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Article 81

Leadership Learnings From Ramayana And Mahabharata For
The Business World
Ms. Anagha Shupre
Asstt. Prof., IMS, Ghaziabad

Abstract

The field of business and leadership has been enriched by learnings from various disciplines of knowledge.
This paper attempts to find out whether we can draw corporate leadership learnings from our great epics –
Ramayana and Mahabharta and apply to the business world for betterment. Some striking similarities have
also been found in the kautilaya’s arthshastra as well as Ram’s teachings for excellent corporate gover-
nance. This paper expounds the various teachings of Lord Krishna as well as Lord Rama conveyed greatly
through their actions thus drawing upon the insights which individuals and the organizations can use to grow
and prosper. An attempt has been made to assimilate the spirit of these epics for application in the field of
daily management practice and in the wider arena of creating better individuals and in turn better corporate
world.

Objectives knowledge. The Indian form concentrates more on
1. To comprehend the lessons from Ramayana, the content (knowledge) rather than on the ‘form’ or
Mahabharata and the Gita and apply them to the outward appearance. The Indian businesses must be
corporate world run through citations and practices mentioned in
2. To identify the roles played by the characters Indian culture.
and apply them in today’s business arena Though both epics have grandeur and scale, the
3. To understand the relevance of these lessons in Ramayana is a much more focused story with fewer
today’s scenario characters. It is the Mahabharata that is the real
colossus. The Ramayana is about a much-revered
Introduction God while Mahabharta is not, even though it has
God is great and bountiful. He gives us life, energy Krishna and the bhagwad gita. Krishna is more a
and resources to enjoy and share. According to the strategist and a king, a friend and an advisor to the
Hindu Mythology, He has also given us books on Pandavas. The Krishna people worship is the playful
wisdom and knowledge in the form of four Vedas Gokul Cowherd, the slayer of Kansa, the boy who
and Upanishads. But somewhere down the line, in performed miracles in His Childhood. It is a deeply
the mad race of becoming modern, we Indians began complex and intricately layered with sub-plots.
aping the west in all spheres of life 9 though we However, both of these epics are hard wired into our
continue to do so), we keep committing the same collective psyche. They both are classics that serve
mistakes as the west and do not learn from them. every age with knowledge, wisdom and truth. It is
Slowly and gradually we are reverting to our old said of Mahabharat that whatever is not in it, does
and rich cultural heritage as well as the teachings, not exist in this world. The pace, grandeur,
which can be applied universally to different arenas inscrutable genius of construction, its range and
including administration. The American style of variety, its darkness and its heart – The Gita brings
business management is more or less dependent on a great learning not only to individuals but also to
empirical studies, scientific approaches and the corporate world. The eklavya and Amba are
mathematical derivations. The Japanese form of blessed with extraordinary gifts in their lives. The
management is based on the art form of management Ramayana is more linear – Ramah is an ideal son,
whereas the Indian style is based on wisdom and brother, husband and the king.
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In recent years, the Western management education l Technical skills,
and training citadels such as Harvard, Kellogg, l Cognitive And Analytical Skills, And
Wharton and several others have experienced l Emotional Intelligence (EI).
persistent failure of their modern management
technology to inspire executive trainees and students In their interactions with hundreds of leaders
to stay perpetually motivated in the face of growing worldwide, the surveyors found EI to be twice as
challenges posed by economic liberalization and important as the other two attributes. In fact, the
globalization trends sweeping across the world. importance of EI, which is an embodiment of
Hence, modern management minds are looking for motivation, empathy, and social skills, increases as
solutions beyond the reservoir of Western one, goes up the management chain. There are three
management thoughts and practices. They have components in management — the analytical (head),
examined and experimented with the Japanese and the emotional (heart) and the spiritual (soul). But,
Chinese systems of management. Of late, their focus management education completely ignores emotional
has shifted to Indian philosophy to find solutions to intelligence (EI) and focuses only on analytical
reoccurring irritants in efficient management intelligence. EI is experience-driven. Life skills like
practices. As a step in this direction, Western creative thinking, listening, mentoring, working
management executives, particularly in USA, are under pressure, empathy, team building come from
being cajoled to put purpose before self during EI which can be easily learnt from the great epics.
