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Posts Tagged ‘Mahabharata’

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.

 

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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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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.

(Presented as a talk to the members of the Pondicherry Chapter of Madras Management Association during June 2016)

(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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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 is our friend, with whom we can be frank and open!

This is the kind of appeal Krishna has. The fact that he has been depicted as a playful child and teenager adds to his unique image. The manner in which he treats his friends like Arjuna and Sudama multiplies his allure as a great problem solver. His ready availability is his Unique Selling Proposition. This is a quality which many a manager would find good to imbibe.

Flexibility in Approach

When it becomes apparent that Jarasandh would not allow the kingdom of Mathura to enjoy uninterrupted peace as long as he and Balarama are there, Krishna does not hesitate to leave his comfort zone. In order to ensure that the denizens of the city remain safe, he decides to build a new capital at Dwarka and shift his operating headquarters there.

When market dynamics change, business leaders and their team members in FMCG companies do not hesitate to travel to the hinterland. This helps them to understand the customer psyche better, thereby improving their presence in diverse markets.

Examples abound of companies of companies which did not keep pace with the changes in technology and the market place. They continue to remain alive in our memories only.

Accessibility

Whosoever happens to be facing a challenge can approach him. Whether it is Arjuna or Duryodhana, there is no hesitation in seeking his help. Yes, whether and how he decides to help depends on which side of ‘Dharma’ we happen to be on. Duryodhana gets the support of his entire army, whereas Arjuna ends up getting him as a personal charioteer.

The privilege of accessibility is granted even to those opposed to him. Sisupala has the liberty of abusing him publically. Admittedly, he has a quota which, when exceeded, results into his death.

True blue leaders are invariably accessible to their team members. When a sudden challenge pops up, anyone can reach out to them and seek guidance.

Adherence to ‘Dharma’ (Righteousness)

The values inherent in a corporate policy, the vision for the company, the mission of the organization – theseMahabharat Disrobing_of_Draupadi constitute the ‘Dharma’ of all leaders, CEOs and managers.

When Krishna gets invited to the palace of Duryodhana for a rich feast, he declines. Instead, he prefers to have simple food at Vidura’s place. When Draupadi gets disrobed in King Dhritarashtra’s court, he manages to protect her honour. When a war becomes inevitable, he sides with the Pandavas. Invariably, he sides with those who follow the path of righteousness.

Strategy and Vision

In a careful reading of the major turning events in the whole narrative of Mahabharata, 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 Kauravas’ army.

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. When Duryodhana appears to be invincible in his mace fight with Bhima, Krishna 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.

Detachment

The manner in which Krishna persuades a demoralized Arjuna to take up his arms by enunciating the basic principles Mahabharat Krishna Arjunaof life in the Bhagavad Gita is exemplary. The gospel of devotion to duty, without attachment or desire of reward, continues to show the way of life to all those who seek light in the dark problems of life.

Krishna not only preaches but also practices detachment. Consider the manner in which he decides to leave his home and hearth in Gokul and Vrindaban. To him, the call of duty, of restoring the kingdom of Mathura to King Ugrasena, a just and righteous monarch dethroned and imprisoned by his own son, Kansa, is supreme. The fact that Kansa happens to be his maternal uncle does not stand in the way of Krishna killing him to achieve his goal.

He does not entertain the thought of ruling over Mathura himself. He believes that in order to be a competent ruler, he first needs to complete his study of the Vedas, achieve proficiency in warfare and understand the nuances of governance.

What does a CEO do when business conditions warrant a manufacturing unit to be shut down, even though he himself had painstakingly set it up two decades back? What does a manager do when a much-liked junior commits an act of impropriety and has to be asked to leave the company? Or, when a plum assignment has to be given up due to compelling personal reasons? A sense of detachment comes in handy in all such situations. The higher the level of detachment, the more objective the decision is likely to be.

Unstinted Support

When Abhimanyu gets killed on the battle field, a grief-stricken Arjuna vows to slay the warrior responsible – Jayadratha – by next sunset, or end his own life. Krishna manages to save Arjuna’s honour, bringing much relief to the Pandavas.

To those who remain committed and loyal to them, leaders provide unstinted support.Krishna

The Many Masks

Krishna does not hesitate to reveal himself in his entirety in the midst of the battlefield. Arjuna is petrified to see the ‘Vishwa Roopa’ of someone he considers to be a close friend.

