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Posts Tagged ‘CEO’

We live in times when the allure of the C-suite appears to be wearing off. Expectations from CEOs of all hues, sizes and shapes are reaching stratospheric levels, with the ostensible result that attrition rates at that level of management reflect an upward tick.

A recent report by Price Waterhouse Coopers had revealed that the CEO turnover at the world’s 2,500 largest companies rose to 17.5% in 2018 – 3% higher than the 14.5% in 2017. For the year 2018, the first time in the study’s history, more CEOs were dismissed for ethical lapses than for financial performance or board struggles. CEO turnover rose notably in every region in 2018 except China, and was quite high in Brazil, Russia, and India (21.6 percent) while the lowest was in North America (14.7 percent).

According to the report, in 2000, a CEO could expect to remain in office for eight or more years, on average. Over the last decade, however, average CEO tenure has been only five years.

The mixed bathing challenge for CEOs

While those who aspire to occupy a C-suite keep an ear to the ground and eagerly wait to seize an opportunity as and when it comes up, the ones who have benevolent Guardian Angels and end up occupying one soon realize the perils of mixed bathing on the Dark Continent where, attracted by the tourism propaganda of some innovative travel agents, they end up swimming in the Zambezi river. To their utter horror, they discover that mixed bathing regulations are in vogue there, and that their dip is being shared by a couple of young crocodiles. What leaves them literally cold in the feet are the penetrating and unfriendly eyes of some of the crocodiles swimming alongside, who have taken a jaundiced view of their habitat being infested with a juicy specimen of the tribe of Homo  sapiens. Quite a few others are gleeful, drooling over a good source of their daily vitamins. These crocodiles might as well be representing the kind of challenges CEOs would face when, and if, they return to their office desks: Business Goals, Quarterly Guidelines, Investor Pressure, Ethical Dilemmas, Compliances of all kinds, to cite only a few.

Business leaders of the future

Increasingly, there is a need for business leaders who can steer their businesses using not only a Commercial but also a Spiritual Compass. In an era when technological developments are redefining the manner in which businesses interact with their stakeholders, there is much that CEOs and managers can learn from the Bhagavad Gita. It is a Do-It-Yourself Manual of Motivation. Its language is pregnant with symbolism at times. But it has rich lessons to offer for day-to-day conduct of business.

Of jackals, cobras, giraffes, elephants and tortoises 

To run a business well, wily jackals and cobras are required; but so are friendly giraffes, brainy elephants and wise tortoises. If the leader herself happens to be a spiritually inclined person, focused on steering the business successfully towards its purpose and goals but without running into a collision with massive icebergs hiding a hidden mass of compromises with core values and ethics, she would attain the exalted status of a Conscience Keeper for the entire business.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/towards-sq)

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The fascinating process we call Leadership can be viewed through several lenses. Each lens offers a unique perspective. Some are more comprehensive, others less so. But almost all reveal a facet which is distinctive in its own way.

Some of the lenses which management theorists and practitioners have used over the last 150 years to view the enigma called leadership are discussed in brief here.

The Trait Lens

The lens of the Trait theories makes us notice the kind of personality traits of a leader which make him effective. Domain knowledge, self-confidence, interpersonal skills and charisma are some of the critical components here. However, these presume that the environment and the followers have no role to play when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of a leader. With such a uni-dimensional approach, where the personality traits of the leader alone count, it is neither practical nor desirable to compare this approach to that of the three mindsets under discussion here.

The Behavioural Lens

The lens of the Behavioural theories of leadership leads us to such operating styles as dictatorial, autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, and the like. In the spectrum of direct authority exercised, if the dictatorial style implies maximum control, the laissez-faire style would relate to minimum control, though not amounting to abdication.

The Contingency Lens

Yet another lens which we use to view the phenomenon of leadership is that of the Contingency theories. These posit that the effectiveness of a leader is determined by the interplay of several factors – personality traits, behavioural patterns, nature of the task at hand, the composition of the group being led, and the kind of situation at hand.