retraining sessions at institutions of management
learning. It is Ved Vyasa’s Bhagavad Gita through Tutorials from Lord Rama
which they are attempting to enrich themselves with It is in the importance of EI that a similarity with
the supremacy of action. They are trying to enrich Ramayana can be recognized. In the mythical
matter with forces of spirituality, realizing that the Ramayana, the battle leading to the climax was being
principle of Karma has invaluable merits. When the played out. Vibhishan, Ravana’s brother who had
Harvard Business Review (HBR) came out with a defected to Ram’s side was unable to contain his
survey of 188 MNCs worldwide, in one of its recent concerns about defeating the huge army with limited
editions, on personal capabilities that contribute in resources. The reply that Rama gave stands out as a
the making of a successful leader, conducted by great lesson in leadership, more on the role and
Goldman, it was found that leaders by their very importance of EI as one can ever come across. He
nature are of six types: clarified that one has to have a clear vision and a
l Coercive—meaning ones who compel team cause worth fighting for. In the case of Ramayana,
members to follow their decisions the cause was to rescue his beloved Sita and the
l Authoritative—the ‘come with me’ type; vision was to defeat the evil forces.
l Affiliating—ones who work through close
association; Many prominent industry leaders today opine that
one need not necessarily have a vision, rather, taking
l Democratic—those who believe in building
one step at a time could be a much more practical
consensus;
way of going about, but unless one has a vision,
l Pace-Setting—the ‘I will jump and you will one will never be able to follow a trajectory. In the
follow’ type; and words of the great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,
l Coaching—the ones who believe in mentoring. “The world steps aside to a person who knows where
he or she is going.” Ramah narrated to Vibhishan,
The survey found out that with regards to the that the four wheels of the chariot are character,
faculties that go towards making a successful leader, courage, ethics, and valor. Character is the most
there are three primary skills, which are laid fundamental thing for a leader. As a leader, one must
emphasis on: know oneself and what one stands for. The same
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thought must be communicated to the kins and for consistency, one of the reins of the horse, as the
employees through actions rather than words. It is Ramayana so beautifully enumerates. Leaders might
essential for a leader to walk the talk; leadership be doing 200 things, from inspiring to coaching to
doesn’t come from a business card, or does respect. strategizing but nothing will be accounted for if
It is the ethics, the value system one portrays that results are not produced. The best way to produce
does the needful. Courage in this scenario would be results is the ability to motivate self and inspire the
the ability to take unpopular decisions, while valor team to achieve the goals.
is the courage to defend those very decisions. In the
event of an unpopular decision, and such decisions For example, teamwork is an important principle in
are a part and parcel of a leader’s life since leadership management, and Rama applied the same in search
begins where logic ends, it surely gets lonely on the of Sita and was successful in the mission. Another
top of the hill, but one must show the valor, walk one is in an organisation one must be treated
the talk, and teammates are sure to follow. Rama affectionately which Rama did when he met Guhan
enumerated what the horses drawing the chariot stood and Vibhishana. Management principles such as
for- strength, energy, and passion. In a battle (today’s encouraging lower category of employees, rewards
fierce competition) one must have the strength to for good work, self-motivation, decision-making,
discriminate between the right and wrong, and the recognition, market survey, market exploitation, time
zeal and perseverance to keep working towards the management and the art of communication are
desired goal. The four reins of a horse are aligned with instances in the epic.
forgiveness, compassion, consistency, and
equanimity. It is essential to touch the hearts before Tutorials from Mahabharata
one asks for the hand. Touching heart needs Krishna was a great leader because he was a problem
compassion and forgiveness. Consistency and solver, pragmatic, good judge of men, led by
equanimity are hallmark of character which creates example, delegated to qualified people, let people
trust with the followers. The chariot’s wheels, the make mistakes so that they could learn from their
horses, and their reins are among the most important mistakes and always kept the big picture in mind.
