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(Here are some excerpts from a blog by Mr N Harihara Subramaniyan. The full version can be found at his own blog site: http://www.visionhari.com/chanakya.php.

Permission to reproduce it here is gratefully acknowledged.)

 

Chanakya was an Indian teacher, philosopher, and royal advisor. Originally a professor of economics and political science at the ancient Takshashila University, Chanakya managed the first Maurya emperor Chandragupta’s rise to power at a young age. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire, which was the first empire in archaeologically recorded history to rule most of the Indian subcontinent. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both Chandragupta and his son Bindusara. Chanakya is traditionally identified as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise called Arthasastra (Economics). As such, he is considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and political science in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta dynasty and not rediscovered until 1915.

Brief About Chanakya

Son of Rishi Chanak, Chanakya, also known as Kautilya or Vishnugupta, was born in Pataliputra, Magadh (modern Bihar), and later moved to Taxila, in Gandhar province (now in Pakistan). At a very early age little Chanakya started studying Vedas. The Vedas considered being the toughest scriptures to study were completely studied and memorized by Chanakya in his infancy. He was attracted to studies in politics. In politics Chanakya’s acumen and shrewdness was visible right from childhood. He was a student of politics right from child hood. Known as a masterful political strategist, He knew how to put his own people in the opposite camp and spy the enemy without his knowledge before destroying him forever. Chanakya was an ace in turning tables in his favor irrespective of the circumstances. He never budged to pressure tactics by the ruthless politicians. In this way after studying religion and politics, he turned his attention to economics, which remained his lifelong friend. “Nitishastra”, a treatise on the ideal way of life shows his in depth study of the Indian way of life. He was a professor (acharya) of political science at the Takshashila University and later the Prime Minister of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. He is regarded as one of the earliest known political thinkers, economists and king-makers. He was the man to envision the first Indian empire by unification of the then numerous kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent and provide the impetus for fights against the Greek conqueror Alexander.

Leadership Qualities

  • He was brave enough to speak from his heart to any ruler at any situation.
  • His strategic movement based on information from enemy side using his spies
  • He administered well on various faculties like law & order, taxation, revenue, foreign policy, defence, war, strategy formation and foreign relations etc.
  • He worked at the total annihilation of problems by the roots.
  • As a person, Chanakya had been described variously, as a saint, as a ruthless administrator, as the king maker, a devoted nationalist, a selfless ascetic and a person devoid of all morals.
  • Some of his stark views made him into an ambivalent personality for the world like the observance of morals and ethics was secondary to the interests of the ruler.

Principles & Practices

Chanakya advocated the following for the welfare of country

  • Self-sufficient economy not dependent on foreign trade.
  • An egalitarian society where there are equal opportunities for all.
  • The efficient management of land is essential for the development of resources.
  • The state should take care of agriculture at all times.
  • Government machinery should be directed towards the implementation of projects aimed at supporting and nurturing the various processes; beginning from sowing of seeds to harvest.
  • The nation should envisage constructing forts and cities.
  • Internal trade was more important to Chanakya than external trade.
  • The state should collect taxes at a bare minimum level, so that there is no chance of tax evasion.
  • Laws of the state should be the same for all, irrespective of the person who is involved in the case.
  • Destitute women should be protected by the society because they are the result of social exploitation and the uncouth behavior of men.
  • Antisocial elements should be kept under check along with the spies who may enter the country at anytime.

Chanakya envisioned a society where the people are not running behind material pleasures. Control over the sense organs is essential for success in any endeavor. Spiritual development is essential for the internal strength and character of the individual. Material pleasures and achievements are always secondary to the spiritual development of the society and country at large.

