is the art of the possible. Leaders are happy the way they are.

Smart leaders would do well to brood over these thoughts. It would save them lot of time and trouble. Their followers would heave a sigh of relief upon realizing that they have been spared the trauma of being asked to change themselves in any way; that they can trudge along merrily without a care in the world, focusing on immediate and important tasks at hand. If the critical and strategic tasks get neglected in the process, so be it.

Even if the author were to gift a copy of the book to a leader, the latter would do well to either gift it to one of his arch-rivals, or to simply throw it into the nearest waste paper basket. If the shameless author persists by sending a soft copy as well, prompt use of the delete command would be highly useful.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/02/10/a-word-about-the-book-on-leadership)

 

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As per press reports, the Hon’ble President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, had some time back touched upon the fact that nature provides rich lessons in harmony. On a retreat at Mashobra in Himachal Pradesh, President Ram Nath Kovind wrote that nature provides lessons in harmony as nation debates big challenges of education and health.

Excerpts:

  • I was experiencing nature at its most divine. I was also experiencing nature at its most caring. The sanctuary nurtures Shimla and its people. It cares for us as only Mother Nature can. Nature loves us and we love it back.
  • We don’t know the answers (for future). But what we do today- the social, intellectual, ethical and ecological investments that today’s generation makes – will help determine the answers. It is we who will determine the capacities of those who will build India in the next 25 to 50 years. It is we who will determine whether rivers and mountains and forests, with us for millennia, will still be available in all their glory for succeeding generations.
  • The wildlife sanctuary I visited does not distinguish between one and the other. It provides water to all. Its trees provide shade to all. Its clean air nourishes all. Its clean air nourishes all. Fraternity and compassion are written into nature’s DNA… Nature does not compartmentalise. Its instinct is integrative and holistic. Nature promotes mutualism. The flower nourishes the bee. The river waters quench the thirst of all living beings. And trees provide a welcoming home to so many birds and animals… There is a rhythm to this togetherness. And there is an almost cosmic bond that allows every living being, small and big, silent and loud, to live in harmony, to flourish, and to thrive. Human beings can learn from this.

(Source: Compassion, mutual dignity will protect the future of all Indians, The Times of India, May 25, 2018)

(Yours truly has contributed some of the chapters in the book and has also edited it.)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/11/some-quotable-quotes-which-appear-in-the-book-on-leader-mindsets

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/some-quotable-quotes-which-appear-in-the-book-on-leader-mindsets-part-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/some-quotable-quotes-which-appear-in-the-book-on-leader-mindsets-part-3)

 

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ashokbhatia

It is not altogether wrong to say that it is the early worm which gets caught! Quite a few managers have perfected the art of selective amnesia and acquired honorary membership of the Global Procrastinators’ Club.COMPLACENCY

Procrastination works best when the idea is to delay a crucial decision which, if taken at that point in time, could create more problems than it would solve. Governments appear to do it all the time. The flip side is the higher probability of losing a business opportunity.

With due respects to Newton and Einstein, we do have some Laws of Procrastination:

The First Law

A task which has been put on hold will remain undone till the time an external force is applied.

The force could come either from your boss or from a peer or a subordinate. In matters of domestic chores, reluctant husbands succumb to the pressure applied by a nagging…

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