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Posts Tagged ‘Indian Scriptures’

When owners and founders of businesses hire CEOs, they hope for an attitude of quiet and respectful deference towards themselves, sans dissidence of any kind. Often, their attachment to the business surpasses all other considerations. Thus, fissures between the two power centers soon start popping up. If some of the actions of a CEO are leading to a compromise on the basic values of the business, like in the case of Tatas and Cyrus Mistry, or like in the case of Infosys and Vishal Sikka, it is understandable. But if the gaps have arisen due to the manner in which operations are getting handled, it just shows that the owner or founder is not willing to let go.

In family owned businesses, the younger generation is often raring to go. Many a scion keep twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out as to when the elder owner would hang his corporate boots or sandals, so they could have a free hand to nudge the enterprise towards newer markets, adopting the latest technologies sprouting in the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0. But for most of the elderly owners, it is a tough challenge to give up controls. Like the proverbial man who keeps clinging to a tree but blames the tree for not allowing him to let go, they refuse to fade away gracefully into the sunset. During the period of transition, chaos and confusion reigns. Hapless employees continue to suffer silently, caught as they are between the divergent thought processes of the two generations.

The war depicted in the epic Mahabharata, of which Bhagavad Gita is an integral part, came about only because King Dhritarashtra could not overcome his attachment to either the throne or his son, Duryodhana. The outcome was the death of all his hundred sons, loss of prestige and kingdom and, of course, social and economic misery of the multitudes who had earlier thrived during his reign.

Different Hues of Attachment

Attachment is an intoxicant which, when taken in excessive doses, leads to perilous outcomes. When consumed without a moderating dose of detachment, it could prove to be a disastrous tissue restorative, a concoction which is surely injurious to the efficiency and effectiveness of a manager.

Attachment with a Lion King could leave a sheep ending up as its prey. If the Lion King himself feels attached to a wily Finance-Fox and ends up promoting him as a CEO, the organization may soon start running only on Standard Operating Procedures, neglecting customer service and employee relationships. A Production-Bovine who is attached to the technology in use on the shop floor would take a jaundiced view of a more efficient technology being planned to be introduced by the management. A Human-Resources-Canine may start hiring people only from his own ethnic background, resulting into lack of diversity in the organization. Separations with non-performing employees do not get handled well, impacting down-sizing initiatives of the management. A sprightly Operations-Reindeer might start believing that the whole organization would collapse if he were to proceed on leave.

Often, attachment to a person leads to complications. Those who do not deserve a raise might even end up getting a promotion, impacting employee morale adversely. Those who are competent could get sidelined, increasing the chances of their seeking greener pastures. Ultimately, the organization suffers. Undue attachment to a senior could gradually transform one into a seasoned Yes-person. If ever the senior’s career graph takes a hit, the one hanging onto his coat tails would also suffer.

Likewise, when one gets attached to an experience, whether positive or negative, one’s Guardian Angels go into a state of hibernation and disaster lurks around the corner. A promotion could go to one’s head, leading to aberrant behaviour, with negative results quick to follow. Spectacular success in a project could lead to complacency. On the flip side, a sharp public rebuke from someone senior could make one withdraw into an emotional shell, thereby impacting one’s performance. One could decide to play the victim card for some time and continue to seek solace from those who are in no way capable of helping. It does not bring about desired results.

Attachment and Resistance to Change

In other words, attachment often leads to resistance to change. One’s sense of objectivity gets compromised. A tendency to remain in one’s comfort zone rules the roost. Innovation takes a back seat. Procrastination kicks in. Delegation gets dumped. Distortions start popping up. Conflicts and dilemmas do not get resolved in an unbiased manner. Relationships with key stakeholders turn sour. Signals of an imminent shift in customer tastes and preferences start getting neglected. Market share starts shrinking. Advances in technology do not get absorbed in the organizational processes. Business takes a hit. Brand equity nosedives. Existence of a business itself may come under a cloud.

Elsewhere, we have already touched upon the manner in which such market leaders as Kodak and Nokia have suffered in the past. Likewise, organizations which resist absorbing the newer technologies coming up in Industrial Revolution 4.0 could face a serious threat of either scaling down or getting completely wiped off in the times to come.