Achievements

His work on Arthashastra transcends the time broadly covers fourteen areas

  • Deals with the King – his training, appointment of minister etc.
  • Describes the duties of various officers of the state and gives a complete picture of the state activities.
  • Concerned with law and administration of justice.
  • On suppression of crimes.
  • A sundry collection of topics including salaries of officials.
  • On foreign policy and constituent elements of state.
  • The way in which each of the six methods of foreign policy may be used in various situations
  • Relates to calamities.
  • On preparations of war.
  • Concerned with fighting and types of battle arrays.
  • How a conqueror deal with a number of chiefs rather than one king.
  • Shows how a weak king when threatened by a stronger one must overpower him.
  • Concerned with the conquest of the enemy’s fort by fighting.
  • Deals with occult practices.

Literary Works

Chanakya is perhaps less well known outside India compared to other social and political philosophers of the world like Confucius and Machiavelli. His foresight and wide knowledge coupled with politics of expediency helped found the mighty Mauryan Empire in India. He compiled his political ideas into the ‘Arthashastra’, one of the world’s earliest treatises on political thought and social order. His ideas remain popular to this day in India. In Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India, Chanakya has been called the Indian Machiavelli. Three books are attributed to Chanakya: Arthashastra, Nitishastra and Chanakya Niti. Arthashastra (literally ‘the Science of Material Gain’ in Sanskrit) is arguably the first systematic book on economics. It discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in details. Many of his nitis or policies have been compiled under the book title Chanakya Niti. Nitishastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life, and shows Chanakya’s in depth study of the Indian way of life.

 

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Psmith put the newspaper away. A sigh escaped him.

“Nothing makes sense”, he muttered.

For the space of about twenty-five seconds, Mike, sitting across a small table on a sunlit balcony ingateway-of-india Mumbai, India, sat in silence.

“What is wrong with you?”, asked Mike, with a concerned look on his face.

Some time back, Psmith and Mike had been posted to the Mumbai branch of the New Asiatic Bank. It had taken them some time to get used to the hustle bustle of the noisy metropolis, often reeking of stale fish.

They had a centrally air-conditioned apartment all to themselves at Worli in one of the high-rise buildings overlooking the Arabian Sea. Being a Sunday, both were in a relaxed state of mind.

“How could people be so very excited about being taxed differently?”

“Who is excited? What are you referring to?”

“You would know that India is soon set to hop on to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bandwagon. What the poor guys do not realize is that life is not going to be a bed of roses, as it is being made out to be.”

Mike continued to concentrate on the designer tea-pot in front of him, a complete picture of the model gown-wearing bank officer on his weekly off day.

“It is good to notice the concern you display for the citizenry which managed to slip out of British control some seventy years back. Perhaps, you are upset that it took them so long to realize that their entire country needed to be a unified market?”

“No. What I object to is the fundamental flaw in the GST. It is un-Indian. It is just too simple.”

Mike looked up in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Comrade Jackson, no Indian tax system could be that simple. A universal tax percentage applied to everything so you know how to calculate it is just not right. It is handing over the power of understanding a tax to the people. Does this not take away the basic right of Indian taxation: confusion, opacity and obfuscation?’”

“But, surely, that should be good news?”

“Not for the few bespectacled gentlemen who try to figure things out, buried under the weight of those heavy tax books in some library of a government department. They would be rendered simply rudderless. They would resent this sudden deprivation of their tremendous power – of being the select few who could interpret and explain away the laws, the bye-laws, the rules, the notifications, the rulings by various tribunals and councils from time to time, and what not. I sense a revolt of sorts brewing up soon enough.”

“Oh, you mean to say that the bureaucrats would not be too pleased with the new taxation system?”

“Elementary, my dear Jackson. They would surely not relish the prospect of losing their power over the people. Also, the only way they can earn the extra money required to keep their families grinning from ear to ear.”

“Hmm…you do have a point there.”

“Not only this. Should a simple taxation law come into play, imagine the number of taxation experts India Parliament Housewho would be rendered jobless. Their care-worn clients would no longer be spending hours in their plush offices, trying to figure out the nuances of filing quarterly returns. They would instead be sitting in a fine dine restaurant, treating their lissome secretaries to a sumptuous dinner, while having told the spouse of a pressing need to attend a crucial meeting at the office.”