of a warrior’s (and therefore a leader’s) repertoire. Draupadi was the epitome of feminine will and self-
Knowledge, strategy, intelligence, skills, respect who challenged injustice, held her ground in
commitment, and a restraint of ego are the weapons difficult circumstances, was optimistic, egalitarian
that will help in winning any mammoth battle. The in her approach to men and women, was a confidante
way the Ramayana portrays the essential attributes and a counselor, sensitive interpreter of people’s
of a leader is a revelation. Many of today’s thinkers nonverbal communication, identified the right person
analyze too much and thus lose the charm of for the right job and most importantly blended
simplicity. One need not analyze and complicate passion/ emotion with reason to energize her kinsmen,
things. What the HBR survey and the statement of her husbands and her family.
Rama in the Ramayana say are one and the same, Three great works enumerate Krishna’s teachings:
that EI, an embodiment of all the aforesaid things is The Bhagwad Gita, the Anugita and the Udhavgita.
what makes victory possible against any opposition. While the first two are a part of the Mahabharata,
It can be questioned as to how one person can possess the last is cited in the Bhagvata.
all these qualities. Well, one need not master all of
them. No great leader has been exceptional in all of The Mahabharata is not about good and evil; instead,
them. They, like each one of us, are strong in a few it teaches that life is grey. Defining the grey is not
of the attributes, which provides core strength to their easy because it is deeply rooted to the context. The
leadership. One needs to be consistent in their great Indian epic can be used to compare each of the
approaches to different people, no matter who they Pandavas to managers of today with their roles,
are and where they are coming from. Leadership calls strengths, weaknesses and consequences. According
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to Ramnath Narayanaswamy, professor at IIM-B leadership as one of the five essential factors that
management students are looking at Krishna as the determine ultimate victory. Vikarna is mentioned here
CEO, Yudhishtir who binds together values, Bhima amongst the other big names of Duryodhana’s
(outcomes), Arjun (learning), Karna (legitimacy), leadership team not because he is of the same caliber
Nakul (process) and Shadev (purpose). The as the others, but because his loyalty was in question.
Ramayana and Mahabharata are outstanding texts
for all times and can be contemporized to any age. As injustices had been meted out by Duryodhana on
The Pandavas, Karna included, are each a great hero the Pandavas, Vikarna was the lone speaker in protest
with a fatal flaw. Yudhishtir is the mentor whose against Duryodhana’s actions. Vikarna, however,
strengths are his values and beliefs. He stands for changes sides just before the battle, when the
propriety but he is blinded by his code of honor. opportunity is given to do so. Duryodhana’s force is
Similarly, Bhima is an ‘executor’ manager. For him, numerically superior and seems more likely to prevail
the outcome is supremely important, the bottom line in this final battle in a war. Vikarna, however, is
matters — his weakness is he can be blinded by rage. loyal to a higher cause than his own self-
Nakul is the enabler — the service hero of today. aggrandizement or even self preservation, and must
He’s driven by process, but there’s no active do what he understands to be right. This is a hallmark
leadership. Sahadeva is the visionary, but he is like of an authentic leader. When communication is fluid
the manager who stands for thought and no action. within an organization there can be a high level of
Karna’s strength is personal loyalty; it also brings shared vision and shared situational awareness. The
about his doom. He’s like the manager of today who’d natural tendency of leaders is to initiate action. If
buy vegetables for his boss’s stands for flawless strategic vision is not shared across an organization
perfection. His strength is that he is assailed by the tendency will be for leaders to initiate action
doubt, but he is willing to learn. Today’s young which doesn’t necessarily contribute to the overall
managers are Arjuns, in search of their own heroism goals or momentum of the organization. In the case
— they want to discover their own meaning in life. of Duryodhana he is confident that his people will
Isolate the insides of religious traditions and do what is necessary.
contemporize them in a managerial situation.
Dronacarya has a personality with highly developed Effective leadership follows principles of practice
primary leadership ability for Strategic Leadership, which empower it to effect change. Authentic
and also a very strong secondary ability as a leadership follows principles of purpose which
Directive Leader. On a leadership team the Strategic empower it to effect holistic positive change.