An example is that of Fred Fiedler’s theory. It proposes that in extremely favourable or unfavourable situations, task-oriented leaders fare better, whereas in moderate situations, relationship-oriented leaders deliver better results. As a logical corollary, in a business situation which is changing rapidly, a new leader with a more appropriate operating style needs to be brought in.

The Situational Lens

The Hersey-Blanchard Situational model is yet another lens with which one may view leadership. This one proposes that effective leadership rests on two fundamental concepts: Leadership Style and the group’s Performance Readiness level.

It follows that there is no single ‘best’ style of leadership. Effectiveness of a leader varies not only with the characteristics of the group being led; it also depends on the goal to be achieved.

The level of maturity of the followers determines the leadership style which would work the best. While dealing with new entrants to the organization, a leader would do well to follow a Directing Style. While dealing with seasoned professionals, a Delegation Style would yield better results. The other two styles envisaged are Coaching and Supporting.

The Transactional Lens

Then we have the lens of the Transactional theories of viewing leadership. These are characterized by a transaction made between the leader and the followers. By implication, these place a higher premium on positive and mutually beneficial relationships between leaders and their respective followers. The effectiveness of leadership is thus believed to be dependent on the alignment between individual and organizational goals.

These theories propose that a system of reward and punishment alone works. A well-defined hierarchy, where everyone knows who the leader is and who is following, is a sine qua non. In a way, this is a premise which subjugates people, reducing them to mere cogs in the wheel, with no concern for social or human values. The adage ‘my way or the highway’ readily comes to one’s minds.

The Transformational Lens

The Transformational theories provide yet another lens with which one may view leadership. Transformational leaders inspire their followers by their vision, by setting examples which are worthy of emulation, and by the sheer force of their own personality. In the process, they themselves develop as leaders. They are also able to groom leaders out of their more competent followers.

Four components of this model happen to be:

  1. Intellectual stimulation.
  2. Consideration for individual team members.
  3. Inspirational motivation.
  4. Idealized influence.

Transformational leadership theories work on the premise that people are motivated by the task that must be performed. This implies that the culture of the organization is such as to act as a key enabler for such leaders to be effective. There is an emphasis on cooperation, collective action and healthy competition. Tasks are designed to be challenging and desirous. The whole system is geared towards placing the community above individual egos.

The lens of Three Mindsets

Yes-Men

Prof G P Rao, an eminent authority in the field of Organizational Behaviour, has recently proposed a new approach to viewing leadership.

This approach proposes three kinds of leadership mindsets: “I Am Everything’, ‘I Am Nothing’ and ‘I Am Something’. These are not mutually exclusive but co-exist, much like the three traits (Gunas) mentioned in Indian scriptures: Saatvik, Rajasik and Tamasik. Time and business environment play key roles in determining the dominant mode of mindset a business leader has at a given point in time.

In a highly favourable business climate, a leader is apt to have an ‘I Am Everything’ mindset. In an unfavourable setting, a leader may end up having an ‘I Am Nothing’ mindset. In a moderate situation, an ‘I Am Something’ mindset is likely to prevail.

The approach is based on an empirical study and has been implemented in an IT organization in India. It has been discussed in detail in the book on Leader Mindsets.

The composite lens of Results, People and Ethics

This proposition is based on my own managerial experience of over four decades in the private sector. The basic premise here is that decisions are based not only on commercial considerations but also on sound ethics and values. Decisions which would serve the strategic interests of the organization and would never lead it to a situation of public disgrace and compromise.

If one were to take the liberty of modifying the Blake Mouton Grid, the leadership style of such a CEO would qualify for either a 9,9,9 or a 5,5,5 classification.

The modified grid leads us to 9 different styles which we have already discussed elsewhere in detail.

An evolutionary thought process

Human thoughts forever keep evolving. Newer experiences come about. Refined paradigms surface. But each succeeding step is like a stepping stone. It is built upon the success achieved by, as well as upon the deficiencies noticed in, the previous ones. The different lenses of viewing leadership we have discussed here are no exception.