“But you would agree that the GST idea is indeed noble, simple, global and logical.”

“Which is why I suspect there is so much resistance to it. The government has been trying to sit people down and explain to them why the current system of taxation is the work of some mad people who happen to grace the opposition chairs now. Of late, it even decided to reach out to the latter and ensure that they were no longer sulking at the party presently in power walking off with all the credit for having brought in this landmark change. And note that the party in power now had itself obstructed the same change when it happened to be in the opposition.”

“But what do you think is so very exciting about the present system? I think it is known as Value Added Tax. They have several other taxes as well.”

“Well, for one, that should be known instead as Value Reduced Tax, simply because you have less value once you have paid it. Then they have excise, individual state taxes, octroi tax, entry tax, professional tax, luxury tax, entertainment tax, sleeping peacefully at night tax, Bengali sweets tax, South Indian dosa and idli tax, North Indian chhole bhatoore tax, West Indian poha and shri khand tax, did-not-tell-your-wife-and-came-to-Pondicherry tax, Clean India tax, farmers’ mental happiness tax, road accident tax, child-not-doing-too-well-at-school tax, mother-in-law irritant tax, enduring the politicians tax, having-to-watch-inane-movies tax, waiting for delivery of public services tax, and many more in the same genre.”

“Ah, life could be surely simpler!”

“But the good point here is that the common citizen can never afford to be lazy or complacent. The Indian tax system has always been designed to keep the common citizen on his toes. Agile. Confused. Uncertain. Feeling illiterate. There has always been an element of surprise. He opens a letter and finds that he has a tax due. And he starts asking himself, ‘What tax is this? I was not aware a tax like this existed. Do I need to pay it? Is there no way to avoid paying it?’ And off he goes to seek some solace from his tax consultant who is happy to demystify the affair and get another excuse to raise a bill on the hapless wannabe tax-evader.”

“You appear to be quite impressed with the Indian taxation system!”

“Yes, Comrade! They have an excellent system which matches their age-old spiritual values. Anythingemblem_of_india-svg that makes you feel small, negligible and illiterate is bound to flatten your ego in no time. You could even be a director of our bank. But when you get a tax notice which you do not understand, you feel all of a twitter. You take a more benevolent view of humanity in general. Even your driver and your lift operator seem like angels in distress, facing similar challenges in life. You realize that there is no escaping the taxation system. It is as immortal as a soul is said to be.”

“But what makes you think the GST is likely to be simpler, when it comes to the fine print? I was told that it would need even the humble barber to file as many as forty odd returns to the government every quarter?”

Psmith slid out of his chair with a disgruntled sigh, and dusted his dressing gown. “Perhaps there is something in what you say. I propose that we call the new system as the Great Spiritual Tax instead. It would make all businesses across all the states and territories of India equally worried. They might even turn to spirituality and seek divine intervention to set their house in order. It would not be wrong to surmise that a commercial crisis has indeed arisen. A period of great anxiety has begun, especially so for small businesses.”

Mike looked up with some surprise.

“Let me explain,” said Psmith, raising his hands. “Once the new system takes over, all businesses would be required to register. Whether for manufacturers, distributors or retailers, it would be virtually impossible to escape the tax net. The luxury of doing business based on fake bills would no longer be theirs. In fact, past transactions could also come in for greater scrutiny. Besides, the Income Tax sleuths would be easily able to figure out the real income levels of businessmen of all hues, sizes and shapes. The entire business eco-system would totter.”

“Are you trying to say that the size of the Indian parallel economy would shrink?”

“Quite possible, Comrade Jackson. Your keen intelligence reaffirms my faith in your unique abilities. However, I doubt if this could be good news for the country.”

“How do you say this?”

“If you would delve deep into your memory cells, you would recall the 2008 financial crisis which engulfed the world. Do you think the Indian economy suffered as much as our so-called advanced economies then?”

