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Posts Tagged ‘Failure’

ashokbhatia

Just like ‘Ramayana’, the epic of ‘Mahabharata’ also has many management lessons for the present day business leaders and managers. Greed, jealousy, quest for power, trying to achieve goals irrespective of the fairness of the means deployed – all these contradictions in life are very poignantly brought out.

Here are some lessons which could be drawn from the epic.

  • Merit over Birth

When it comes to announcing a successor to his vast kingdom, King Bharata does not choose any of his own sons. Instead, he namesMahabharat King Bharat Bhumanyu whom he considers more capable to manage the affairs of his kingdom. In a dynastic rule, seeds of democracy are thus sown.

In India Inc’s power rankings, professional CEOs are on the rise. Three of the top ten in the 2013 edition of ‘India Inc’s Most Powerful CEOs’ are professionals. Five years back, K V Kamath was the only professional in the top…

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ashokbhatia

When it comes to writing, we are not too bad. Words help us to keep ourselves connected with the Blogging illustrationworld around us. Our inner joys, sorrows, trials, triumphs take the shape of blogs which we keep posting at regular intervals. We can’t help ourselves but write. In other words, we are a bunch of declared Blogaholics. We have no intentions of getting rid of this addiction. And we do not wish to remain anonymous!

Writing is like an internal cleaning process for us. Some of us use it to unburden the soul; some others for spreading cheer. Some of us are here to promote our books, whether present, upcoming or still in the realm of our pious intentions. Some of us are here to make money. Quite a few of us are here simply to educate, entertain and amuse.

We have good days and we have bad days. Often, we…

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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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Success often makes us complacent. On the other hand, failures help us in our relentless pursuit of excellence.OVERSTAYING ONE’S WELCOME

My own experience tells me that it helps to befriend and manage our failures. Each failure makes us discover a latent strength of ours. Each one has the potential to open up fresh vistas in our lives.

Yes, it also helps to take a step back to evaluate our successes, so the critical factors behind those could be understood better.

Befriending Failures

There is no cut-and-dried formula for managing failures. However, I do believe that a renewed focus on the following factors can help us in getting more out of our failures.

Giving up Self-pity

It does not get us anywhere. It only ties us down to a past which can’t be rewound and rerun. Negative things do happen. It does not mean that all others are as happy as they appear to be. Let us look up ourselves in the mirror of our soul. The nastiest comment made to us could have a grain of truth which could be a great lesson for us to get out of the emotional wilderness.

Doing a Root Cause Analysis

What makes us bite the dust? Over-confidence or lack of confidence? Wrong tactics? Faulty implementation? Taking someone’s effort for granted? Let us resist the temptation to blame others for our failures. Let us look inwards. Let us introspect. What did we do wrong? Friends and well-wishers can help us to figure this out. Going forward, the trick is in ensuring we do not make the same mistakes again.

Understanding Core Values

What are our core values? Despite adversity, can we stick to them? This is not to say that we should lack flexibility. At the same time, it is crucial to remain connected to our inner core, around which our universe can be rebuilt with ease.

DisciplineBoss - Meet Him Halfway Through

Did we fail because we slipped on any of our parameters of discipline? Did we believe someone and acted on misleading information without cross-checking what the ground realities were? How can we avoid jumping to conclusions and acting on impulses? Do we plan to spend some quiet time with ourselves and etch out a plan in detail before rolling it on for implementation?

Punctuality

This might sound too simplistic, but believe me, it is not. Respect for others’ time is a virtue effective managers invariably have. Taking our own commitments seriously is a quality that all successful people have. Delivering results in a time-bound manner is one of the single most important factors determining our success in life.

Physical Fitness

Mind rules over body. But if the body were to revolt, what are we left with? Abusing and neglecting our bodies lands us in a crisis situation sooner or later. We suffer. Our near and dear ones suffer. Let us take care of ourselves better, so the body will support us through the vicissitudes of life.

KnowledgeJOB LABELS and Skills

In our desire for advancements in career, we often take on assignments for which we do not really have the domain knowledge. This is a good way – to challenge ourselves and to enrich our knowledge bank. Learning the basics from a subject expert never hurt anyone. Subduing our ego while seeking support from others helps.