What we have attempted here is merely indicative and not exhaustive. Many more interpretations of leadership exist. Many more models and theories would emerge in the times to come. As businesses hurtle forward, armed with newer and smarter technologies, the need for humane leaders would only become more acute.

This would surely lead to newer lenses which would be more comprehensive and elaborate, and would better serve the needs of commercial enterprises better in future.

(A version of this article appears as one of the chapters of the book ‘I Am Something: Developing a New Leader Mindset’.)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit)

 

 

 

 

 

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What kind of desires would be found on the bucket list of a CEO? Perhaps due recognition, more power and pelf, special privileges, a fat expense account, rapid growth, ESOPs, a loyal and committed team comprising persons who happen to be competent in areas where she herself may be weaker, executing her business plans more effectively and efficiently, and the like.

In general, the Happiness Quotient of any professional could possibly be defined as follows: 

 HQ = [ { FD (t) / AD (t) } * f (IR, IG)]

Where HQ is Happiness Quotient, FD (t) is the number of fulfilled desires at a given point in time, AD (t) represents the sum total of all her desires at the same point in time. The notation f (IR, IG) suggests that HQ is directly proportional to her Inner Resilience and the Inner Glow of satisfaction she feels when a job is well done. A happier CEO could often be spotted in the recreation room, perfecting her aim at throwing darts!

It also follows that one’s level of happiness could be improved upon merely by enlarging the scope of FD; or, by reducing the spread of AD.

The former is a Western proposition, leading to crass commercialism. A heavy dose of advertising and public relations keeps the inner fires of desires burning brighter with each passing year, making it the classic case of our chasing an elusive rainbow in a desert. Corporates keep stoking these embers of desire and we keep falling prey to the same at regular intervals.

The latter proposition happens to be an Eastern construct. By keeping a check on one’s desires, one can attain a state of happiness. This calls for an inner awakening and a realization that one needs to outgrow one’s sensual gratification and consciously shepherd oneself to use one’s intellect and restrict the spread of desires one has. Or, to focus on desires which are either aligned with the values of the organization or which happen to be our needs.

Western experts had originally recommended Command and Control as a means to generate wealth and had gone on to imply that stark materialism is the way to seek peace and happiness. However, the Eastern approach is based on an inward blossoming, an inner growth and development which holds an inner glow of success superior to sensual gratification of an external nature. By proactively adopting a Conscious Capitalism approach, several businesses have already recognized the truth that they have a greater purpose, much beyond delivering value to their own stakeholders.

Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfilment. They endeavour to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders.

An inward blossoming

Bhagavad Gita gives us a clue to be happy, and also to create happier working places. Consider this verse:

यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वश: |
इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता ||2.58||

One who is able to withdraw the senses from their objects, just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell, is established in steady wisdom.

What is being recommended here is not a suppression of desires but a voluntary renunciation of those desires which take us on a path of sensuous gratification, sans a higher purpose in our life and career.

In fact, this takes us back to the idea of living in the present; also, a ‘We and Us’ approach to problem solving than an ‘I and Me’ one.

In Robin S. Sharma’s famous book ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’, Julian says that goals and dreams for the future are very essential elements in every truly successful life. But he advises never to put off happiness for the sake of achievement; never to put off the things that are important for your well-being and satisfaction to a later time. ‘Today is the day to live fully…..never put off living!’ he says.

Bhagavad Gita reinforces this message as follows:

रागद्वेषवियुक्तैस्तु विषयानिन्द्रियैश्चरन् |
आत्मवश्यैर्विधेयात्मा प्रसादमधिगच्छति ||2.64||

But one who controls the mind, and is free from attachment and aversion, even while using the objects of the senses, attains peace.

