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Blog Post


8 FEB 2017

Leadership Lessons from Bhagavad Gita

It’s said that Great Leaders are not born but are made. Years of self assessment and criticism along with tough competition has often brought out the best of the men. India has been fortunate to have many a scriptures to guide its pupil in various aspects of professional and personal life. But with the arrival of western education system many of our old age teachings have been forgotten.

One of the many challenges being faced by today’s generation is bringing out leaders. Creating extraordinary men from ordinary is not a small task. And from a small group to a medium organization to a multinational enterprise, each entity looks out for a leader; a person to head. He is a person who creates enabling atmosphere to leverage his organization to fame and credible position amongst stakeholders. And that’s the reason why best companies of the world have a continuous interest in developing systems to identify, create and nurture great leaders.

Types Of Leadership

Often leaders take the charge of steering their organization to success through thick and thin through the means devised by them. They often feel it as their duty to get the right performance for the organization. They keep a tight monitoring system for the sub-ordinates in getting the assigned tasks done. This type of leadership has a Leader having position, power and all resources at his disposal. With these resources at his disposal, the leader feels that he is capable to achieve the organizational goals. This kind of leadership system creates a “market contract” for others working in the organization as they don’t feel motivated enough to contribute anything more than their pay require them to. There is no ownership amongst them as the decision making and resources are centered on the leader himself and others are expected to act and perform in the manner as defined by the leader. This style of leadership has not been able to bring out the best out of a team.

In the second style, Leaders don their hats as enablers and not as doers. They feel that the resources at their disposal and the position obtained by them should be used in enabling others to do their best. They believe in nurturing strong leadership talent by creating space and agenda for the team members. Their joy is based on the success of the others as they keep themselves irrelevant in day to day matters pertaining to the running the institution. It’s more like promoting oneself to the position of Coach and providing others the opportunity to become Captain for various teams in the organization. This approach is termed as “psychological contract” wherein people feel responsible their performance and willing to put in more efforts than is required. The sense of ownership is distributed evenly in the organization.

Lessons from Bhagavad Gita

There are broadly 3 lessons which we may derive from the readings of one of the most acclaimed epic of India, “Bhagavad Gita”:

• Lead by example
• Developing the sense of equanimity
• Appreciating the importance of Mutual Dependence

In Gita, Krishna teaches his disciple Arjuna many a lessons. He says that a Leader’s hands are tied and his performance is watched by his team keenly. By leading by example, a leader gains the confidence and approval of his team and the team blindly follows him.

Additionally, Leaders in today’s world are unable to take bad outcomes positively. While the going is fine, the world seems ok but as soon as things get tough the balance is lost. In times of desperation, a true leader must manage the “World within” and not the “World outside”. Krishna tells Arjuna that the World is full of duality, hot and cold, rough and easy, wins and losses; and if we do not learn to endure them and go through this life as a roller coaster ride, we will never be able to succeed as a true leader.

Lastly, one of the big lessons to be learnt from Bhagavad Gita is the principle of mutual dependence. It is a well established scientific fact that from sub atomic level to galactic levels involving heavenly bodies, all the particles and objects depend on each other for optimum and efficient performance. But with the advent of modern cities and towns, joint families have given way to nuclear families. Preference of individuality has taken the focus away from the importance of Sharing and unconditional giving. Children are taught the ideas of originality and while growing, this self centred idea of development paves way for selfishness and everyone has today started asking the question, “What’s in it for me?” A leader must understand and appreciate that people working with the leader are as important as the leader himself.

Inspirational Leadership: Road to Greatness

A Leader evolves into greatness when he truly becomes an inspirational leader. For that, he must outgrow his own vision from the narrow perspective of ‘”What’s in it for me?” to an opportunity to make a difference to the organization and his people. He must not be afraid of anyone nor should he generate any fear in others. An atmosphere of positivity and openness must propagate from the leader himself and then others would follow his path. A great leader must inculcate an ability to transform people and organizations he comes in contact with. From our great national leaders like Gandhi, Bose, Bhagat Singh to industrial leaders like JRD Tata, Azim Premji, Narayan Murthy are shining examples of the same. They inspired their generation and many generations thereafter are inspired by their words and actions. They must set an example which guides people for a long time.