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Posts Tagged ‘Mahabharata’

ashokbhatia

ethics and values

We do not necessarily need a degree from Harvard to realize the difference between right and wrong. The Moral Compass within us is capable of telling us if we are on the right path.

Human values form the inner core of our personalities. These keep nudging us to be good human beings.

If ‘Values’ are the cause, ‘Ethics’ are the effect. If our value system is in place, our outward behaviour and conduct shall be ethical. Same is true of organizations, where the underlying culture determines the response of its key managers to tough business situations.

A company which believes in human values would handle a separation differently. When ramping down a business, good performers could get helped to secure career opportunities elsewhere. A star performer who has made up her mind to leave would get treated with great respect, thereby making her a valuable brand ambassador for the company.

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Lord Krishna, whose birthday will be celebrated tomorrow, happens to be one of the most revered and liked gods of the Hindu pantheon. Looked at from a management point of view, he is a leader par excellence. He manages events and people in such a manner that the end result is eventually positive and leads to a greater good.

Here are some facets of his personality which might be instructive for managers at all levels.

A friendly demeanour

When a devotee plans to seek a straight forward favour, like when a much-awaited promotion is due and hard workKrishna_holding_flute has indeed been put in for the purpose, Lord Rama is often the more sought after religious figure. But when a devious request has to be made, say when praying for the transfer of a CEO who keeps disturbing one’s mental peace, the attention invariably turns to Lord Krishna. After all, he…

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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…

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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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ashokbhatia

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…

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ethics and values

We do not necessarily need a degree from Harvard to realize the difference between right and wrong. The Moral Compass within us is capable of telling us if we are on the right path.

Human values form the inner core of our personalities. These keep nudging us to be good human beings.

If ‘Values’ are the cause, ‘Ethics’ are the effect. If our value system is in place, our outward behaviour and conduct shall be ethical. Same is true of organizations, where the underlying culture determines the response of its key managers to tough business situations.

A company which believes in human values would handle a separation differently. When ramping down a business, good performers could get helped to secure career opportunities elsewhere. A star performer who has made up her mind to leave would get treated with great respect, thereby making her a valuable brand ambassador for the company.

In the Mahabharata, this is how Yudhishtira responds to queries by Yaksha:

Yaksha:

Which enemy of man cannot be conquered?

                  What is man’s persistent frailty?

                  Which man can be called moral?

Yudhishtira:

Anger is the unconquered enemy of man.

                  Greed is the persistent frailty.

                  That man is moral who seeks the good of all.

Values and ethics happen to be a crucial component of our Spiritual Quotient.

(Source: The Mahabharata of Vyasa, Transcreation by P Lal)

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, which covers more than hundred topics of interest to managers of all hues, shapes and sizes)

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India offers to the world an immensely rich collection of sacred scriptures.rig-veda First and foremost are the Vedas, which could be justifiably referred to as the core of the spiritual and psychological soft power of India. Then there are the Upanishads, which capture the highest spiritual knowledge and experience that India can offer to the world.

India also has Puranas, Itihasas, Tantras, Dharma Shastras, and Sutras, besides the innumerable works of religious poetry in regional languages.

Ramayana and Mahabharata

Amongst Indian scriptures, Ramayana and Mahabharata happen to be the most popular narratives. Both are pregnant with mature thought. Both contain teachings of political, religious, ethical and social kind. Both showcase, in a relatively simple language than that of the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Indian idea of Dharma, or righteousness.valmiki_ramayana

Both appeal to the soul as well as to the imagination of an intelligent mind. Even illiterates find gems of wisdom in these two epics. If philosophy, ethics, morals, social concepts, political thoughts or administrative justice form the warp in this unique fabric, heroic tales, human emotions, poetry, aesthetics, fiction, romance and villainy form the weft.

These epics showcase a highly developed sense of ethics and values, social and cultural realities of a distant past, besides intellectual and philosophical refinement. Lay persons could draw several life lessons from both these works. So could professionals of all hues.

Sanskrit, the supreme language  

Sanskrit is the language which forms the bedrock of a vast majority of these works. An intimate feeling of the language helps in understanding the multi-layered narratives better. One acquires a heightened sensitivity towards the shades of style and the context in which a statement is being made.

In today’s inter-connected world, one may not know Sanskrit but can still savour a fraction of the fragrant nectar of knowledge offered through any of the Indian scriptures.mahabharata-vyasa-ganesha

Sacred scriptures comprise a minor part of all the Sanskrit literature available from the Vedic to the pre-modern times. Nonetheless, they form the bedrock of Indian culture and spirituality.

Bhagavad Gita: The Song Celestial

Bhagavad Gita forms an integral part of Mahabharata, appearing in its Bhishma Parva. It comprises eighteen chapters. Broadly speaking, this unique composition touches upon three kinds of Yogas – Karma Yoga (The Yoga of Action), Gnana Yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge) and Bhakti Yoga (The Yoga of Devotion). [Yoga is a term which is often confused with physical practices of a certain kind. However, the term is used here in the sense of describing a communion, specifically the communion of an individual soul with the Divine.]

Upanishads articulate the philosophical principles concerning mankind, world and God. Gita explains the manner in which human beings can practice these subtle philosophical principles in their mundane lives.

Soulful management

One of the basic concepts enunciated by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita is that Mahabharat Krishna Arjunaof the everlasting nature of the soul. The concept of a soul now finds a resonance even in modern management literature. In his book ‘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.

From a management point of view, perhaps the most relevant are the concepts espoused under the overall umbrella of Karma Yoga. Here, Lord Krishna emphasizes the importance of self-less action, free of its rewards and gains. A state of inaction is held to be another form of action itself.

Gita III 6

कर्मेन्द्रियाणि संयम्य य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन्।

इन्द्रियार्थान्विमूढात्मा मिथ्याचारः स उच्यते।।

[A hypocrite is one who suffers from a false notion of having self-discipline. He is someone who controls the organs of action but continues to dwell upon the objects of sense.]

Gita III 7

यस्त्विन्द्रियाणि मनसा नियम्यारभतेऽर्जुन।

कर्मेन्द्रियैः कर्मयोगमसक्तः स विशिष्यते।।

[He who controls his senses by his mind and engages with the organs of action in a Yoga of Action achieves excellence in whatever he does.]

The concepts enshrined under Gnana Yoga are also highly relevant for management professionals. This is so because one of the major challenges in their careers is to keep unlearning, so the process of real learning can never cease.

Smart professionals always keep an open mind. They strive to keep abreast of latest technological developments. They keep learning from their failures as well as from their successes.

The Yoga of Devotion

When it comes to Bhakti Yoga, the relevance of what Gita says is perhaps bhagavad_gitasomewhat limited as far as a practicing professional is concerned.

Loyalty and devotion – to a superior as well as to the company – are terms which readily spring to one’s mind. But in the absence of a truly charismatic business leader of the stature of Lord Krishna, blind devotion could perhaps lead to a catastrophe in one’s profession. A sense of misplaced loyalty often becomes an excuse for senior managers to remain in their comfort zones. Accepting fresh challenges becomes a key challenge. Their skill-sets start getting rusted. Much like stones which do not roll, they start gathering moss.

Time to rediscover the Gita

There is much that CEOs and managers can learn from the Bhagavad Gita. Its language is pregnant with symbolism at times. But it has rich lessons to offer for day-to-day conduct of business.

This stream of knowledge is close to 3,500 years old. It is never too late to rediscover it.

(Illustrations courtesy Wikipedia)

(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/2016/06/07/some-management-lessons-from-india)

 

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