A CEO who exercises self-control would eventually experience a sense of inner peace. She would patiently hear out a voice of dissent and use the feedback judiciously. She would see something positive happening and share it with others, without getting attached to it. She would smell a coup in the making and take appropriate steps to defuse the situation in an objective manner. She would praise in public but reprimand in private. She would taste either the sweetness of a resounding success or the sourness of a colossal failure but would neither become complacent nor reach a stage of despondence thereafter. She would sit back and redraw her business plans and put them in motion.

Some manifestations of Self-control

One manifestation of self-control would be the need to accord an equitable and honourable treatment to women at the work place. Just like a cashier who is caught with his hand in the till, often we find some powerful male executives wrecking the careers and lives of relatively vulnerable female team members. If this had indeed been the case, the recent #MeToo campaign would not have gained much currency.

Hormones are surely more powerful than hierarchy. But when such incidents happen and the managements decide to look the other way, or decide to be opaque about handling such issues, they end up causing severe damage to their brand equity.

On the contrary, when business houses like Tatas are majority-owned by trusts which do pioneering philanthropic work for the society, the money with them is truly held in trust, in the true spirit of detachment.

Consider this verse from the Bhagavad Gita:

विहाय कामान्य: सर्वान्पुमांश्चरति नि:स्पृह: |
निर्ममो निरहङ्कार: स शान्तिमधिगच्छति ||2.71||

That person, who gives up all material desires and lives free from a sense of greed, proprietorship, and egoism, attains perfect peace.

Creating happier working places

What with the advent of Industrial Revolution 4.0, many HR honchos these days can be found to be twiddling their thumbs, trying to figure out how to create happier working places even while maintaining a sense of discipline, decorum and decency. Happier people make organizations thrive and prosper.

Dr. Noelle Nelson, in her book ‘Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy’, explains how progressive employers try to understand the pain points of their employees and then try to address the same. One of the several examples she quotes is that of when Paul O’Neil who took over the reins of ALCOA in 1987, the world’s leading producer of aluminium; O’Neil announced that his sole priority was to increase worker safety. This came as a shock to the company’s directors. O’Neil understood, however, that safety was a major concern for his workers. Over the next 13 years, employee productivity soared as accident rates decreased from roughly one per week per plant to some plants going years without an accident. When O’Neil stepped away just over a decade later, ALCOA’s annual income had grown 500%!

Being happy is possible when one is at peace with oneself and others. Attaining a state of harmony is imperative. Managements need to enable this. They need to provide the necessary tools to their people so as to facilitate an inner sense of peace and happiness.

What makes Starbucks a good employer? Perhaps, one of the factors which contributes towards its people being happy is the kind of training they receive to handle angry and unreasonable customers. This takes the negativity away from a potentially stressful situation, leaving space for a sense of peace and happiness to prevail within the front line staff.

People in organizations do not always look for more monetary rewards. They seek recognition. They relish a sense of fulfilment arising out of their contribution towards a greater goal. They value positive relationships with other team members. Harmony, peace and happiness comprise their inner goal.

(Related Post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/from-an-i-and-me-approach-to-a-we-and-us-one)

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The relationship between Efforts and Results

One would have often wondered as to the nature of the relationship between efforts and results. A project on which much energy and time has been spent may get shot down by one of the seniors and never come to fruition. Another one, which has received only a fraction of the attention that was paid to the former one might take off and become a roaring success. Other than the effort, the timing plays a role in the success or failure of a project. Market conditions, government regulations, interpersonal relationships, employee engagement and several other factors also play a role.

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.

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

A related feature is the need for professionals to improve upon their 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 fulfil 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. 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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On a lighter note, one needs to be wary of managements which exhort one to follow this much misunderstood principle of detachment expounded in the Bhagavad Gita. They would have one believe that one should continue to slog all year long but would do well not to expect that elusive overdue promotion. One can then either lump it and trudge along, or take prompt action through proper channels to get oneself detached from the company at the earliest possible opportunity!

An inspired self-forgetfulness

What is the secret behind mighty achievements? What is the state of mind in which an artist like Vincent van Gogh would have created his unique gifts to humanity? Could he have done so while being worried if his latest masterpiece would turn out to be better than the one he had made earlier? Could Michelangelo have sculpted Pieta with the sole purpose of receiving a reward or recognition for creating the same?