The Approach of Detached Attachment

All this is not to say that attachment is something which can be completely avoided. The concept of attachment is central to organizational life. Attachment is essentially an enduring emotional bond between people, events and belief systems. Experts have studied the nature, development, maintenance, and dissolution of this emotional bond through the lens of Attachment Theory, providing an insightful perspective in the understanding of human relationships. Dynamics of leadership is surely impacted by it. So is the concept of trust, mentoring and employer-employee relationships. Employees get motivated and become proactive when under the spell of attachment. It impacts ethical behaviour in a significant manner.

If the Western models of Attachment touch upon its gravitational pull and inevitability, Lord Krishna presents an Eastern template of Detachment, which could be held to be a spaceship which enables one to foray into interstellar space and enjoy the captivating beauty of a fraction of the universe.

Can a target be cracked unless the team working on it is truly attached to it? But the sense of attachment need not cloud the team’s judgement and even make it blind to other options which might result in the target being achieved more effectively and efficiently. Similarly, a leader has to give up his likes and dislikes for individual team members and handle all in an impartial manner, thereby highlighting the need to remain detached.

What is desirable is a healthy combination of Attachment and Detachment. Some may allude to it as a Detached Attachment!

Detachment: The Art of Living in the Present

Bhagavad Gita elaborates on the basic concept of 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 ||

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.

 

Cultivating a sense of detachment is easier said than done. CEOs need to make frequent inward journeys a habit. What helps is a practice to mentally walk away from a given situation and view it not as a participant but as a neutral witness or observer. As a neutral person, the CEO does not interfere with things. Nor does she expect or impose anything. She may still experience thoughts, but does not judge them or fight with them. There may still be chaos all around, but the witness is disinterested, and does not react to these inputs. To the witness, they are like the clouds that merely pass us by.

Who is this witness? It is not the mind. The mind is incapable of witnessing. Lord Krishna says that one’s soul is the Witness. If the CEO assumes a witness-like stance – witnessing her own thoughts, likes, dislikes actions and intentions – she is in resonance with her inner self. This has the potential to bring about a harmony between her thoughts, her words and her actions, thereby making her an inwardly happier and an outwardly successful professional.

 

(Published in the April 2019 issue of New Race journal of SACAR, Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research)

 

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In order to commemorate 125 years of the Chicago address of Swami Vivekananda, Integrating Spirituality and Organisational Leadership (ISOL Foundation) had recently organised a World Congress on Vedic Foundations of Management Science.

 

 

Several luminaries and experts in diverse fields addressed the gathering, which was inaugurated on the 11th of September at the Breasted Hall, The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago. Distinguished Trinity and ISOL Awards were presented on the day. The event concluded on the 13th of September, 2018.

The Inaugural Session started with a Welcome Address by Dr J L Raina, Chairman of ISOL Foundation. Vedic Mantras were chanted by Mr Ashok Vyas, followed by a Welcome Song penned by Mr D V Shastry.

Prof Sunita Singh Sengupta, Founder ISOL Foundation, welcomed the delegates and presented a Background Paper.

The Inaugural Addresses were delivered by the following:

  • Ms Neeta Bhushan, Consul General of India in Chicago
  • Dr Larry Greenfield, Executive Director, Parliament of the World Religions
  • Prof Bala Srinivasan, Vice President, Strategy and Global Initiatives, University of Chicago
  • Prof Sunaina Singh, Vice Chancellor, Nalanda University

Rich tributes were paid to Swami Vivekananda by:

  • Prof Dinesh Singh, Former Vice Chancellor, University of Delhi and Chancellor, K R Mangalam University
  • Dr Bharat Rai, Oncologist in Chicago
  • Dr H P Kanoria, Founder, Shristi Corporation, SREI Infrastructure Finance Limited and SREI Foundation
  • Swami Yatidharmananda, Managing Tustee, Swami Chidananda Sevashram

The following tracks were covered at the three-day event.

  • Sri Ramakrishna, Ma Sarada and Swami Vivekananda
  • Education in Ancient India
  • Women Empowerment
  • Contemporary Themes on Spirituality, Ethics and Management
  • Global climate change and Eco System Management: Insights from Vedas
  • Ancient Indian Mathematics and Astronomy: Its Contemporary Relevance
  • Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation for Modern Health Care
  • Ancient Indian Architecture, Sculpture and Art
  • Exploring Sustainability through Spirituality
  • Contemporary Themes on Scriptures, Ethics and Management
  • Vedic Foundations of Management

The last mentioned session was chaired by Prof Neal McGregor.