Leaders provide vision aligned with eternal Duryodhana was expert in applying the principles
principles, and the Directive Leaders provide of practice, and as such he was able to amass a large
direction, aligning the people with the vision. The force of capable, competent leaders. However, he had
Team-building Leaders generate cohesion and keep no interest in any purpose other than his own - the
the group together, and Operational Leaders provide goal and direction of his leadership was not in accord
leadership in the area of implementation. All types with principles, therefore he was misleading these
of leaders play vital roles. Some people will have people. Leadership which follows principles in its
ability in multiple areas; others will have ability form but deviates from or ignores universal principles
focused in one area. Duryodhana thought about being in its function is actually little more than
victorious not because of the equipments or manipulation.
technology, not the strategic plan, not even his own
ability but his people. Getting the right people is Krishna had vowed not to fight in the battle, but to
fundamental. Both Duryodhana and Arjuna spent a join one side of the conflict. His army, however,
lot of time and energy recruiting for this battle. Sun would fight on the other side. Duryodhana elected
Tzu, in his classic treatise the Art of War states Krishna’s army, and Arjuna chose to have Krishna
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on his side. The inner meaning of His appearing on Development for aptitude is usually evidence-based
the side of the Pandavas, which was substantially and profitcentric. Cultivation of attitude is
weaker in strength than Duryodhana’s side, is that experience-based and purpose-centric. Today, there
leadership which is lacking in effectiveness, in are many professional specialisations in many
efficacy due to a lack of understanding of the aspects of management, for example, human
principles of practice is preferred to leadership which resources, real estate, and wealth. However, there is
is lacking in alignment with the principles of purpose. still limited research on the essence of management.
It is better to be going in the right direction at 5 Analysis by Henri Fayol divided management into
miles an hour, than off a cliff at 100. Even the ability five elements: plan, organise, command, coordinate,
to mix and match colors is a type of intelligence. and control. According to Peter Drucker, a manager
Different people have different mixtures of does his work by getting other people to do theirs.
intelligence, and how they elect to use these talents So, business management would include
is up to them. Duryodhana had a large degree of talent communication and commitment, in addition to the
and intelligence, but he chose to utilize them for his 3Cs. Together, these 5Cs would encapsulate the
own selfish needs. He did not care about anything essence of business management. Debate continues
more than seizing the throne for himself. Thus he is on whether a manager needs to be leader in order to
described as evil-minded, or a misuse of his be efficient or effective, including the balance
intelligence. between IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional
quotient). But ultimately, all endeavours should
Can there be any bit of similarity between Krishna’s prepare a manager for decision-making and
showing His universal form to Arjuna on the implementation whenever a business opportunity
battlefield and an effective leader displaying holistic strikes to bridge the gap between profit-centric and
vision? purpose-centric management.
Ancient wisdom is thought of integrating knowledge
and action. In the modern context, there are too many In the Gita, Krishna represents the embodiment of
excellent policy documents but too little actual Vishnu. This guide is more to awaken than to instruct.
implementation on the ground. Vivekananda had said Since every physical form is the result of an inside
that knowledge without action has no value and tension, the human person enjoys an outward
action without knowledge is futile. To integrate personality (extrovert, introvert) while restraining the
thought and action there has to be responsibility, ego (pride, dignity, lust) by managing the
accountability and performance-linked incentive. The characteristics of the self. These comprise goodness
corporate world has to move away from the existing that brings happiness,harmony and the passion to
mindset. They have to build internal strengths rather ignite action and get rid of ignorance which may
than eliminate competition through unfair means. lead to delusion or confusion. They individually and
Sadly, the current ruling mantra is not to lead but to jointly influence the psychophysical condition of a
defend. Companies which have led more often are person. Sanctification of daily work is by detachment
today amongst the world’s best companies. from the fruits of labour, devotion to duty, and the
discipline to persevere for wisdom. Common
Business is about meeting market demand by having distortions to such efforts are the adherence to rituals
the capability, capital and connections (3Cs) to like extravagant ceremonies, dogmas like mandatory
sustain cash flow for the generation of profit. These routes of advancement for career development
3Cs are cardinal features for an aptitude towards especially in business entertaining that distract the
competition. However, business thrives on truth and link to and disturb the acceptance of one’s own
integrity, and more importantly the attitude towards essential nature. The attitude in business is reinforced
customers, stakeholders, and society-to maintain by discipline, detachment, and devotion, the various
mutual trust and the management of expectations. categories of human effort denote capability. The
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rituals, dogmas and habits are gateways to not mutually exclusive. The first group believes in
connections, especially to competitors and “doing things right” and resist change
supporters. Individual management is the most (conservatives). The second relishes change and
important capital and the orifice in communication believes in “doing the right things” (entrepreneurs).
