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Posts Tagged ‘Ramayana’

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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Ravana, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, was not only a great scholar but also a capable ruler. He had a great taste in music and had mastered the veena. He is said to have been an expert in astrology and political science. He is also believed to have written a treatise on Siddha medicine.

He is described as having ten heads which are said to represent his knowledge of the six shastras and the four Vedas. Folklore has it that even while lying on his deathbed, he imparted valuable wisdom to Lord Rama and Lakshmana.

Much like powerful CEOs of large corporate bodies, Ravana had the necessary knowledge and skills to steer his kingdom to great heights. But his sheer pride, arrogance and a tendency of stifling dissent did him in. His obstinacy, and intolerance towards dissent, eventually led to his fall from grace.

The fact that he coveted a woman who was someone else’s soul mate also led to his ruin. Popular belief takes a jaundiced view of his character since he had abducted Sita and had held her in captivity, thereby inviting the wrath of Lord Rama. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chose to listen to his courtiers who played on his ego and pride and advised him not to do so.

Learning from Ravana

If CEOs of today were to take a leaf out of Ravana’s life, they would avoid becoming proud and arrogant. They would learn to be more tolerant and open-minded to views which do not match their own. They would run their fiefdoms with much greater finesse and grace, ensuring sustainable prosperity for all stakeholders to their business.

Getting rid of one’s ego does not necessarily mean that the CEO becomes a doormat. Or that he allows his team members to exploit the system and take advantage of his good intentions and decent behaviour. It simply means that he cultivates an ability to see the other person’s perspective before arriving at a decision; that a consultative and collaborative approach to decision making gets followed; that those who happen to be shy in a meeting are drawn out so he may check if they have something valuable to add to the issue on the table.

Consciously letting go of his pride is another quality they can cultivate. Privileges which go with a corner office can be readily forsaken. Exclusive car parking spaces can be given up. Preferential treatment in the common food court for employees can be politely declined. The barriers between himself and others can be lowered to the barest minimum. In all official proclamations, an ‘I’ can give way to a ‘We’.

Arrogance can get avoided. Instead, feigned anger can get used as a tool, either to defuse a tricky situation or to gently put in place a team member whose behaviour crosses the limits of decency.

Discouraging yes-men amongst their team members is yet another critical quality a CEO needs to develop. Encouraging healthy and objective dissent goes a long way in enjoying success in all spheres of life.

Respecting women in the workforce is another trait which is essential. Promoting a culture of zero tolerance towards harassment of the opposite sex helps a company to shore up its productivity and improve employee morale. Top achievers in the team cannot be allowed to act upon their amorous instincts at the work place.

Several qualities of Ravana are worth emulating by CEOs of today. Always striving to learn something new. Forever looking for new markets and new customers, much like Ravana harboured an ambition to conquer dev-loka, the heavens beyond. Tirelessly seeking different ways to achieve a goal. Adopting new technologies and cultivating an innovative mindset. Developing hobbies and interests which would help to keep a sense of balance in their lives.

The real victory is within us

This year, too, on the day of Vijayadashmi, we shall witness the burning of Ravana’s effigies and believe it to be the victory of good over evil. But would we stop for a moment to introspect and try to get rid of our own king-size egos? Would we resolve to let go of our arrogance and become good listeners, especially when someone like Vibheeshana is trying to tell us an unpalatable truth?

The day a CEO starts doing this would indeed be the true Vijayadashmi day for him!

(Related Posts:

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

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/some-management-lessons-from-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/super-leaders-the-near-perfect-ceos)

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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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When it comes to upholding righteousness in our turbulent times, instances from Indian scriptures offer invaluable insights.

ashokbhatia

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…

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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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Abstract
Can tenets from the realm of Spirituality help in grooming business leaders for the future? This two-part article attempts to answer this query. It first proposes the dominant characteristics of the business environment of the future. It then goes on to joining the dots between the apparently diverse fields of Management and Spirituality in respect of each such characteristic. An enhanced role for intuitive faculties, inner resilience, dynamism, a global and inclusive mindset, clarity of purpose, learning from failures, managing by consensus and cultivating a moral compass are some of the leadership traits discussed. Examples are drawn from the business world, as also from such Indian scriptures as Ramayana, Mahabharata and Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Savitri.’

Leadership is a much discussed virtue in management literature. However, like Peter Drucker says, there is no ideal LEADERStype of leader. “Leadership personality’, ‘leadership style’ and ‘leadership traits’ don’t exist”, he writes in The Leader of the Future. The emergence of a leader is the result of a complex interplay of two factors – personality traits of the leader and what needs to be done at a given point in time. The moment the two become congruent, a new leader could emerge on the scene and deliver the goods!