  • Prof N Ravichandran shared ‘Managerial Insights from Panchtantra Stories’
  • Prof Omprakash K Gupta elaborated upon his passion for ‘Simplifying and Summarising Sanatana Dharma Scriptures for our Youth’
  • Prof Kisholoy Gupta spoke of ‘Vedantic Wisdom in Contemporary Management’
  • Dr Ravi Subramaniam presented ‘A Qualitative Examination of Leadership Traits of Ram from Shrimad Valmiki Ramayan’
  • Yours truly presented a paper on ‘Ramayana – Some Management Lessons’.

 

Here is the PPT which might be of interest to some of you.

Ramayana Management_Lessons Chicago PPT

 

Distinguished Valedictory Lecture was delivered by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago.

Dr J L Raina and Prof Sunita Singh Sengupta summed up the proceedings of the commemoration event.

(Thanks are due to several persons who added value to my presentation and gave a final shape to it.)

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India can justifiably boast of a long history of culture, tradition and values. Scriptures of Indian origin are a treasure trove of nuggets of wisdom. These continue to be relevant in the current context and also find ready application in the field of business management and administration.

Here are some of the areas where I believe Ramayana can inspire management14 practitioners.

  • A Premium on Values

Sticking to some core values which are steeped in righteousness eventually leads to success. The main protagonist, Rama, is depicted in Ramayana as an epitome of virtue. He is an ideal king, an ideal son and a pragmatic person. He sets high ethical standards in warfare and invariably sides with dharma, or righteousness.

A random sample of all successful business houses which have been around for more than a century now – Siemens and Tatas, for instance – is ample proof that ethics in business do pay dividends in the long run. Names of such business houses enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market; understandably, that rubs off on their products as well.

  • High on Motivation

To me, the Ahalyaa episode is all about a good leader enthusing a team of demoralized members who have become zombies over a period of time and have stopped delivering results. Once ‘woken up’, they are fully charged and start performing along expected lines.

Rama wages a war on Lanka with very limited resources, backed by an army which is pretty out-of-the-box or unconventional. It is an army which is highly motivated, expecting minimal facilities. Goes on to show the superiority of motivation levels over the availability of physical resources.

A CEO who is out to increase his market share needs the back up of a highly motivated sales staff which – if motivated well – would go all out to win the hearts and wallets of the company’s customers.

  • Mergers and Alliances

When a merger is based upon a congruence of basic value systems of both the parties involved, long-term benefits accrue.

The alliance between Rama and Sita is a turning point in the Ramayana for more reasons than one. Sita is brought up in the household of the sage-king Janaka. When Rama gets banished to the forest after their marriage, she displays a clear absence of any hedonistic tendencies and chooses to accompany him to the forest. Without a synergy of this kind, the sequence of events could have been quite different!

Likewise, the friendship of Rama and Sugriva sets a good example of mutual cooperation between two people facing a similar predicament in life and career. What follows is Sita getting traced in Lanka and Ravana eventually getting vanquished.

When Etihaad decides to team up with Jet Airways, or when Tata Steel ties up with Corus, the parties involved are looking for synergies in their respective core strengths, so as to tap their joint business potential better.

  • Succession Planning

Dasaratha’s plans for installing Rama on the throne of Ayodhya do turn topsy-turvy, but the existence of a clear succession plan can never be denied. This is meant to ensure continuity in governance. It helped that besides being the eldest son, Rama was liked by all and hence chosen to lead the kingdom once his father passed away.

As per Raghuvansham of Kalidasa, when the time comes to relinquish his body, Rama divides it equitably between his two sons – Lava and Kusha.

All well-managed companies ensure that the career development plans of their top performers are directly linked to succession plans. Ideally, good leaders invariably groom at least three managers under them. When one gets promoted to the coveted slot, it is quite likely that two others may seek greener pastures elsewhere. Whatever happens, the goals and the processes involved in achieving the same enjoy uninterrupted continuity.

  • Leaving the Comfort Zone

When Rama gets ordered to remain in the forest for a span of fourteen years, Sita and Rama take it as an opportunity to engage with the ordinary citizens of their kingdom, rather than remaining confined to the comforts of their palace. This helps them to understand the ground realities better.