Humanity and Common Sense

Being humane in our approach minimizes our chances of failure. Are there others who care for us so much that they will alert us of the pitfalls on the way to our achieving a major goal? There is pretty little we can do all by ourselves. Delegation helps. So does networking with those who have a more pragmatic approach than we do.

Habits Leading to Failure

Generally speaking, the following habits could prove to be a recipe for disaster.
• Concern about job and not career
• Earning but not learning
• Focus on Branding ourselves and not on our work content
• Higher concern about what others are doing

Evaluating our Successes

The following factors help us in evaluating and then replicating our successes better:PROMOTIONS
• Understanding our own words and beliefs;
• Smallest of actions is much greater than the largest of intentions;
• ‘Now’ is the only time available;
• Never tell a lie; it does not help in the long run;
• Don’t be too eager to make a promise; if made, never break it!

Some Basic Truths

Some basic truths of life that we need to realize and imbibe:
That human worth has nothing to do with status;
Power must always be balanced by humility and a willingness to listen and learn;
Arrogance is never justifiable;
Privilege always entails responsibility.

It is said that ‘Success is a bastard and Failure is an orphan’. Let us try checking the DNA of our successes, so we have a better chance of replicating those in future. As to failures, let us try and adopt the hapless orphans we run into in our careers and lives!

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When it comes to writing, we are not too bad. Words help us to keep ourselves connected with the Blogging illustrationworld around us. Our inner joys, sorrows, trials, triumphs take the shape of blogs which we keep posting at regular intervals. We can’t help ourselves but write. In other words, we are a bunch of declared Blogaholics. We have no intentions of getting rid of this addiction. And we do not wish to remain anonymous!

Writing is like an internal cleaning process for us. Some of us use it to unburden the soul; some others for spreading cheer. Some of us are here to promote our books, whether present, upcoming or still in the realm of our pious intentions. Some of us are here to make money. Quite a few of us are here simply to educate, entertain and amuse.

We have good days and we have bad days. Often, we are disappointed. A post which we thought was very clever and had the potential to go viral sinks without a trace. Once in a while, a surfer comes across our island of thoughts in the Blogging Ocean and finds it of immense interest. We find a sudden spurt in our views. We gain a follower.

We crave publicity. We crave recognition. We find it hard to come by. We twiddle our thumbs wondering what we are doing wrong. We dread becoming a member of the Blogaholics Anonymous, drifting along aimlessly in a global ocean of ideas, words and sentences, with no shimmering sand of popular recognition in sight.

What can we do to avoid becoming a member of the Blogaholics Anonymous? With all humility at my command, allow me to share with you what I have learnt so far.

Not Ignoring Statistics

It helps to keep an eye on our blog statistics. Which topics have we written about that are the most popular? Can we be more vocal on these topics? Can we bring in our personal experience in these areas which could be shared in further detail?

Is there a pattern we notice, related to, say, the day of our having hit the ‘publish’ button? Does it help to increase the frequency of our posts? May be, making them shorter and crisper instead of long winding ones? How can we leverage this insight to make our blog site scale greater heights in the days to come?

WordPress has an excellent feedback mechanism. Perhaps some of us can use it better.

Keeping an Ear to the Ground

What are our followers saying? What are they writing about? Reading up others’ blogs, related articles and books helps us to narrow the bandwidth of our outpourings.

Blabbering about whatever appears on the mental horizon without adequate back up research often does us in. It is all about interactions with live people with similar hopes and aspirations. If we respect them by reacting to their ideas, they would return the favour.

Being a Long Term Gymnast

Why are we into blogging? Do we have a long term goal? If so, do we have a plan to work upon? This is quite relevant for those who are here with either a promotional or a commercial goal.

If we are here to have fun, we can afford the luxury of going with the flow. Our blog site then sounds and smells like a fresh bouquet. Yes, if there are roses tucked in there of a primary area of our expertise, the aroma is even more invigorating. Our followers broadly know what to expect from us, but could get pleasant surprises once in a while!

Thinking of giving up the blogging sprint midway? No way! One, our self-respect will take a blow. Our absence will never get noticed by others. Only our continued presence will make us a long term gymnast.

Avoiding Carbon Emissions

We have the democratic right to rant. But before making that a habit, we need to think. Could our carbon emissions be someone else’s oxygen? They may empathize and they may relate to it for some time. But they could soon melt away.