“I do not think so. The Indian economy showed greater resilience then.”

“If so, allow me to point out that one of the major factors discovered and held to have helped India then was the existence of an underground economy.”

“Indeed?!”

“I do believe so, though I confess I am not an expert at such matters. Take the informal economy awayRashtrapati Bahavan and what do you get? A rigid and formal economy which has a much higher dependence on formal debt markets. The risk of overstating debts grows manifold. Next time round, when another Lehman Brothers show up on the horizon, the Indian economy could be found in deeper waters. Having a thriving parallel economy helps.”

“You surely surprise me. You sound like an ardent advocate of the parallel economy!”

“On the contrary, I do not. My point is very simple. Why should we allow only our businesses to suffer when the political parties themselves continue to enjoy the fruits of an underground nature? Why not clean up the Indian political act as well and provide a level playing field to all her citizens? Why should the Indian politicos be spared of a taste of their own medicine that they prescribe for the toiling masses?”

“Whatever, the Indian GST is now already on a roll. The bill has received the assent of the President of India. The only hope you can entertain is that of the implementation getting goofed up and the process getting delayed somehow. My understanding is that if the steps of setting up a GST Council, an agreement on a basic tax rate and the detailed procedures take longer than a year, the implementation deadline might as well get shifted to April 2018. If that happens, the government itself may keep it on the back burner for some time.”

“Oh, you allude to the risk of embracing unpredictable consequences of adopting a new taxation system in the run-up to the 2019 parliamentary elections!”

“Yes. In fact, yet another challenge before them might be that of the absence of internet connectivity all over the country. Even if the GST Network gets perfected, how would they ensure that a dealer in, say, Sikkim, can secure a registration in Kerala? It is good to hear of a seamless market, but a smooth roll-out would need a strong internet backbone all across.”

“Well, sure enough, their best men would be working out the finer details and smoothening the road to implementation. The stakes are high indeed. The reputation of the present government rides on how it handles a challenge of this nature. But what you are missing on, Comrade Jackson, is the key factor of human ingenuity. When it comes to paying any taxes, it knows no bounds.”

“But I am not quite sure if there could be an easy escape route for any business, as you yourself had rightly pointed out just now.”

“But we underestimate the propensity of human beings to go to any lengths to avoid paying any taxes. Innovation is the name of the game in this case. Sure enough, the Indian tax experts would now bemap-of-india burning the proverbial mid-night oil, getting ready to advise their anxious clients about some new creative practices they could adopt under the new tax regime. Given the level of primal hate harboured by all businesses towards the act of paying any kind of taxes, advisors in the business of tax avoidance would be twiddling their thumbs, endeavouring to figure out ingenious methods of beating the new system at its own game.”

Mike smiled.

“As always, you have hit the nail on its head. But this is a universal fact which governments all over the world have to cope with. Is there any other thing you are not too comfortable about?”

“Yes, though I do not know how your intuitive faculties are so very advanced as to guess this. I do not quite see eye to eye on the strategy of dumping more and more indirect taxes on the hapless citizenry, while not working aggressively to expand the direct taxes base.”

“I really do admire your depth of thinking on the subject. Do you refer to recent reports that merely one percent of the people pay income tax in India?”

“Indeed. What an irony!”

“Perhaps, you imply that politicians of all hues lack the courage to take some unpopular steps. Rather than chasing more people to pay income tax, they prefer to use the indirect taxes route which is relatively invisible?”

“Yes. Perhaps they follow the advice of their sage Chanakya who famously said that taxes should be collected by inflicting the least possible pain on the citizens, much like a bee would collect nectar from a flower in bloom!”

“And what do you think our own bank would have to undergo?,” Mike asked.

