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
- The entire narrative highlights the importance of values in our lives. 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.
- The attachment of Dhritarashtra, the blind king, to his evil son, Duryodhana, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
This is a classic Tamil ‘sangam’ (3rd century BC to 4th century AD) literature
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 is a well-known Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal 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.
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.