Some of us do go a step further and touch upon a sensitive subject. By deliberately courting controversy, we may gain higher circulation for some time. Whether it would last in the long run would depend on three things – the inherent merit in the argument, our own conviction in the matter and our ability to keep our followers’ interest alive and ticking.

Quality over Quantity

Do we prefer to have a multitude of faceless followers? Or, would we be happy instead to have a few regular ones who would be like a well-knit group of friends traveling along with us? This is an individual choice that we make.

Our followers would typically fall in three brackets – casual, serious and passionate. Casual ones would not mind hearing from us three times in a day. Serious ones would be looking for a deeper meaning in our posts. The passionate ones would themselves be subject experts – they would expect range as well as depth in our posts. Just like in life, we can’t please them all.

In any case, all of them are here either to learn something new, or to relish a chuckle or two, or to get entertained. If we work on providing a fresh perspective to the subject we excel in, or keep touching on areas which concern them, their tribe would only multiply.

Structure, Title and Publicizing

I guess we are smart enough and have already figured this out. But I believe what is worth communicating is surely worth over-communicating!

Three Cs

If I were to sum up in three simple words the traits a blogger must have, I would say: Commitment, Curiosity and Content. 

This does not claim to be an exhaustive list of what can be done. In order to make our blogging voyage more pleasurable, you may like to add few more points which I might have overlooked.

Happy blogging!

(Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/the-confessions-of-an-armchair-blogger)

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Just like ‘Ramayana’, the epic of ‘Mahabharata’ also has many management lessons for the present day business leaders and managers. Greed, jealousy, quest for power, trying to achieve goals irrespective of the fairness of the means deployed – all these contradictions in life are very poignantly brought out.

Here are some lessons which could be drawn from the epic.

  • Merit over Birth

When it comes to announcing a successor to his vast kingdom, King Bharata does not choose any of his own sons. Instead, he namesMahabharat King Bharat Bhumanyu whom he considers more capable to manage the affairs of his kingdom. In a dynastic rule, seeds of democracy are thus sown.

In India Inc’s power rankings, professional CEOs are on the rise. Three of the top ten in the 2013 edition of ‘India Inc’s Most Powerful CEOs’ are professionals. Five years back, K V Kamath was the only professional in the top ten.

In a reversal of an openly declared of Infosys, Chairman N R Narayana Murthy recently stirred a hornet’s nest by insisting on bringing his own son as a team member. Only time will tell if the decision pays of; as of now, seniors in the company are a bit shaken up with the move.

  • Commitment

For his father Shantanu’s happiness, Bhishma swears never to marry. Throughout his life, he remains committed to the kingdom of Hastinapur. Despite his difference of opinion with Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana, and despite his obvious fondness for the Pandavas, he leads a vast army against the latter. However, his conduct is very transparent; he openly tells Duryodhana that though he is fighting for Kauravas, he shall not harm any of the Pandavas.

On the flip side, Bhishma also sets the example of a senior professional who overstays his welcome!

Many organizations have deeply committed silent performers who stick by it irrespective of the business ups and downs being faced. Business houses which follow a healthy set of values do end up attracting more such professionals whose value systems match with their own. In times of crisis, such people tend to be pillars of strength for the company. However, there could be situations when they need to be taken on board merely as advisors and not as executors, so younger blood in the organization also gets a chance to prove its mettle.

  • Failures are Stepping Stones

Bhishma abducts three sisters – Amba, Ambika and Ambalika – to get them married to Vichitravirya. However, Amba claims she is already in love with Salya and cannot accept anyone else as her life partner. Eventually, she is rejected by both Bhishma and her own ex-lover Salya. She takes this failure as a challenge and ends up being born as a person of mixed gender –Shikhandi – in King Drupad’s family. Eventually, he/she becomes the cause of Bhishma’s death in the battlefield.

Those who take their failures as a challenge have the capacity to introspect. They identify their weaknesses and take steps to excel in areas in which their arch rival is strong. Ultimately, victory is theirs.

  • Promises are like Babies!

Just like babies, promises are easy to make but difficult to keep. When they are studying together, Drupad, a prince, and Mahabhata KurukshetraDronacharya, a commoner, become good friends. Drupad light-heartedly tells Dronachrya that once he grows up to become a king, he would be happy to share half of his kingdom with Dronacharya. However, once they grow up, Drupad reneges on his statement and even mocks Dronacharya in his court. The result is life-long bitter rivalry between the two which spills onto the battle field, with Dronachrya on the Kaurava’s side and Drupad on the Pandava’s side.