“Serious matter. Under the new dispensation, we shall need to register in all the states and unionpsmith-1909 territories. Perhaps, even in districts, where we have branches. This is going to be a compliance nightmare. I hear some talk of all the banks lobbying for a facility to register with a centralized agency which would pool, reconcile, analyze and audit our transactions. If so, this agency could distribute the revenue earned through us to different states where the transaction has occurred.”

Mike rose from his chair and stretched his arms. His gaze drifted off to a couple of fishing boats bouncing up and down on the bluish-green waters of the Arabian Sea.

“These are deep waters, indeed. I wonder why we are discussing such matters on a lazy Sunday morning? I rather think I’ll nip down to Haji Ali and take some fresh air into my lungs,” said he. “You couldn’t come too, I suppose?”

“On the contrary,’ said Psmith, ‘I could, and will. A stroll will just restore those tissues which the gruelling discussion of the last half-hour has wasted away. It is a fearful strain, this taxation toil. Let us trickle towards the place mentioned by you. Comrade Jackson, lead me to this picturesque dargah of yours of which I have heard so much.”

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After the 2008 economic meltdown, the management world has discovered that CEOs need to follow not only a Business Compass but also a Moral Compass to steer the enterprises they happen to head. Improving one’s Spiritual Quotient is now a sheer business necessity, and shall be more so in the decades to come.

It is here that Indian scriptures and sages provide a ready template for managers of all sizes and shapes. Let us consider a few facets of some of the pearls of Indian wisdom which find ready application in the realm of management.

Some pearls of Indian wisdom 

Ramayana

  • The entire narrative highlights the importance of values in our lives.Ramayana 1 Businesses which follow a policy of righteousness and conduct their operations in an ethical manner enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market. This rubs off on their products as well as on their employees.
  • Lord Rama decides to leave his comfort zone for fourteen years and ends up connecting with lesser mortals better. Likewise, CEOs and marketing honchos of today who travel through the hinterland to get a better first-hand feel of the customer’s pulse do a far better job of servicing the market.
  • An alliance with Sugreeva, coupled with an out-of-the-box unconventional army, eventually leads to Sita getting traced and Ravana getting vanquished. Mergers and alliances based on mutual respect and trust leads to better market share. Mighty objectives can be achieved even based on frugal resources.
  • Beware of sycophants. A couplet in Sundara Kanda of Ramcharitmanasa clearly advises us to ignore the advice of a paid deputy, a doctor and a teacher who speak positively out of either fear or expectation of a gain. A king who acts upon such motivated advice loses his kingdom, his body and his righteousness (dharma) as well.
  • When Sita gets banished from the kingdom, Rama’s role is not much different from that of a true-blue CEO whose loyalty to the company’s overall welfare is unflinching.
  • CEOs and managers who entertain amorous intentions in respect of women team members and managements which look the other way just because they accord a higher priority to business goals than to the character of their top honchos could take a leaf out of Rama’s conduct.

Mahabharata

  • The attachment of Dhritarashtra, the blind king, to his evil son, Mahabharat Draupadi_and_PandavasDuryodhana, proves to be highly destructive in nature. The entire Kuru clan gets eliminated. CEOs who promote their kith and kin without assessing the overall welfare of an organization get doomed likewise. Same holds true for many a political outfit.
  • Arjuna’s skills in archery are well-known. He achieves mighty feats based on his power of intense concentration on the job at hand. Multi-tasking, a misleading buzzword in current business parlance, has no place in his dictionary.
  • The perseverance of Pandavas eventually pays off. Repeated setbacks do not deter them from seeking their share in the kingdom. War follows only when even a settlement with five villages only gets turned down by Duryodhana. The tenacity of bouncing back in the face of adversity that Pandavas display is worth emulating by MNCs which try to penetrate the Indian market.
  • The unity of purpose amongst the five Pandava brothers is exemplary. Theirs is a unified and invincible family which goes through its trials and tribulations as a single unit. Likewise, large conglomerates like Tatas draw their strength from a set of core values. Each company within the group’s fold has a unique place in the market. The companies operate in fields as disparate as salt and software. Yet, all of them are connected by a common value system and a similar business philosophy.
  • The manner in which Krishna persuades a demoralized Arjuna to take up his arms by enunciating the basic principles of life in the Bhagavad-Gita is exemplary.