is the humble acceptance of the presence of God. He The third group represents change and also gets
skillfully sermonises that any duty done by people others to do things that are perceived to be right
must be considered as an offerring and service to (leaders). Lastly are those who complicate the issues
Him. The level of commitment leading to better about being “right” (politicians). However, all these
accountability will definitely rise. Commitment is managers would need to optimise their 5Cs for
through discipline, detachment and devotion. Hence, profitability and productivity.
the 5Cs are contained in the Bhagavad Gita.
However, the various models can help managers and
The Pious Gita with holy learnings companies have less haste and more speed in
One of the greatest contributions of India to the world decision-making. Clarity of thought breeds
is Holy Gita. It is truly regarded as being a song of confidence in action. Adherence to the Bhagavad Gita
the Spirit and the Lord. It has got all the management would also include an abundance attitude (win-win),
tactics to achieve the mental equilibrium and to always grateful and sincere towards business
overcome any crisis situation. Bhagavad-Gita Gita opportunitiesFrom the Bhagavad Gita, the essence
means. The Holy Gita has become a secret driving of management can be summarised as self-control
force behind the enfoldment of one’s life. The Holy focusing on discipline in perseverance, detachment
Gita is a practical psychology of transformation from fruits of labour, and devotion to duty. The key
which offers us the tools to connect with our deepest components in business management are the 5Cs:
intangible essence. We must learn to participate in capital, capability, connections, communication, and
the battle of life with right knowledge. commitment.

Management is a process of aligning people and Capital
getting them committed to work for a common goal Capital comprises basically money, men, machines,
to the maximum social benefit - in search of and methods. However, their optimal combination
excellence. The critical question in all managers’ would be determined by a business motive. This is
minds is how to be effective in their job. The answer expressed in the business vision, mission and core
to this fundamental question is found in the values, and they would remain as mere words if not
Bhagavad-Gita Gita, which repeatedly proclaims implemented with passion and compassion. Gita
that “you must try to manage yourself.” The reason III:35 “Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own
is that unless a manager reaches a level of excellence dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds
and effectiveness, he or she will be merely a face in fear and insecurity” (Easwaran, 1998). Therefore,
the crowd. realising one’s own contribution towards the entire
cluster/industry is vital in unifying/justifying one’s
The 18 chapters of the Gita can be divided into three existence. Core competencies, intellectual properties
six-chapter parts. The first third deals with karma and niche expertise are intangible capital. The Gita
yoga (ways of selfless action), the second v/ithjnana further specifies, Gita 11:47 “You have the right to
yoga (ways of self-knowledge), and the last with work, but never to the fruit of work” (Easwaran,
bhaktiyoga (ways of love, devotions). Yoga literally 1998). Gita II:50 “When consciousness is unified,
means “link”. Meditation is the process, while yoga however, all vain anxiety is left behind. There is no
is the result. The preceding yogas aspire to link cause for worry, whether things go well or ill”
ordinary man with the divine. In mundane business, (Easwaran, 1998). So, managing and owning capital
there are basically four types of managers that are are forms of stewardship from the Gita perspective.