CEOs who promise a promotion merely to achieve short-term results often find that the promotee eventually reaches his level of incompetence at lightning speed, embarrassing all concerned. Smart HR honchos never make promises which they know cannot be kept. Same goes for marketing wizards who fear a severe backlash from customers should the product not live up to the latter’s expectations.

  • Destructive Attachment

Contrast the behavior of King Bharata to that of Dhritarashtra. He has an obsessive attachment to his evil son. He permits the Pandavas to proceed to Varnavat where, by his son’s evil designs, they are persuaded to stay at a house constructed of inflammable materials. He allows a deceptive game of dice, making the Pandavas lose their part of the kingdom. In his presence, Draupadi, his daughter-in-law, is insulted in his royal court. Bhishma, Vidur, Krishna and several others attempt to persuade him to rein in the unbridled ambition of his son Duryodhana, but to no avail. The result is a terrible war leading to devastation of the kingdom.

CEOs who promote their sycophants without assessing the overall welfare of an organization get doomed likewise.

  • Concentration

Multi-tasking is a buzzword in professional circles. But Arjuna displays a kind of concentration which involves a complete focus on Mahabharat Swayamvara_Draupadi_Arjuna_Archerythe task at hand. In the process, he evolves into an excellent archer of his times. Whether it is the bird whose eyes alone he is able to see before shooting his arrow, or the rotating fish whose eye he has to pierce based on the image cast in the water urn placed below in the court of King Drupada, he excels in accomplishing the task at hand.

Managers who look satisfied with their day’s work would invariably share the same secret with you – of having done something satisfactorily that day! Aiming for perfection, they are at least able to excel in the tasks at hand. And focusing on one thing at a time surely helps!

  • Perseverance

Notice the kind of setbacks Pandavas get to suffer in their lives. They survive the insidious designs of their Kaurava cousins at Varanavat. After losing their kingdom and wealth to Kauaravas in an unfair game of dice, they undergo an exile for twelve years in forests. This is followed by a year of remaining incognito, which they do so in King Virata’s palace. When a peace proposal gets discussed with Kauravas, Yudhishthira offers to settle the dispute between the brothers by being content with ownership of five villages only. Even this gets turned down by Duryodhana.

The tenacity of bouncing back in the face of adversity that Pandavas display is worth emulating. Many MNCs are put off by the way the Indian market is skewed – with a miniscule share of the well-heeled who have global exposure and a vast majority of common people who aspire for reliable products and services at highly discounted prices. GE and Nestle have learnt their lessons. McDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Café Coffee Day in the fast food business have also sharpened their teeth by offering mouth-watering menus in the range of INR 44-119!

  • United We Stand

The mother of Pandavas, Kunti, delivers a master stroke by getting Draupadi to accept all the five brothers as her husbands. The result is a whole unified family which goes through its trials and tribulations as a single unit. Each of the brothers has a USP – if Yudhishthira is the epitome of virtue upholding ‘dhrama’ (righteousness) at all costs, Bhima and Arjuna are great warriors who have to be kept on a tight leash, impatient as they are in extracting revenge from Kauravas. Nakula and Sahdeva have their own unique qualities. Together, the five brothers form a multi-skilled and invincible team.

Large conglomerates like Tatas often sound similar in their overall configuration. Each company within the group’s fold has a unique place in the market. Each is headed by a stalwart who is a subject specialist in the field. 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.

  • Draupadi Syndrome

Juggling between five husbands is no mean task and Draupadi appears to handle it rather well.

In what are euphemistically known as “matrix” organizations these days, reporting to several bosses at the same time could be a Mahabharat Draupadi_and_Pandavaschallenging experience. One has to learn to balance each boss’ expectations against those of others. Much depends on their relative seniority or clout in the company, based on which one could handle the situation. Of course, it does not pay to pitch one of the bosses against the other, whether directly or indirectly!

  • Excellence in Governance

When Indrapastha is built, Pandavas rule in a fair and just manner. They do not stray from the path of righteousness, thereby winning the love and affection of their subjects. They rule for thirty-six years before falling prey to an unfair game of dice.

