The bhagavad gita philosophy of leadership


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The bhagavad gita philosophy of leadership

  1. 1. VR 6th march 2009 Page 1out of 7 The Bhagavad Gita-Philosophy of Leadership --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Introduction The mystical potency of the Bhagavad Gita in explaining all the intricate lessons of leadership is a very well accepted truth for ages. The Bhagavad Gita says “You are the architect of your own destiny. You are the composer of the songs that you sing. You are the surveyor of all that you survey. You are the redeemer of your life. A man who suffers as a result of hypocrisy, pride, vanity, anger and arrogance and who shows off is an ignorant man”. Every man is endowed with the purified intelligence that is required for the voyage to the unknown. If one abandons his duties and takes up duties of another, there will be chaos in the society. Every person is a unique individual, with a unique mix of strengths and weaknesses, which make them uniquely suited to contribute in a particular organizational role. The role of the leader is hence in the upliftment of one’s ethical and moral life and helps him realize his true potential. Human being belongs to a higher species. The mission of man on earth is to propagate life and for that he needs clear intellect. Propagation of life is an ongoing process and it crosses space, time and energy. Any universal formula that can explain the concept of these terms or relationship with life itself may be able to provide the answer to all the mysteries of this universe. Man is always in search of this ultimate formula that would remain time tested and be applicable to any situation and to any living being. Krishna gives san answer to this quest of man through the following sloka “Jnanam Theham Savignanamidam vakshyamyaseshadaha yajnathwa neha bhooyognathavyamavashishyathe” Chapter 7-The BhagavadGita “I shall teach you knowledge (Jnana) together with realization (Vignana) in their entirety, knowing which, thereafter nothing remains to be known” The unique dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna in the form of Gita reveals the whole purpose of Education and its moral and ethical implications and what a leader should be like.
  2. 2. VR 6th march 2009 Page 2out of 7 The Gita and the Leader The Bhagavad Gita is a therapy for oneself. The Gita leads one beyond action and the phenomenal world to the realization of the Self. There is a constant war with in everyone going on every minute to regain the lost kingdom of peace and bliss. Krishna is the greatest teacher and the wisest yogi on earth and how he transforms Arjuna through the discourse of the Gita is a treatise in itself for a life time growth of any leader. This Eastern psychology gives a practical advice about how a leader has to act and not react, and how to lead and transform the followers. In the current scenario of education, what are required is teachers like Lord Krishna and students like Arjuna to transform the entire world. If one is not hesitant to take cues from Eastern psychology, “The Gita”, gives the best example for Transformational leadership. The profound psychological insights into the leadership patterns exhibited by Lord Krishna to Arjuna at different levels as depicted in the Gita are thoroughly based on the philosophical concepts that are available in the Upanishads. It talks very clearly on management lessons of Transformational leadership. Leadership is a kind of service because the leader is leading people from one position to another where the followers had never been before. A leader who changes the follower’s terminal value is a transformational leader. According to “The Gita”, Chapter 3, sloka 40, “The senses, mind and intellect are resort of Desire; it is by these that it covers knowledge and confuses the Body bearing ones”. The Verse is only establishing a simple fact that a human being has to control the senses, in order to grow into higher altitudes. A perfect leader controls his emotions and tries to act and not react. This ultimately requires developing terminal value systems. Therefore, a leader has to inevitably learn to acquire those skills. Leadership is a very crucial and critical issue for any organization for the simple reason that the journey of the leader and the direction where he is taking the followers decide the success of the organization. Hence the leader should be quality service provider. Leadership is also called as a service because there is a greater degree of ‘Nishkama Karma”( attitude of detachment) attitude as exemplified in the Gita. The service provider’s only objective is to provide service without expecting a reward or accomplishment for what he has done. This means the leader has only the larger picture of well being of every one and the objective of the organization in mind. This leads to one of the most essential qualities of a leader that he has to be a visionary. Author Alvin Toffler put it: “You've
  3. 3. VR 6th march 2009 Page 3out of 7 got to think about big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” Leaders help the people to do this by casting vision, constantly reminding the people of the bigger picture they are a part of, and working towards. The Visionary Leadership is all about detachment – stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. They value knowledge along with the wisdom to use it. They always ask why of things and loves challenges. They are very effective and extremely good at strategic planning and advisory capacities. They know the directions to go and are very focused about how to go there. When vision is aligned with eternal universal principles it is beneficial for everyone. A compelling vision and internalizing the vision at all times is the need of great leadership. When vision is aligned with eternal universal principles it is beneficial for everyone. This is one of the styles of leadership exhibited in the Gita-“The Strategic Leadership style”. Good was good enough till recently in all walks of life. Today good has to be replaced by great. Leaders who run great organizations face tremendous challenges on a daily basis. Leaders become the change themselves before preaching the change. This means lead by example as suggested by the Gita. The courage to act is the next most essential quality of a leader. This leads to the Directive leadership style as suggested by the Gita. Dronacharya was a strategic leader and he was giving guide lines to his disciples in the Kurukshetra. These directions needed an Arjuna or Duryodhana to efficiently put in the form of action. A Kshatriya was required to direct the actions so that the war ended in success. A directive leadership is all about realizing the vision and action. How to motivate the team in order to attain the goals of the organization and building a team is the next biggest task of a leader as per the Gita. Karna was the biggest support for Duryodhana and this friendship was enviable and this fact even baffled the pandavas-why even Lord Krishna! Taking along the team and aligning their goals with the goals of the organization is a great challenge. This is a Team Leadership style that the Gita advocates. It is most democratic in nature and is participative and interactive. There is a quite candid interaction among the team players. Identifying the talent in the colleagues and nurturing that and helping him evolve is the greatest skill of a leader. When Michaelangelo was asked how he could create statues that were so lifelike, he replied, “The statues are already present in the marble, I only need to extract them.” That is what exactly Drona, Krishna were all doing in Mahabharata. Team members live on inspiration by looking at the leader. They need motivation and recognition to go along. Mark Twain says, “ I can live two months on a good compliment”. Spencer Johnson adds, “People who