Leaders also wear several masks. They could be polite and gentle. They could be loving and compassionate. But if the situation demands it, they could also invoke dread and fear amongst their team members. Just like Krishna, they possess a multi-faceted personality.

The Inner Voice

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.

Intuition

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.

Smart managers go beyond ‘analysis paralysis.’ They do use information, but they also rely on their intuition. A more balanced decision-making comes about.

Tenacity and Perseverance

When the disappearance of a valuable gem, the ‘syamantak mani’, is attributed to Krishna, he does not wallow in self-pity. With a chin-up attitude, he keeps working on the problem till the time it becomes clear that his conduct is as pure as the driven snow.

CEOs with a tenacity of purpose build up a unique team of followers. Perseverance is ingrained in their character. To give up does not come easily to them.

A Global MindsetMahabharat Draupadi_and_Pandavas

Personally, Krishna has little to gain from the great war. All his actions are directed towards the overall benefit of the society. Once Yudhishtira assumes the charge of the entire kingdom, peace prevails and development comes about.

Great business leaders share the same quality with Krishna. They try to give back to society in more ways than one. Sustainable business practices ensure that their companies’ operations do not cause irreparable damage to the eco-system.

Leading from Behind

Unlike Lord Rama, who leads an army from the front, Lord Krishna leads it from behind. The former leads an army of monkeys. The latter leads an army of illustrious people. Each one has great prowess, expertise and self-mastery. He also gets to handle people who are more shrewd and cunning.

In the initial phases of industrial revolution, when manufacturing was the primary activity, most of the leaders had to lead their teams from the front. In the services sector, as also in the emerging knowledge economy, leaders mostly manage from behind.

Depending upon the situation at hand, leaders switch from one mode to another. The style also varies from person to person.

A Tryst with Adversity

Krishna lives a unique life which is full of adverse circumstances. He is born in captivity. He is separated with hisKrishna birth parents immediately after his birth. Even as a child, he manages to survive attempts on his life. He leaves his foster home, never to return. He leaves the city of his birth and relocates to a far off place. He continues to be busy solving other’s problems throughout life. His whole clan gets destroyed in a bitter fight between its own members.

At no stage do we find Krishna blaming his circumstances. He is self-assured. He is confident. He is clear on what he wants to achieve. His methods may be rough at times, but they deliver.

Sure enough, like many a business leader, he pays a heavy price for upholding righteousness. With little time for family and children, the progeny is destined to remain unsung.

Tough situations bring out the best within managers. Life strives to chisel their character into a fine shape, much like a finely carved statue which is much admired by those who view it from the outside. Few realize the pain, suffering and sacrifice that the stone has undergone to achieve that exalted beauty and that state of perfection.Krishna_Arjuna_Gita

Krishna – A Spiritual Leader

Much like a business leader of modern times, Krishna displays vision, flexibility in approach, resourcefulness and an excellent capacity to command. The authority that he exercises over others is born more out of love and concern, not fear. He is the trouble-shooter par excellence who leads, inspires, guides and motivates. He sets a fine example for business leaders and managers to emulate.

Krishna is a role model for spiritually inclined leaders and managers. He demonstrates that being spiritual does not necessarily mean being soft. It only implies that one’s decisions and actions are rooted in stark pragmatism, backed by sound values and propelled by a desire to achieve the greater good.

(Related posts:

  1. https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/management-lessons-from-ramayana
  2. https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/management-lessons-from-mahabharata)

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Learning from Failures

With a higher level of uncertainty, a leader’s chances of failure would also go up. A failure which results into pain and suffering can also be taken as a boon, as time often proves. If the right lessons are drawn, the chances of a failure repeating itself in future can be drastically brought down.

Consider these words of wisdom from Narad when he tries to explain to Savitri’s mother as to why she must marrya1 1 (11) Satyavan and suffer on the terrestrial plane.

‘Although the shaping god’s tremendous touch
Is torture unbearable to mortal nerves,
The fiery spirit grows within
And feels a joy in every titan pang.’
(Savitri, page 444)

Leaders wear their crowns of glory. But the crown does not come cheap. The cost they have to bear is that of the cross they have to carry.