Excellence in governance is a vital condition for a business leader to command respect amongst his team members. Taking good care of people is an important part of governance. The HR initiatives taken by the Tata group after The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was targeted in a terrorist attack on November 26, 2008 in Mumbai, go on to show how well the company cares for its employees.  

  • Being Impartial

In the Yaksha episode, Yudhishthira is asked as to which of his four brothers he would wish to be brought back to life. He chooses Nakula. When queried, he justifies his choice by explaining that of the five of them, three (himself, Bhima and Arjuna) were born to Kunti and two (Nakula and Sahdeva) to his father’s second wife, Madri. Since he is alive, Kunti is only partially bereaved. Likewise, let Madri also be partially bereaved – hence his choice of Nakula. Pleased at this, Yaksha revives all the four remaining brothers.

Being impartial does not come easy to a leader. However, this is indeed the mark of a true statesman.

  • Loyalty to Boss

Karna faces humiliation at the hands of Pandavas for not being born in a royal family. Duryodhana realizes his potential as an ally and immediately comes forward to confer kingship upon him. They become life-long friends. Karna’s loyalty towards Duryodhana is so strong that even after realizing that he is the eldest of the five Pandavas, he chooses to fight against them, for Duryodhana.

Here is an example of unflinching loyalty to a boss!

  • Yin and Yang

India has a great tradition of real men displaying not only their macho side, but also their effeminate and softer side. The great yin yangwarrior Arjuna spends a whole year incognito in King Virata’s palace, disguised as the eunuch Brihannala, teaching music and dance. One of his pupils, Princess Uttara, ends up becoming his daughter-in-law who gives birth to Parikshit who eventually inherits the kingdom when Pandavas decide to retire.

There is increasing realization amongst corporates in contemporary times to encourage females to assume leadership roles. Companies like Diageo, Cadbury, Coca Cola and others are making conscious efforts in that direction.

Bringing a better gender balance at the board level is the current buzzword. Leading businessmen 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.

  • Juniors First

When a decision has to be taken as to who should lead the Pandava army in the war, Yudhishthira first consults Sahadeva, the junior most brother.

This approach has several spin-offs. It instills enthusiasm and self-confidence in the younger managers. If the seniors are consulted first, others may not be able to speak with freedom, and even honest differences of opinion may get construed as disrespect.

  • Strategy and Leadership

In a careful reading of the major turning events in the whole narrative, Krishna emerges as an eminent strategist. He keeps Draupadi’s frustration under check. He knows that Kauravas would never agree to let Pandavas have their share of the kingdom in a peaceful manner. Yet, he himself goes to plead their cause so that peace is given a last chance.

In the battle that ensues, he virtually leads the 7 divisions of Pandavas’ army to a decisive win against the 11 divisions of Kauravs’ Mahabharat Disrobing_of_Draupadiarmy. 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.

One of the basic concepts enunciated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita 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.

Coming back to ‘Mahabharata’, all mighty warriors on the Kauaravas’ side fall with specific inputs from Krishna. In case of Bhishma, Arjuna attacks him standing behind Shikhandi. Dronacharya is misled to believe that his son Ashwatthama has fallen at the behest of Krishna. When Duryodhana appears to be invincible in his mace fight with Bhima, he gestures to the latter to hit the former below the navel, thereby incapacitating him. When Balarama gets upset with Bhima for having broken a cardinal principle in his final fight with Duryodhana, Krishna intervenes to pacify him by reminding him of the several injustices perpetrated by the Kauravas on Pandavas.

Once the war gets over and all his sons have got killed, Dhritarashtra attempts to kill Bhima by crushing him in a close embrace. Krishna is able to read his mind and deftly pushes across a metal statue instead, thereby saving Bhima’s life.

Much like a business leader of modern times, Krishna displays vision, flexibility in approach, resourcefulness and an excellent capacity to command. He is the trouble-shooter par excellence who leads, inspires, guides and motivates.

  • Execution and Followership

If Krishna proves his leadership skills, Pandavas display the skills of being true followers and executors. Yudhishtira, considered an epitome of virtue, agrees to announce the false news of Ashwatthama’s death, thereby leading to Dronacharya getting vanquished. Motivated by him, Arjuna takes up his arms against his grandfather, Bhishma. Bhima listens to Krishna and ends up killing Jarasandha (much earlier in the narrative) and Duryodhana (towards the fag-end of the battle).