  4. 4. VR 6th march 2009 Page 4out of 7 feel good about themselves produce good results”. A good leader is one who motivates his team, gives a meaning and purpose to work together for the betterment of the organization.” Rather than concentrating on the external motivation techniques, great leaders inspire the members that cause an intrinsic motivation for the employees to work. When this happens employee’s goal and organizations goal become one and the same. A strong moral background is essential for a good leader. To create this moral and ethical environment, what we need is an educational system which builds values in students. A strong Ethical leadership and decision making faculty should be at the helm of affairs. This leader would transform values into realizable objectives and visualize the transition. He should be another Krishna. There should be perspectives to complex issues and an absolute, culturally oriented, aesthetic sense of justification for every problem. Ethics in every walk of life, value systems in every possible learning that takes place, learning with self discipline in every discipline, integrating knowledge with science, still realizing the importance of pure knowledge and holding onto the culture and traditions with a progressive look –all contribute to the environment that we live in. The leader thus is a morally sound person free from greed, anger, desire and jealousy. Personal code of ethics differs from the professional code of ethics. But to a large extent personal ethic influences the professional behavior. In organizations we have different types of people with different mood swings and capacities. The true divine movement of human beings is to admire, to appreciate, to love and be happy. When the influences from evil forces act on them, they tend to behave in the most unnatural way thereby disrupting the Rhythm of the movements. The duty of a leader is to help his followers not to disturb this rhythm. Teams are more than sum of the individual members. There is always a synergy, a beautiful relationship that is quite new. Teams do not just happen, they have to be built and who builds the team? ----It’s the leader who has a vision. A leader plans, organizes, implements, controls and sets the team in right direction. When there is vision, direction and team then, what is required is practical implementation or action which is the next stage of leadership style. This is a participative or democratic kind of empowering the staff to perform on their own. The followers or the team is so very well connected and thrilled so that they take forward the organization as though it is their own. This is therefore the Operational leadership style. Here the team does not any more wait for instruction because the leader has enlightened them to such an extent that the spark present in every one comes out in action. According to Jack Welch, Chairman
  5. 5. VR 6th march 2009 Page 5out of 7 and CEO of General Electric, “Great leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion”. In many cases we do not have leaders who are complete with all the four important styles. A perfect combination of all the four is the ideal situation- a wishful thinking! Krishna was all rolled in one –the great leader-He was a counselor, mentor, strategic partner of Arjuna and directive in nature. He played a good team to the Pandavas and put all of them together. His intelligence was ruled by wisdom. The Bhagavad Gita is thus the masterpiece treatise for management of organizations. Conclusion It is very significant that the teachers have to impart knowledge to the students on how to perform skilful and selfless action. To provide the disciple, the comprehensive knowledge, thus, becomes a very important duty of the teacher. He has to teach the students to be warriors. Student, in his despondency, may forget to act and may delve into a state of confusion. But the teacher has to show him the path of action and advise him to act and not to react. Whether Ethics or education, it all amounts to individual goodness which culminates into the purified intelligence and intentions .If education can reach that level, then realizing the Absolute is within our reach. There is always a dawn after darkness In conclusion, I would like to quote from the Kaushidaki Upanishad which says, “When a man is speaking, he cannot be breathing. This is the sacrifice of breath to speech. When a man is breathing he cannot be speaking. This is the sacrifice of speech to breath. (As quoted by’Juan Mascaro’) “When consciousness rules speech, with speech we can speak all words, When consciousness rules breath, with in breath, we can smell all perfumes, When consciousness rules the eyes, with the eyes we can see all forms When consciousness rules the ear, with ear we can hear all sounds When consciousness rules the tongue, with the tongue we can savor all tastes When consciousness rules the mind, with the mind, we can think all thoughts” In our students or learners, what has to be awakened is this consciousness that rules the speech, breath, eyes, ears, tongue and mind. This knowledge of Consciousness is the ultimate knowledge! When this ultimate knowledge is kindled the potential leadership quality in every individual shines! Leaders are both born and made. When man has faith, he thinks. When he thinks,
  6. 6. VR 6th march 2009 Page 6out of 7 he knows and when he knows he creates. The Chandokya Upanishad says, “Where there is joy, there is creation. Where there is creation, there is progress Leader is a creator- creator of faith! Bibliography 1) “Ethical Leadership and Decision making in Education; Applying Theoretical Perspectives to complex dilemmas” by Joan Poliner Shapiro, Temple University, Jacqueline A Stefkovich, the Pennsylvania University, (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers (2001), Mahwah, NewJersy) 2) “The Perennial Psychology of the Bhagvad Gita” by Swami Rama 3) “The making of character; some educational aspects of Ethics” by John Mac Cunn, The Macmillan Company, (1900) 4)”Literature and Moral understanding; A philosophical essay on ethics, aesthetics and culture” by Frank Palmer; Oxford university (1992)