Posts Tagged ‘Ardha-nareeshwara’

The cultural ethos of an organization is essentially reflected in the way the top honchos conduct themselves. It also manifests in the manner in which the organization handles its relationships with diverse stakeholders.

Empathy is a critical component of the ethos of an organization. The trait of being able to put oneself in another person’s shoes and arriving at business goals and decisions by consensus helps the organization to be more efficient.

Understanding and empathizing with the perspective of the party of the other part also makes it easier to negotiate and successfully close tricky business deals. As an example, when one tries to finalize an order with a customer of Japanese origin, one discovers the value of empathy and mutual trust, because the latter is apt to ask for a detailed costing of the product on offer, a prospect often disliked by most businessmen hailing from a different culture.

Unfortunately, empathy and consensus do not always form a part of the arsenal of business owners and CEOs who are considered successful. Quite a few business leaders have brought to fore a leadership style which tolerates no dissent and abhors a natural impulse to seek consensus. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are some who have demonstrated that a leadership style which celebrates conflict, disruption and dominance is not only a virtue but possibly also an enabler of sustained creativity, technological evolution and advancement.

Of humility, consensus and culture

However, it appears that CEOs with a Western mind and an Eastern heart are configured somewhat differently. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, sounds passionate about leadership and transformation, but the route he chooses is based on ethos, empathy, empowerment and democratization. In his book Hit Refresh, he concludes that ‘the choice of leading through consensus versus fiat is a false one.’

He goes on to propose that the ‘C’ in the CEO represents culture, thereby implying that culture building forms the core of his leadership style. In his leadership paradigm, hubris gives way to humility and envy to empathy. A CEO is as much responsible to the investors as he is accountable to the citizens.

A transformation in the offing?

Brand Microsoft has never been about empathy. Rather, its operating style has always been that of crushing the competition. But then, why would it allow Linux applications to run on Windows as well? Perhaps, rapid progress in the realm of technology is making friends out of foes, leveling off the field and making diversity and inclusion the critical components of a business strategy.

How this transformation plays out in future would depend on many factors. The way the market environment shapes up. The degree of freedom truly enjoyed by a senior person at the helm of affairs. The collective consciousness and value system of the core team which supports the CEO in steering the business, possibly based not only on a commercial compass but also on a spiritual one.

The argument one often comes across is that when satisfactory business results are coming in, what is the need for management to deploy such soft practices as empathy, humility and consensus in their operations?

In his book entitled “Be Unreasonable”, Paul Lemberg argues that when a top honcho believes in being reasonable, the business only gets buried deeper in conventional wisdom. He goes on to demonstrate how unreasonable strategies can bring one unconventional success.

This does seem like a workable proposition, especially when one is working in a highly competitive and disruptive environment. However, such a materialistic approach is open to challenge in some ways. One, the long term sustainability of business itself could come under a cloud. The success can then be fuelled only by a perennial outpouring of disruptive innovations, a feat which many businesses may find difficult to achieve. Two, the human capital of the business is likely to remain underserved and underexploited. It is almost certain that team members working under such conditions would not be happy souls who put in their best performance.

A feminine touch

In yet another noteworthy piece of work entitled Shakti Leadership, authors Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia argue that too many people have bought into a notion of leadership that exclusively emphasizes traditionally ‘masculine’ qualities: hierarchical, militaristic, win-at-all-costs. They propose that this approach has led to corruption, environmental degradation, social breakdown, stress, depression and a host of serious problems.

They show us a more balanced way, a leadership that is generative, cooperative, creative, inclusive and empathetic. These are traditionally regarded as ‘feminine’ qualities, but are worthy of emulation. In the Indian yogic tradition, these are symbolized by Shakti, the source that powers all life.

Indian scriptures speak of the concept of Ardha Naareeshwara, a form which is an eclectic mix of masculine and feminine features. This is what could turn out to be a better recipe for sustained success in the decades to come. A leadership style which is based on both masculine as well as feminine traits.

The technology explosion

Much like capital, technology in itself is soulless. However, American author Tracy Kidder has held that ‘technology is nothing more than the collective soul of those who build it.’ One would therefore not be wrong in surmising that even in the face of the technological explosion that we experience in our times, human beings – and as a logical corollary, human values – shall always play a definitive role in shaping the society along more just and humane lines.

The power of social media to shape public discourse and reform political decision making is already on display. Yes, there is always the danger of people getting manipulated by an overt use of the same social media. But surely these are short-time blips on the dimension we label as time and cannot last too long.

The future holds hope

Empathy appears to be kicking in. So-called feminine traits like creation and inclusion are taking centre stage. Competition is giving way to collaboration.

A noteworthy feature of organizations which believe in the virtue of empathy is the intention to give back to society some part of what the business gains from it. What follows is a keenness to offer products and services for the overall good. That is the kind of approach that Microsoft and many other enlightened businesses take.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/super-leaders-the-near-perfect-ceos)



Read Full Post »

Sweden is famous for its fetish with gender equality. So it came as no surprise recently when the male train drivers there started wearing skirts to work. Faced with high temperatures, the guys had actually asked for permission to wear shorts. The same was promptly denied – because the dress code permits only trousers and skirts! By doing so, however, the male train drivers possibly revived a fashion invented long time back by the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans!