‘Hard is the world-redeemer’s heavy task;
The world itself becomes his adversary,
Those he would save are his antagonists:
This world is in love with its own ignorance,
Its darkness turns away from the savior light,
It gives the cross in payment for the crown.’
(Savitri, page 448)

Management by Consent

In the times to come, the profile of the followers would also be different. Hierarchical authority is already proving difficult to manage change; there is no reason to believe this would not be even more so in the future. The followers would demand a higher degree of participation in the decision-making processes. Leaders who recognize this need of their followers and create a working environment which enables the same would achieve higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness in their business processes.

Creating a non-coercive environment in which employees and other stakeholders are clear about the corporate identity and the mission would be far more important than it is today. Reverse mentoring would be more a norm than an exception in the days to come.

Consider the all-powerful God of Death. When accosted by Savitri, he does not dictate terms. He allows a reasonableSavitri_Yama discussion on the subject. He keeps changing the line of his arguments, intent upon denying Savitri the life of her husband. He tries his best to dissuade her from changing one of the basic laws of nature. He even declares “I, Death, am the gate of immortality.”

Savitri is undaunted. She points out that if this creation has arisen out of a meaningless void, if matter can come forth from energy, and life from matter, and mind from life, and if soul can peep through the flesh, what is wrong in hoping that the imperfect man of today will someday transform himself into the perfection of God?

The God of Death eventually loses the argument, his authority and also his stature. But his greatness lies in the fact that he has the good grace to permit and then lose an argument to a person who looks like a mere mortal. Realizing her sincerity of purpose, he even grants her a boon.

In Ramayana, the villain is Ravana, a highly learned and accomplished person. One of the reasons for his 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, aRamayana 2 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 Lord Rama decides to accept Vibhishana in his fold, he does not simply order the same. He consults all seniors present before arriving at a decision.

Monsanto’s CEO, Robert Shapiro, had the ability to go against traditional hierarchy. He initiated strategy sessions with cross-sections of employees of different ranks, specialties and geographical perspectives and reaped rich dividends for his company.

The Moral Compass

Leaders who believe in sustainable businesses would not only use their commercial compass while determining the direction to take. Using a moral compass would be a valuable trait amongst the future leaders. A strong inner core, embedded with a value system which recognizes the needs of the society at large, would be a great quality to have. A pre-condition for employing key managers would be their endorsement and support of the core values of the business.

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.Krishna_Arjuna_Gita

One of the basic concepts enunciated by Shri 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.

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.

When the likes of Siemens and Wal-Mart come clean on their misdemeanors, they set an excellent example of probity in the business world. When Mr. Ratan Tata, the Chairman Emeritus of India’s salt to software conglomerate, rues his inability to enter some fields of business because of the absence of a level playing field in India, his focus is on one of the core values of his business.

Indra Nooyi is charting a unique course for Pepsico globally, shedding traditional markets and going in for healthier food products instead.

Preparing Leaders for 2025!

In a careful reading of the major turning events in the Mahabharata, 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.

Eventually, all mighty warriors on the Kauaravas’ side fall with specific inputs from Krishna. In case of Bhishma,Krishna 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.

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.

Captains of industry today can set a personal example by getting cross-functional teams in their organizations to come up with suggestions to face the challenges of future effectively. They can also emulate some of the traits, thereby leading to a trickle-down effect across the entire organization.

HR honchos can re-design their appraisal processes and re-assess training needs of key managers to address this issue.

Those in senior management positions can consciously plan to hone their skills in areas they find themselves deficient.

Management institutes can tweak their course content to ensure that those leaving their hallowed portals possess these traits, so as to improve their contribution towards the organizations they decide to either float or serve.

Indian scriptures are replete with instances which demonstrate the importance of good values and ethics.chanakya Ramayana speaks of righteousness to be upheld at any cost. Mahabharata tells us to limit our ambitions and desires and be reasonable in life, lest a fate worse than death may befall us. Bhagavad Gita – the song celestial – is like an ocean full of practical advice for managers young and old alike. Chanakya Neeti is full of pearls of wisdom. All these are waiting to be explored by those who are interested in being spiritual as well as practical in their approach to problem solving and leading people to their goals.

(Note: On matters spiritual, inputs from a subject expert, philosopher and guide are gratefully acknowledged.)

[Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/grooming-future-business-leaders-a-spiritual-approach-part-1%5D

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