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Capability interconnectivities between deeds and needs. Truth
While capital is essential to service market demand, prevails. A business needs to maintain a culture of
capability refers to the intrinsic qualities that integrity in order to sustain trust, inside and outside,
contribute to competitive advantage. For example, thereby create a goodwill and gradually build up a
fresh perspectives that do the same things better, strong reputation for self.
faster, cheaper. These include outsourcing, corporate
governance and corporate social responsibility. In Communication
Gita VI:5 “Reshape yourself through the power of Besides sender and receiver (worthy or unworthy),
your will, never let yourself be degraded by self- communication within the Gita perspective is
will. The will is the only friend of the Self, and the dependent on timing and circumstances, regardless
will is the only enemy of the Self (Easwaran, 1998). of content and duration of the message. From the
Although change is an intraorganisational decision, business perspective, data mining and market
it is more important that the new capabilities analyses help prepare impactful deliveries to targeted
developed are linked to heritage while servicing new audiences. Very often, it is not what but how things
market demands. So, strive for links with business have been said or packaged which determine
multipliers and network catalysts. Gita IV: 18 “The responses.
wise see that there is action in the midst of inaction
Commitment
and inaction in the midst of action. Their
Another purpose-centric perspective is the
consciousness is unified, and every act is done with
commitment of managers and owners to the business
complete awareness” (Easwaran, 1998).
as an on-going concern. From Gita 11:34 “... for a
man of honour, dishonour is worse than death”
Gita FV:20 “The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned
(Easwaran, 1998). Sustaining a business is an
all external supports. Their security is unaffected
honourable duty.
by the results of their action; even while acting, they
really do nothing at all” (Easwaran, 1998). The Management Grid
Masterplans (for example, revolving long range Matters that are not urgent and not important can be
planning) and scenario planning outline strategies delegated. However, transparency in the
to retain, replace or review essential capabilities that organisational structure is vital so as not to disrupt
are vital for the business as an on-going entity. and distort the ordinary rhythm of business. For
urgent but not important issues, appropriate parties
Connections could be empowered to act. However, they need to
While capital and capability provide for the supply- be abreast with the strategic intent of the business.
side, a business needs connections to capture its Strategy is about aligning activities to create a unique
demand-side. These include feedforward (market and distinctive mix that cannot be easily and quickly
intelligence, feasibility studies) and feedback emulated by competitors. Matters that are not urgent
(reviews, audits). Gita XVII:23-27 mentions “OM, but important usually affect the business in the long-
TAT, SAT’ (Easwaran, 1998). OM being the sacred term requiring an extensive network of expertise.
syllable that connects the known to the unknown; However, these need intimate understanding of local
TAT refers to supreme reality beyond what human culture for optimal management. Tact and tolerance
language or thought can describe; and SAT embodies are vital in handling differences. In urgent and
all that is good in self-harmony. Likewise, specific important matters, usually depicted in a crisis or
jargon provides limited access to qualified members. chaos situation, leadership is necessary. There is a
Being connected means staying afloat on the same need to exhibit conscious control, although timely
boat. More importantly, Gita XVIL28 refers to communication (feedforward, feedback) requires
“ASAT” (Easwaran, 1998) as all work done without efficient coordination and effective co-operation of
faith is nothing. So, sincerity is vital for all all parties involved.
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Holistic Approach phenomenon has its source in the abundant wealth
While the management grid consolidates the business of the West and so ‘management by materialism’ has
perspective by focusing on evidence-based, profit- caught the fancy of all the countries the world over,
centric approach, “Self Control” as promoted by the India being no exception to this trend. India has been
Bhagavad Gita completes the experienced-based, in the forefront in importing these ideas mainly
purpose-centric aspect of management capital can because of its centuries old indoctrination by colonial
be delegated when there is a transparent structure in rulers, which has inculcated in us a feeling that
an organisation (for example, licensing, franchising). anything Western is good and anything Indian, is
Capability can be empowered when the overall inferior.