Was Newton worried about either his past or his future when the apple fell? Had that been so, is there not a chance that he might have missed out on discovering the forces of gravity? What are the conditions under which a product developer based in Silicon Valley comes up with her next bright idea? Which is the state of mind which is conducive to creative work?

Scratch beneath the surface of any work of inspiration and one is apt to discover the ultimate secret of great accomplishments. Living every moment of the present is one of the factors which help one to live an inspired life and also enjoy it to the hilt. The creative process is akin to meditation of sorts, where the creative person, the universe and the surroundings – all end up in a single harmonious state.

This is precisely what Bhagavad Gita means by detachment. It exhorts a CEO not to worry over and get herself preoccupied with the anxieties for the rewards of her actions, thereby avoiding a tendency to live in the future. Nor does it make sense for her to keep analyzing as to what transpired in the past and get overly worked up about it. The advice here is not to waste the present moment in inane memories and in concerns about the future. Rather, she can do her very best in the present moment, keep relevant stakeholders in the loop, and perform her duties, as dictated by a sense of virtuous righteousness. This way, she is released from all of her mental preoccupations. Work alone makes her live in the joy and ecstasy of inspired self-forgetfulness. The work itself becomes the reward.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 2.47 ||

karmay-evādhikāras te mā phalehu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te sa
go ’stvakarmai

You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

Management by loftier objectives and Resistance to Change

Is it really possible for one to be detached with the fruits of one’s actions? In a business scenario, when a manager is part of an organization, she is expected to deliver results. Efforts put in by her do not count; results alone do. If so, one might well wonder as to how one can remain detached with the outcome. Would it not be going against the philosophy of Management by Objectives?

What one is being advised here is not to take actions which are at divergence with what is sought to be achieved. The objectives are not under question; the means are. The underlying assumptions, prejudices and attitudes are. Management is the art of the possible. Of doing one’s best under the given constraints. A manager who works to the best of her ability, irrespective of how favourable or unfavourable the situation is, happens to be practising detachment. She is not one who would get swayed by petty short-term considerations. She is not someone who would allow her personal prejudices to shape her actions. Nor would she wallow in self-pity and misery, when faced with an adverse outcome. In other words, detachment helps professionals to not to lose sight of the overall good of the organization.

When an organization takes a decision to down-size, the onus of working out a detailed plan for affected employees falls onto the CEO and her team, especially on the person heading the Human Resources function. Typically, employees who are projected to be competent in the changed business scenario would get transferred to diverse locations. Those whose services in the past have been satisfactory but would not be relevant in future get assisted and out-placed. For the remaining employees, a transparent severance package gets worked upon and executed. In the entire process, a sense of detachment, devoid of personal emotions and prejudices, is essential. By handling separations well, the organization improves upon its brand equity and ends up creating brand ambassadors for itself.

Likewise, when a Chief Marketing Officer decides to either launch a new brand, or change a link in the company’s distribution network, a sense of balance and detachment helps. A Chief Finance Officer, when recommending a change in the external audit firm, has to leave her comfort zone, use a sense of detachment, and initiate a change which would bring better results for the company. A Production Manager, when asked to absorb a new technology or equipment on the shop floor, has to forsake a sense of attachment to the earlier methods of working and embrace change.

Consider the case of a team leader who is yet to learn the art of delegation. She retains a tendency to nano-manage operations and is not able to get work done based on a sense of detachment. The team members find it rather difficult to deliver exemplary results under such a leader, thereby harming the organization in the long run. The art of true delegation is also based on a deeper sense of detachment.

It follows that a sense of detachment helps professionals in many ways – to remain objective, to retain a sense of balance, to embrace change with lesser resistance, to handle adverse situations better, and to remain committed to the overall good of the organization.