Ask a psycho-analyst and he is likely to dismiss the news rather calmly. Most behavioral studies establish that our personalities area1 1 (14b) made up of masculine as well as feminine traits. So, what is new, he might well ask. Ask a spiritual guru from India and he is sure to point out the relevance of the concept of ardha-nareeshwara – a combination of the Purusha and the Prakriti – propounding the unified nature of the universe. However, he may be hard put to explain the Indian male’s attitude of denigrating females – whether in public or in private. Since females in India are in short supply (940 females for 1,000 males as per the 2011 Census), the males should instead be found indulging in acts of chivalry befitting an English count. Alas, that is not to be. Eve teasing is taken as a birth-right, as is the tendency to lay the blame on the way the females either dress or behave.

Cheering Up the Fairer Ones

If politicians in Mumbai – the commercial capital of India – are to be believed, the surge of sex crimes is due to mannequins which display lingerie. Even while dressing up the ladies in plastic, lascivious thoughts are supposed to corrupt the minds of male staff. As most fair-minded souls would agree, this is rather too one-sided. The ban should also cover male mannequins. Even the commercials where Bollywood heroes publically endorse innerwear brands should go. Surely, such ads have the potential of igniting amorous thoughts amongst the fairer of us?

The government in India also tries to chip in by bringing about some changes. Having failed to bring in a law giving bettergender_clip_art_17499 representation to women in legislative bodies, presently it is pushing to set up a women’s bank. However, one is a little clueless as to how a purely economic criterion like credit-worthiness can be assessed based on the gender of an entrepreneur! Irrespective of caste, creed or sex, the commercial viability of a project alone can determine its eligibility for institutional support. Incidentally, between 1975 and 1980, the US had nine women’s banks. But the numbers shrank as their business became unviable.

When it comes to pro-female initiatives, the corporate world is not found wanting. Terms like ‘gender balance’ and ‘gender diversity’ are the buzz words these days. Companies like Diageo, Cadbury, Coca Cola and others are making conscious efforts in that direction. Leading businessmen in India are hiring icons of the stature of Deepak Parekh, G M Rao, Mukeeta Jhaveri and a host of others to mentor women who can shoulder board level responsibilities in the days to come. Policy makers in Europe and Canada are already chewing their nails trying to figure out ways to persuade the private sector to get a higher number of females on their boards.

The Hassled Not-so-fair Ones

A sizeable segment of the males which nevertheless deserves our empathy is that of the hassled youth who have to woo the love ofromeo balcony their life by buying gifts, roses and chocolates and by taking the lady regularly out for candle-lit dinners. Since the party of the other part lives in high-rise apartments these days, the prospects of serenading by standing below her balcony and using one’s vocal chords are passé. Instead, MP3 files transferred through smart phones appear to be more effective. Sure enough, many marketers are not complaining.

Yet another category of males who deserve more to be pitied than to be censured is that of the hen-pecked and harassed husbands who suffer all over the world in absolute silence. Other than earning the daily bread, the poor souls also need to hone such skills as baby-sitting, cooking, cleaning and dish-washing. The kind of patience they show while dealing with their spouses would put any Nobel Peace Laureate to shame. After all, they suffer in a selfless manner only to ensure that neighborhood peace is maintained and their fragile egos do not get crushed in public.

The Bertie Wooster Code

Majority of males today would agree that treating females as mere objects needs to be frowned upon. Lustful glares are best avoided.Bertie image Perhaps the best approach would be to treat the fairer lot according to the good old Bertie Wooster code of conduct – never bandy about their name in public, restrict oneself to furtive side glances while silently appreciating their profiles, and generally maintain a healthy distance while dealing with them. One also needs to be wary of goofy females who befriend males   merely to use their good offices to have horrors perpetrated onto their stingy uncles. Treat the ones with motherly tendencies as confidantes for one’s innermost feelings. And steer clear of females who have intellectual leanings and possess reformist tendencies when it comes to the not-so-fair of the species.

If a saunter down the aisle (or, circumambulation around the sacred fire, if you prefer) cannot be avoided, focus only on maintaining peace and harmony. Be aware that her cousins would be much better treated than your real siblings while visiting the place one believes to be one’s home. She should have a free hand in taking all routine decisions – like what food to have, which dresses to buy, the kind of house to live in, which movies to see, etc. Rather than getting involved with such mundane issues, one had better focus on worrying about strategic issues; like, if Obama’s cyber-snooping affects the lives of others around the world, how the steady drop in China’s GDP levels affects other countries, why Abe should be supported for what he is doing to rev up the Japanese economy and what the Indian government must do to prop up the Rupee.

Men who seek and support equity amongst men and women – neither denying the masculinity of men nor the femininity of women – are indeed role models. Perhaps men in India should try to put on skirts once in a while, thereby making India safer for women!

Read Full Post »