strategy is clear (for example, agencies, sub-
contractors, original equipment manufacturers). For The Western idea of management centers around
connections, the expanded networking would today making the worker (and the manager) more efficient
include blogs and portals with real time pushmails and more productive. Companies offer workers more
via Blackberry or similar technologies. The vital link to work more, produce more, sell more and to stick
between business and management is the leader. This to the organisation without looking for alternatives.
person relies on communication to bond an enterprise The sole aim of extracting better and more work from
together. From the wisdom of Bhagavad Gita, this the worker is to improve the bottom-line of the
process can in summary involve discipline, enterprise. Thus, workers have been reduced to the
detachment and devotion, reinforcing the state of a mercantile product. In such a state, it should
commitment to sustain an on-going concern for come as no surprise to us that workers start using
business. strikes, sit-ins, go-slows, work-to-rule etc. to get
maximum benefit for themselves from the
Western Thoughts V/s Holy Gita organisations. Society-at-large is damaged. Thus we
The Bhagavad-Gita Gita enlightens us on all reach a situation in which management and workers
managerial techniques leading us towards a become separate and contradictory entities with
harmonious and blissful state of affairs in place of conflicting interests arise. There is no common goal
the conflict, tensions, poor productivity, and absence or understanding. This, predictably, leads to
of motivation so common in most of Indian suspicion, friction, disillusion and mistrust, with
enterprises today and probably in enterprises in many managers and workers at cross purposes. The
other countries. The modern (Western) management absence of human values and erosion of human touch
concepts of vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in the organizational structure has resulted in a crisis
in work, achieving goals, giving work meaning, of confidence. This led to the introduction of term
decision making and planning, are all discussed in ‘CSR’ (Corporate Social responsibility) a concept
the Bhagavad Gita. There is one major difference. which was not new to Indian civilization but did
While Western management thought too often deals revolutionize the art of teaching in management
with problems at material, external and peripheral schools in India as well as abroad).
levels, the Bhagavad Gita tackles the issues from
the grass roots level of human thinking. Once the In the Gita where Sri Krishna says, “He who shares
basic thinking of man is improved, it will the wealth generated only after serving the people,
automatically enhance the quality of his actions and through work done as a sacrifice for them, is freed
their results. from all sins. On the contrary those who earn wealth
only for themselves, eat sins that lead to frustration
The management philosophy emanating from the and failure. While commonplace theories of
West is based on the lure of materialism and on a motivation may be said to lead us to the bondage or
perennial thirst for profit, irrespective of the quality extrinsic rewards, the Gita’s principle leads us to
of the means adopted to achieve that goal. This the intrinsic rewards of mental, and indeed moral,
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satisfaction. Assimilation of the ideas of the Gita through mental agitation of anxiety for the future.
leads us to the wider spectrum of general welfare In fact, the way the world works means that events
but there is also another dimension to the work ethic do not always respond positively to our calculations
- if the service is blended with devotion then the work and hence expected fruits may not always be
itself becomes worship, a service for its own sake. forthcoming. So, the Gita tells us not to mortgage
Western management philosophy may have created present commitment to an uncertain future.
prosperity – for some people some of the time at
least - but it has failed in the aim of ensuring Motivation – self and self-transcendence
betterment of individual life and social welfare. It It has been presumed for many years that satisfying
has remained by and large a soulless edifice and an lower order needs of workers - adequate food,
oasis of plenty for a few in the midst of poor quality clothing and shelter, etc. are key factors in
of life for many. Hence, there is an urgent need to motivation. However, it is a common experience that
re-examine prevailing management disciplines - their the dissatisfaction of the clerk and of the Director is
objectives, scope and content. Management should identical - only their scales and composition vary. It
be redefined to underline the development of the should be true that once the lower-order needs are
worker as a person, as a human being, and not as a more than satisfied, the Director should have little
mere wage-earner. With this changed perspective, problem in optimizing his contribution to the
management can become an instrument in the process organisation and society. On the contrary, a lowly
of social, and indeed national, development. paid schoolteacher, or a self-employed artisan, may
well demonstrate higher levels of self-actualization
Bhagavad-Gita is a primer of management- despite poorer satisfaction of their lower-order needs.