Bhagavad-Gita

  • One of the basic concepts enunciated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Krishna_Arjuna_GitaGita is that of the everlasting nature of the soul. The concept of a soul now finds a resonance even in modern management literature. In ‘The 8th Habit’, Stephen Covey urges professionals to pay heed to their ‘inner voice’. While proposing the whole person paradigm, he speaks of the four dimensions of a person – spirit, body, heart and mind.
  • Over its eighteen chapters, Krishna propounds the intricacies of different forms of Yoga, a philosophical system which treats all life as a management enterprise. It exhorts managers to be impartial, not favouring any one goal, any one mode any one or group of persons.
  • A manager’s goal is the total overall good, in keeping with environmental necessities and societal requirements.
  • He is not swayed by happiness or sorrow, ego or nepotism, greed or desire.
  • He is not swayed by external temptations of tangible, material success and thus attains a state of happiness, peace and contentment. He radiates positivity and his decisions bring happiness sooner or later to maximum number of people.
  • In other words, detachment is the key takeaway from Bhagavad-Gita. Detachment from the rewards of any work or action taken results into a neutral state of mind.

Thirukkural

This is a classic Tamil ‘sangam’ (3rd century BC to 4th century AD) literature

Thiruvalluvar

Thiruvalluvar

composition. It has 1,330 couplets or ‘kurals’. It was authored by the renowned poet Thiruvalluvar. It is replete with words of wisdom. It is simple and contains profound messages.

Thirukkural has 133 chapters, each containing 10 couplets. Broadly speaking, all the 133 chapters can be divided into three sections: Righteousness, Wealth and Love. Even though the contents are meant for kings of yore, many of the messages are equally relevant for CEOs of business world.

Consider these ‘kurals’:

  • It is not good to forget the benefit received; but it is good to forget then and there the injury done by another. (108)
  • Those who alienate friends by back-biting may have forgotten the art of making friends through suavity of speech. (187)
  • Entering an assembly without sufficient knowledge is like playing at a dice board without its knowledge. (401)
  • Men of foresight who guard themselves against coming events know no distress. (429)
  • A king must act after measuring the strength of his plan, his own resources, the strength of the enemy and that of the ally. (471)
  • Let men be chosen with deliberate care; when once the choice is made, let no suspicions crawl into your soul. (509)
  • Strict enquiry and impartial justice mark the rule of a just monarch. (541)
  • The greatness of a person is proportionate to the strength of his will power. (595)
  • What you have clearly decided to do, do it without hesitation and delay. (668)
  • An unfinished deed and an unfinished fight will, like a half-extinguished fire, cause ultimate harm. (674)

Each ‘kural’ is complete in itself. It deserves to be meditated upon, one at a time, and imbibed in our day-to-day lives. One wonders at the keen observations of the poet, his sagacity and the effort he has taken to collate and compile this beautiful work, replete with words of wisdom which continue to be as relevant today as they were in the days of yore.

Chanakya Neeti 

Chanakya is a well-known Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and chanakyaroyal advisor. He is said to have lived from 350-275 BCE. He authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthshastra. He is considered a pioneer in the field of political science.  He assisted the first Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta, in his rise to power. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Mauryan Empire.

One of his seminal works happens to be Chanakya Neeti, or Chanakya’s Aphorisms. It is a treasure trove of wisdom and speaks of the criteria to be used to judge people, the need for keeping one’s intentions confidential, the value of continued learning, situations wherein it pays to be a hypocrite, the supremacy of one’s duty, and the like.

He draws an interesting analogy between the animal kingdom and those who waste their time criticizing others. He holds such persons to be worse than the crows amongst birds and dogs amongst animals.