I am convinced that the leaders of tomorrow would need personality traits which would be qualitatively different from those of today. Here is my take on what business environment (say, circa 2025) would be like, and how our future business leaders would be tackling it.

2025 – A Likely Business Scenario

What would be the business environment like in 2025? Let us try to crystal-gaze and find out the kind of possibilities the future portends:
• Business leaders in 2025 shall be working against the backdrop of a world which would, in all likelihood, be a multi-polar one, with Asia, particularly China, exerting more influence on global events.
• It would be a world which would be more inter-connected, commercially and otherwise.
• Thanks to new communication means, the individual empowerment levels would have risen significantly. Social paradigms would have transformed further, with a more individualistic mindset. Hence, employee expectations would be qualitatively different from what managers typically face today.
• Also, it would be a more urbanized world. Thanks to the rise of a new global middle-class, society in general would internet image 1have reached a higher level of aspiration, resulting into a much higher demand for energy, food and water. On the flip side, income disparities would have risen substantially.
• Changes arising out of our climatic patterns would also pose a formidable challenge to the leaders of those times. Internet security concerns would perhaps be centre-stage.
• Disruptive changes are quite likely to overwhelm us. These changes could come in the form of impact of new technologies in the field of robotics, biotechnology, space sciences and communication. Increasingly, governments world over may start becoming enablers of entrepreneurship, faced as they will be with direct and intensive pressure from those they govern. We shall surely be seeing more entrepreneurs amongst our midst – whether in the commercial sector or in the societal sector.

A Business Leader in 2025

Beyond Analysis Paralysis

Since the level of entropy in the system would have gone up further by then, a business leader of circa 2025 would have to be adept at making decisions under a higher level of uncertainty. The abnormal today would be the new normal, and many a leader would be feeling more like experts at river rafting in our economic and statutory rapids, often being called upon to go against the current.

For those who are quantitatively inclined, advanced statistical tools would become more sophisticated. There will be an overdose of data as well as information available to a business leader then. However, ultimately, his/her intuitive abilities would prove to be more valuable. Even today, most innovators think ‘out-of-box’. Businessmen, when creating a new vertical, are apt to take a leap of faith, that is, decisions off-the-seat-of-their-pants/skirts/sarees and not on voluminous reports of an analytical nature.

Sir Colin Marshall, the ex-Chairman of British Airways, transformed his organization into one of the premier Mahabharat Draupadi_and_Pandavascustomer service kinds in the days of yore. The uncertainty he faced in the period of his association with BA was monumental and serves as an example to be followed by CEOs of future.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon came up with the concept of ‘predictive analytics’, paving the way for all of us to enjoy the convenience of shopping on-line.

A logical corollary of the above would be the need for a leader to be ahead of the curve. Those who have counter-intuitive responses and place a higher trust in their natural instincts would surely fare better.

In Mahabharata, after the war is over, Pandavas visit Dhritarashtra to offer their respects and condolences. By using his intuitive skills, Lord Krishna is able to save Bheema’s life. When the uncle proceeds to hold Bheema in a crushing embrace, a metallic statue of similar dimensions is offered to him instead.

Likewise, in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri, Narada has the gift of fore-knowledge. He is not averse to Savitri marrying Satyavan whom he describes as ‘a marvel of the meeting of earth and heaven’ but adds:

Heaven’s greatness came, but was too great to stay.
Twelve swift-winged months were given to him and her;
This day returning Satyavan must die.
(Savitri, page 431)

Intuitive abilities of a manager typically arise from three distinctive domains – the cultural upbringing, experience in one’s formative years and one’s value system imbibed from elders and role models. Regular meditation and introspection also helps.

An Inner Resilience and Dynamism

There would be a strong need for a much higher degree of inner resilience, because this alone would enable them to keep their stress levels under control even in trying circumstances.

Dynamism will be yet another critical input. It would ensure that they are able to steer their businesses through thec1 (25) dense economic fog enveloping the business highways.

This is where tenets of spirituality can play a vital role. Take the example of the character of Savitri, as portrayed by Sri Aurobindo in his epic composition. She has fore-knowledge of the imminent death of Satyavan, her husband. Does she get scared? No. She faces the monumental task of facing the Lord of Death himself. She never gives up hope, displays exemplary courage and resilience and successfully reasons out the revival of her husband. She handles the whole situation all by herself, walking tall but lonely – as a true leader of humanity.