Often, seniors in companies lament about the lack of some qualities in their assigned leader. But one needs a sense of humility, Mahabharat Krishna Arjunaconfidence in another’s ability and the motivation to achieve a super-ordinate goal to work as an effective team member. An objective assessment of the situation at hand, unqualified support for the overall goal, registering dissent wherever necessary and balancing the leader’s weaknesses with one’s own strengths are some of the factors which result into better execution of plans.

  • Do Not Take Help for Granted

Nakula and Sahdeva’s uncle, Shalya, decides to offer his big army to Pandavas in the ensuing war. However, on the way to the battle field, Duryodhana extends a very thoughtful and warm hospitality to Shalya’s army. The result is that Shalya becomes obliged to fight his own nephews in the war! Yudhishthira ends up repenting for having taken Shalya’s help for granted without worrying about the needs of the vast army marching on its way with the intention to assist him.

When working on a project, we often take our friends and colleagues for granted. ‘Mahabharata’ exhorts us to first put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, realize his constraints and then only expect to be helped accordingly.

  • Receive Favors with Humility and Alertness

Shalya receives favors from Duryodhana with humility but without alertness. He does not bother to check whose hospitality he and his army are enjoying.

There are days on which a manager may be pleasantly surprised to find himself being unduly praised by seniors. In some cases, this could be a sign of impending doom – of being saddled with an impossible task which others might be loath to pick up! Alertness while accepting praise surely pays.

  • Key to Failure  

As the crown prince of Kauravas, Duryodhana initiates a war which has to be fought under the leadership of commanders who have a soft corner for the Pandavas! With the exception of Karna and his own brothers like Dushasana et al, all his commanders – like Bhishma, Dronacharya and Shalya – are only duty bound to support him. Their real sympathies are with the Pandavas. Thus, he is saddled with an army which is far superior to that of Pandavas in terms of sheer numbers, but sorely lacks in motivation. Duryodhana’s greed, envy and jealousy lead him to his doom.

In the business world, we often come across fool hardy leaders who set their goals so high as to be unrealistic. If a proper assessment of the resources available at their command is not made, failure is bound to follow.

  • Rash Commitments

Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, gets killed unfairly and the main culprit is held to be Jayadratha. Arjuna is livid with rage and declares that he would kill Jayadrath by the following evening or renounce the world. At a crucial moment in the next day’s war, Krishna intervenes to ensure Arjuna’s victory, bringing relief and joy to all.

Faced with a drastic situation, a professional needs to sit back and think for some time before committing himself to a target which could well turn out to be unattainable.  

  • Knowledge vs. Virtue

One of the sub-plots narrates the story of Arvavasu and Paravasu. Both are sons of a great scholar and become great scholars in their own right by acquiring knowledge. But one turns out to be good and the other evil. Moral of the story – knowledge which remains undigested information crammed into the mind cannot instill virtue in a person. Such knowledge merely remains like our clothes, an external factor in our appearance which does not reveal what we are within ourselves.

Post Lehman Brothers, educational institutions have started taking the issue of instilling the right values in their students seriously. A business leader without a strong moral compass and lacking a set of virtuous values and ethics could lead the business to eventual ruin.

  • Seeking Favors sans Competence

In another sub-plot appears the story of Yavakrida, who craves to master the Vedas without having to study them! He is grudgingly granted a boon to this effect, but eventually dies at the hands of a demon after being charmed by a young maiden.

A true blue professional would surely aim to occupy the coveted corner office, but only after he has done his own SWOT analysis.

  • Avoid Arrogance

One of the several sub-plots in ‘Mahabharata’ is that of Nahusha who falls from grace after having occupied the throne of Indra, king of the Gods. His fall comes about because of sheer arrogance and pride.

Power and pelf bring in severe obligations in their wake. Successful CEOs understand this, take extra care to keep their pride in check and tailor their inter-personal relationships accordingly.

‘Mahabharata’ is rich with several other narratives which could be useful to management practitioners. Also, each narrative may be interpreted in several ways, depending upon how one goes about analyzing it.

References:

  1. ‘Mahabharata’ by C Rajagopalachari.
  2. Adi Parva original.
  3. Bhagavat Purana.
  4. Series by K M Munshi.
  5. Series by Ram Kumar Bhramar.

(Related posts:

    1. https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/management-lessons-from-ramayana
    2. https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna)

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