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Members of the tribe of managers who believe in the ‘I and Me’ approach have swollen minds and shallow hearts. They live in a virtual reality of their own, surfing atop the turbulent waves of life in a belief that they remain in total control of things. They think that they punch all the right buttons in their careers. Successes get attributed to their own actions and initiatives. Failures get attributed to external circumstances, to other people, or to the business environment in general.

In terms of an upgraded Blake-Mouton Grid, they have a propensity to evolve into a leader for whom results alone count. Concern for People gets relegated to the background. Concern for Ethics gets swept under the carpet and conveniently forgotten. In other words, they become CEOs who end up becoming road rollers.

Take the case of a young engineer from India who goes on to pursue his higher studies in one of the advanced countries of the world. He builds a career for himself, gets married, buys his own house, raises a family and even acquires the citizenship of the country where he has settled down. He starts believing that he is an all-powerful and accomplished person, and has the freedom to do what he wants. He prides himself on the fact that his spouse, an independent professional in her own right, is in that country owing to him alone. By implication, she has to be beholden and subservient to him. What he does not realize is the role destiny also has played in his career and life. A hard blow could well make him see the folly of ascribing all his achievements to his capabilities alone.

Free Will, Destiny and a dash of humility

One of the things such persons badly need is a dash of humility, professionally as well as personally. They could do with some introspection in all cases of successes and failures. A pitiless analysis of any success would invariably reveal key factors which not only assisted but also enabled them to achieve it. Likewise, a root cause analysis of a failure might reveal to them what they could have done better in the given situation. It might even show where they personally contributed to their own downfall.

A realization that one is not destined to exercise one’s so-called free will indiscriminately can help one to progress on the path of humility. In any case, the view that human beings are free to exercise their free will has always been a debatable one. Often, hapless Homo sapiens feel as if they are mere puppets going through motions in life according to a grand plan, ostensibly pre-determined by a superior power.

Take the case of an aspiring manager who has just finished her education from an Ivy League institution. She does not entirely control the kind of company she ends up starting her career with. Nor does she control the kind of boss, peers or subordinates she might end up working with. She could very well analyze the business environment the organization operates in. But she has little control over the same.

Going with the flow

Generally speaking, in life, one does not control one’s own birth or death. Nor does one control the kind of parents, extended family and friends one may merit. One merely goes with the flow, so to say.

Omar Khayyam thought one is no better than water, flowing willy-nilly, ‘where Destiny with men for Pieces plays’. He proposed that one merely follows an unalterable script in one’s life, as dished out by our Guardian Angels.

Contrast this with the traditional view of Judgment Day of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This view is based on the conviction that each person is wholly responsible for her conduct in life. The Hindu view of karma also supposes choice for individual human beings.

To participate in, and to submit to, the collective rhythm of creation is to attain bhakti, Narada Sutra says. This marks progress towards humility.

‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings’, says the poet (Julius Ceaser, Act 1, Scene 2).

The ‘We and Us’ Approach to decision-making

Life is much like river rafting, where one may make choices while negotiating the rapids. But the scope of the individual will is rather limited. In one’s career, the scope of the individual will is to choose between making decisions entirely based on one’s individual ego, thereby becoming an ‘I and Me’ manager. Alternately, one may choose to surrender to a higher power, and perform one’s action without attachment to the results thereof. This choice would lead one to a ‘We and Us’ approach to decision-making.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna exhorts us to do precisely this: Practice detachment.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||

karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅ
go ’stvakarmaṇi

You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/heartfulness-management-and-leadership)

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CEOs lead a challenging life. Apart from making and meeting long-term business goals, they face a relentless SQpressure, living from one quarter to the next. Customers have to be handled with kid gloves. Suppliers have to be kept in good humour. People have to be kept motivated at all times. Interpersonal conflicts between team members have to be sorted out. A lonely life has to be lived.

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A CEO in possession of a portly disposition projects an image of a soul which has finally attained salvation and has become a super-hero of the species generally alluded to as managers. Walk into any gathering of the top dogs across most…

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