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.

  • Excellence in Execution

The plan to locate Sita gets brilliantly executed by Hanuman. The wisdom withRamayana 3 which he conducts the search and the single-minded pursuit of the goal is an example worth emulating by managers at all levels. While crossing the sea, he declines an invitation from Mount Mynaaka to take some rest on the way.

The manner in which he assures Sita of his genuineness exhorts managers to conduct commercial negotiations by first setting the anxieties of the opposite party at rest.

  • Concern for Environment

For three days, Rama prays to the god of the sea to grant a passage to his army. Nothing happens. Rama then shoots arrows into the bosom of the sea, whereupon the sea-god appears and explains that he is bound by the laws of nature, just like earth, air, space, light and all constituents of the universe. Creatures living under his shelter he cannot forsake, but surely a shallow area can be shown where a causeway can be built.

Rama accepts the sea-god’s apology and orders the building process to start. Thus, the objective is met without damaging the eco-system.

In the current context, governments all over the world are realizing the importance of striking a judicious balance between economic growth and environmental concerns. Rama’s approach inspires us to strive to find the middle path and ensure that Mother Nature is not unduly disturbed to pave way for crass commercialism.

  • Dependence on Yes-men!

Ravana is a highly learned and accomplished person. One of the reasons for hisRamayana 2 downfall is to neglect the advice of nay-sayers. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chooses to listen to his courtiers who play on his ego and pride and advise him not to do so.

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.

  • Humility in Victory

When Ravana is on his death-bed, Rama exhorts Lakshmana to learn the tenets of good governance from him. Lakshmana approaches Ravana rather haughtily first and fails. Rama then advises him to approach Ravana with due humility, whereupon Ravana speaks of the pitfalls of procrastination and shares his knowledge about statecraft and diplomacy.

  • Power of Attorney

The sincerity with which Bharata takes care of the kingdom’s affairs while Rama is away speaks of true values of follower-ship. Upon his return to Ayodhya, Bharata informs him that the kingdom’s revenue had gone up ten-folds during the fourteen years he was away.

Here is an excellent example of a kingdom held in trust and good faith, much akin to the present day concept of a power of attorney getting appointed to take care of administrative and legal matters of a business when owners are not readily available.

  • Make Haste, But Slowly!

Rama has won the war and is on his way back to Ayodhya. He decides not to rush back. Instead, he stays back at Sage Bharadwaj’s ashram for a night and makes enquiries about the state of affairs in Ayodhya. Also, he sends Hanuman upfront to break the news of his imminent arrival to Bharata who is living like an ascetic in Nandigram. He moves to Ayodhya only after receiving adequate feedback about its current situation.

  • Leadership Traits

With the possible exception of his handling of Sita upon her return from Lanka, Rama conducts himself in an exemplary manner throughout the narration. Whether it is befriending Nishaad Raaj, refusing to return to Ayodhya when Bharat approaches him in Panchavati, conducting the last rites of Jataayu, accepting Vibheeshana in his fold or even when reuniting with his mothers and brothers upon his return to Ayodhya, he sets a high bar for humanity in general.

In the corruption-infested times we live in, his leadership traits inspire managers to do their best even under the most trying circumstances.

  • Ram Rajya

The concept of being fair to all is the bedrock on which modern management is based. For those in power at the top, an impartial conduct of those in authority is a sine qua non for the morale of the people. Sita gets banished to the Valmiki ashram when an ordinary citizen casts an aspersion on her character. Rama’s role is not much different from that of a true-blue CEO whose loyalty to the company’s overall welfare is unflinching.

Skirt-groping CEOs who have a roving eye and managements which look the other Ramayana 1way 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.

There are several instances when management has to divulge information on a ‘need to know’ basis. However, if the basic practices are perceived to be fair to all, even management policies which impact the employees adversely – like a down-sizing – are not taken amiss across the company.

Ramayana 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:

Ramcharitamanas by Goswami Tulasidas, Valmiki Ramayana, Ramayana by C. Rajagoplachari, Raghuvansham by Kalidasa, Adhyatma Ramayana, Series on Ramayana by Narendra Kohli.

Illustrations Courtesy Internet

http://attachment.benchmarkemail.com/c117651/July-Augusl.pdf 

(Related Posts: 

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)

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