Sri Aurobindo

Profound thoughts of one of the prominent Indian seers of modern times, Sri Aurobindo, could be interpreted to propose a different paradigm of management. Sri_aurobindo

Whereas the Western model of management thought is based on such functions as Marketing, Finance, Production and People, the Eastern model, so to say, could be said to comprise four pillars of management: Perfection, Harmony, Power and Wisdom. Collectively, this paradigm could be called Integral Management.

Analyze the conduct of any business leader and one is apt to find the underlying presence of all these elements. It does not matter whether a manager handles marketing, finance, production or human resources.

  • It is by striving for perfection that one achieves excellence in results. Being perfect implies putting our best foot forward and doing our best under the given circumstances. It is the striving for perfection which assumes significance.

When Apple launches a new product, the whole market is abuzz. The toil and hard work which goes into creating and launching a new product is exemplary indeed.

  • A harmonious conduct with respect to all key stakeholders is essential for sustained success in business. Relations with financial institutions, regulatory authorities, customers, distributors, suppliers, staff and labour need to be based on a harmonious blend of business needs and the principles of natural justice.

The manner in which the Taj Hotel management responded after the 26/11 terror attack is a shining example of harmonious conduct of business.

  • Use of power with a sense of responsibility, that too for the greater good, leads to higher brand equity for a business. Marketing prowess can influence customers’ decision making, and has to be directed at their needs and not wants. Financial strength can also be leveraged to do something useful for the society. Administrative authority comes with a great deal of responsibility.

The case of Dr Pachauri being shown the door by TERI in a sexual harassment case is just one of the several examples of how the high and mighty should not exercise the power at their command.

  • Wisdom in decision-making leads to a sustainable business, which gives back to the society and the environment what it draws from the same.

In September 1898, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata decided to set aside half of his wealth as an endowment to establish a university of science. His donation was worth Rs. 30 lacs in those days. The other half he left for his two sons. The Indian Institute of Science eventually came up in 1911, paving the way for quality research and teaching in India.

This is the kind of unique learning which an aspiring manager receives in her formative years in the Eastern world.

Managers with a Western Mind and an Eastern Heart

Successful CEOs and managers of the future would need to be those who have a Western Mind and an Eastern Heart.

The success of the likes of Satya Nadella (currently the CEO of Microsoft) and Sundar Pichai (currently the CEO of Google Inc) goes on to show the growing importance of managers who are not only exposed to the Western models of management but also steeped in Eastern wisdom in the realm of management.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/management-lessons-from-ramayana

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/management-lessons-from-mahabharata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/management-lessons-from-thirukkural

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/managerial-perfection-notes-from-a-seminar-at-pondicherry-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/harmony-in-management-a-seminar-at-pondicherry-india)

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Quite a few of the managers I run into are frustrated because they could never make it to the top slot. The corner office with plush seating and an exclusive wash room has somehow always managed to elude them. I admit that the power and pelf a Number One slot bestows upon a manager is alluring as well as intoxicating. But I believe that being a Number Two is also not too bad a proposition; in fact, it could be more rewarding, instructive and exciting!PROMOTIONS

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating a drive against perfection or excellence in whatever you do. I am only trying to say that there is divine contentment in being a Number Two as well – relish it!

The Perils of Being a Number One

Being a Number One is rewarding as well as challenging. Take it from someone like me who has been at the top of a pyramid several times in his career. There are obvious drawbacks to reaching the top, and let me sum these up.

  1. When one does get to occupy the corner office, one gets no one to talk to freely. One may be lucky to have a few unsuspecting souls whom he can use as a sounding board for his ideas. But there is no denying that such team members who listen to the top boss respectfully could very well be those who believe in merely being ‘Yes Men’.
  2. Even if one gets a nay-sayer, there is no guarantee that he does not suffer from a tendency towards premature ejaculation, spilling the beans to a group of his own confidantes, thereby nipping all well thought out plans in the bud. In other words, one may be commanding fake respect, but not necessarily genuine loyalty.
  3. The sheer pressure of being a part of the rat race is rather high. Ensuring that one remains unchallenged in one’s top position brings along a level of stress that many may not be able to handle for long. If they do so, it could be at the cost of either health or quality time with their near and dear ones.
  4. One has to constantly watch over oneself to ensure that the ego does not balloon into something unmanageable. If humility does not come to one naturally, the stress builds up faster.