by-values. This situation is explained by the theory of self-
Utilization of available resources transcendence propounded in the Gita. Self-
The first lesson of management science is to choose transcendence involves renouncing egoism, putting
wisely and utilize scarce resources optimally. During others before oneself, emphasizing team work,
the curtain raiser before the Mahabharata War, dignity, co-operation, harmony and trust – and,
Duryodhana chose Sri Krishna’s large army for his indeed potentially sacrificing lower needs for higher
help while Arjuna selected Sri Krishna’s wisdom for goals, the opposite of Maslow.
his support. This episode gives us a clue as to the
nature of the effective manager - the former chose Live Example
numbers, the latter, wisdom. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) turns to
Bhagavad Gita for management lessons as it helps
Attitudes towards work to stick to ethics in the workplace. Yoga lessons are
What the Gita tells us is to develop the visionary organized for the staff to help them deal with stress
perspective in the work we do. It tells us to develop and its after-effects. Exercise in spirituality has
a sense of larger vision in our work for the common produced positive energy and team spirit among
good. employees .It does not believe in intense vigilance
nor does it rely on hidden cameras to plug leaks and
Work commitment nab wrongdoers. Instead the organisation has turned
A popular verse of the Gita advises “detachment” to Bhagavad Gita to stem corruption, lethargy and
from the fruits or results of actions performed in the negligence. Putting the accent on “sticking to ethics
course of one’s duty. Being dedicated to work has to in the workplace”, the organisation is attempting to
mean “working for the sake of work, generating instill the values of honesty, moral virtues of hard
excellence for its own sake. Working only with an work and diligence as preached in the Bhagavad Gita,
eye to the anticipated benefits, means that the quality which has now emerged as a guidebook for
of performance of the current job or duty suffers - motivating numbers-driven managers. So to help
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enhance the spiritual quotient of the employees and and the ego is the centre piece of most theories of
to ensure that they steer clear of dishonesty and vice, motivation. We need not merely a theory of
there are frequent yoga lessons, talks and lectures motivation but a theory of inspiration. Management
by motivational gurus and a handbook with relevant needs those who practice what they preach and
messages. To motivate employees and to encourage leadership becomes effective.
a positive outlook, quotes from the ‘Gita Makaranda’
are taken and published in the monthly newsletter References
and safety bulletins of DMRC so that the messages Drucker, Peter, 1968. The Practice of Management, Pan
reach everyone from the senior management to the Books, London.
Easwaran, Eknath, 1998. The Bhagavad Cita. Nilgiri
workers and the contractors spirituality is accorded
Press California.
pride of place in the management ethos of DMRC
Farrow N, 1987. The Cower Handbook of Management,
and is inherent in the working of the organisation. 2nd edition, Gower, Vermont (USA).
“Gita according to Gandhi” in http://members.aol.com/
But this will only happen if people running the jajnsn/anasa.html (reproductions of text written by
organizations themselves are fervent believers of the Mahatma Gandhi in 1931)
values that the Bhagavad Gita preaches. Hee, Charles Chow Hoi A Holistic Approach to Business
Management: Perspectives from the Bhagavad Gita,
Conclusion Singapore Management Review, 2007
Leaders must derive spiritual nourishment by having Mascaro, Juan, 1972. The Bhagavad Gita, Penguin
faith in a higher authority. They must realize that Classics, Harmondsworth, UK.
Nawal K Prinja (editor), 1998. Explaining Hindu
success can be achieved by engaging in meditation,
Dharma, Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK, Surrey.
practicing sacrifice and self-less giving and adopting
Online edition of the Hindu,feb.’12, 2002
a mindset that is open to hard and smart work. Radhakrishnan S, 1960. The Bhagavadgita, George
Krishna defined Dharma as anything that brought Allen and Unwin, London.
about the good of the individual and society. Work The Times Of India, New Delhi dated Nov.’ 02, 2007
must be done with devotion. Every act must be done (Prof. Ramnath Narayanaswamy – Management
as a service to Him. It is the ego that spoils work Gyan from CEO Krishna )