‘Whoever is too great must lonely live.
Adored he walks in the mighty solitude;
Vain is his labour to create his kind,
His only comrade is the Strength within.’
(Savitri, page 368)

As a seer extraordinaire, Sri Aurobindo brings to us in a very concise form the symbolic affirmation of life on earth. He did not compose Savitri as a management treatise. But like all other scriptures, the epic poem contains invaluable lessons for potential as well as practicing managers.

In the Ramayana, we see Lord Rama waging a war on Lanka with very limited resources, backed by an army whichRamayana 1 is pretty out-of-the-box or unconventional. It is an army which is highly motivated, expecting minimal facilities. The challenge of crossing the sea is also faced in a highly unconventional manner. Goes on to show the power of the dynamism of a true leader even when circumstances are highly unfavorable.

The World Economic Forum had proposed a theme centered on the twin traits of resilience and dynamism for 2013. Given that there are no risk free growth models available to leaders and CEOs of the future, one could not have agreed more with this proposition.

A good example of facing flak and not losing sight of one’s goals is that of Larry Page of Google. He continues to trust his instincts and doing what he thinks is best for his business.

A Global, Self-less and Inclusive Mindset

Given a much more inter-connected world, a business leader in the future would need to possess a vast knowledge of commercial, behavioral and societal norms followed in different parts of the world. A primary task would obviously be to ensure that his/her organization has world-class management processes. Only those institutionalizing best practices in strategic planning, marketing and human relations would be able to make their organization a successful one. The fact that a leader would, in all likelihood, be leading a multi-cultural team of followers would pose a challenge – irrespective of whether the situation demands a leadership which is ‘transactional’ or ‘transformational’.

A self-less and inclusive mindset would imply taking on board all stakeholders in a situation that warrants an Mahabharat Krishna Arjunaimportant decision to be made. A true business leader would work for the overall benefit of the society and environment at large.

When Lord Krishna delivers the message of Bhagavad Gita on the battle field, it is not for the narrow purpose of Pandava’s victory. It is the song celestial, delivered for the benefit of the entire humanity.

When Ashwapathy, the virtuous and noble King of Madra in Savitri, seeks a progeny, he does not behave like a sorrow-stricken childless King. He acts like a representative and true leader of humanity. He is engaged in a quest, but not for a personal gain like having a child. He is seeking that creative principle which has the power to end human frustrations, discontents and ills. He is doing so for the entire humanity. He recognizes the painful truth that neither science and technology, nor religion and art, have so far managed to free mankind from the clutches of ignorance, suffering and death. Is there a way the age-old aspiration of mankind seeking a union with its Creator could get realized? Can a higher power come down and help him achieve this goal for the sake of humanity? Aswapathy’s impassioned plea eventually wins the promise of grace from the Divine Mother.

In the Ramayana, we do not like Lord Rama banishing Sita to the forest merely because an ordinary citizen had cast aspersions on her character. But he acts like a true blue CEO who shows no mercy when upholding the path of righteousness even at a huge cost in terms of personal happiness and comfort.

When one considers the example of Compaq’s Eckard Pfeiffer, who was a leader in a race against himself, it becomes clear as to how organizational renewal can be brought about. “No matter what industry a company competes in”, he said, “it must live with one foot in the present and the other in the future….There is simply no other way to build world leadership”.

A Clarity of Purpose

When faced with higher levels of uncertainty, a calm mind and clarity of purpose become the sine qua non of success.
According to one version of the Ramayana, both Rama and Sita are committed to the welfare of the people. They are aware that by remaining confined to their palaces and royal trappings, they would not be able to serve the purpose for which they exist. Thus, when an opportunity presents itself in the form of Kaikeyi’s demands at the time of His coronation, they accept the fait accompli with equipoise and leave their comfort zone with a great clarity of purpose.

Note how Savitri declares the completion of her mission (to locate a soul-mate) to her father.a1 1 (13)

‘The son of Dyumatsena, Satyavan
I have met on the wild forest’s lonely verge.
My father, I have chosen. This is done.’
(Savitri, page 424)

Savitri’s supreme self-confidence is revealed when she convinces her mother about the need of not changing her decision, despite Sage Narad’s prophetic announcement that Satyavan has only one year to live.

‘Let Fate do with me what she will or can;
I am stronger than death and greater than my fate;
My love shall outlast the world, doom falls from me
Helpless against my immortality.’
(Savitri, page 432)

(Part 2 to follow)

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