Being Number One does not necessarily imply that one is happy and satisfied. If so, one may be making good money but not having fun. Could it be really worth it?

The Perks of Being a Number Two

You Are Responsible, Not Accountable

The boss decides the overall paradigm and the goal to be achieved. Like the captain of a ship who has a better and wider perspective on things, he decides the course to be taken. Your own task becomes simpler to that extent. Sure enough, you add value by providing operational feedback which could alter the course quite effectively. In other words, you may be responsible, but it is he who is accountable!

Extra Time on Your Hands

The poor guy also takes the rap for all the failures. So, that leaves you with enough time to catch up with other pleasures at the work place – like, hob-nobbing with the HR guys to keep an ear to the ground, sweetening up the Accounting devils to ensure that all your claims get settled fast, chatting up with the legal eagles to ensure that your operations are free of any blemishes, and to network with other departmental heads so as to derive synergistic benefits for your own area of work.

Managing Insecurity of Your Boss

You know how insecure some of the top bosses are. Of course, this is internal to them and is never meant to be displayed publically. At times, you might have felt that your salary is getting paid only to ensure that his mental balance is always under control – a unique privilege, to say the least. Many a times, a boss gets so worked up about an insignificant issue that you need to intervene without delay – either taking the responsibility of resolving the problem yourself, or by simply diverting his mind to another pressing problem.

Some Role Models

Being a King Maker (and not a King) has its unique advantages. When you offer yourself as a sounding board, you can give sane advice as and when asked for. In our scriptures, you might have admired the sage counsel of people like Vidura (of Mahabharat fame) and Chanakya (advisor to Chandra Gupta Maurya).

In literature, if you have been introduced to the chronicles of Bertie Wooster, you would have admired the feudal spirit of Jeeves who invariably comes to the aid of the young master in his hour of peril.

These people could perhaps be the role model for those of us who are relegated to a Number Two slot in our careers.

Continue Honing Your Technical Skills

There are professions in which an elevation means getting away from honing one’s technical expertise further and instead getting bogged down with administrative hassles. Ask a doctor who has become a Medical Superintendent or a teacher who has risen to the level of a Principal; in all likelihood, they would readily attest to having experienced this syndrome.

You Always Try Harder

The best advantage you drive from being a Number Two is that of immense learning and untiring efforts towards improving your own performance. You cannot afford the luxury of being complacent. You always try to work better, because somewhere deep within you, you cannot get rid of the desire to attain the top slot some day!

I believe this logic applies to companies as well. Decades back, Nirma gave sleepless nights to HUL. Samsung is now beating Nokia at its own game. There are several David-Goliath type cases in the industry which justify this belief.

Being Number Two means that you always have a high testosterone level in your blood stream, thereby making you more aggressive and a highly focussed achiever.  The fire in the belly remains unabated.

The Flip Side

On the flip side, by being Number Two, you run the risk of becoming a scape goat at times. Too long a sojourn in this slot could either mean that the company has stopped growing, or that you have overstayed your welcome. If so, seeking greener pastures could be a solution.

A Disclaimer!

My arguments in favour of being a Number Two might have made you jump to a conclusion that I am a lazy bum, devoid of burning ambition and a fire in the belly! Or, I am a manager who believes only in abdication and not in delegation. Or, even worse, that I am rudderless drifter!

With all emphasis at my command, I deny all such insinuations! Rather, allow me to urge upon you not to lose sleep if you have just missed that coveted elevation to a Number One slot recently!

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