Poet Kannadasan's Aandavan Kattalai for Leadership


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This article provides an Indian (Tamilian) leadership perspective by the legendary Poet Kannadasan. The article is based on hermeneutics
(a qualitative research methodology) which includes content (song) analysis, besides leadership interpretations from the Ramayana, Mahabharata (includes the Bhagavad-Gita) and other ancient Indian literatures. Swami
Chinmayananda (2003) asserted that from time to time, there is a need for us to look and re-look at these ancient literatures and provide intelligent
interpretation and re-interpretation to apply effectively in the modern context of leadership. Unlike the western approach to leadership which focuses in exploring the external world of matter and energy, the literary writer Kannadasan recommends a leadership approach which focuses on exploring the inner world of the self. This means the leadership of the self first before any other type of leadership. This approach is also consistent with the teachings of the ancient Indian and other ancient East Asian philosophies such as
Confuicianism and Taoism. The prospects of analysing Kannadasan’s other Tamil songs and ancient Indian literatures in the areas of management and people development such as communication, work motivation, conflict
handling, values and attitude improvements can be considered for future research.

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Poet Kannadasan's Aandavan Kattalai for Leadership

  1. 1. 326 Int. J. Indian Culture and Business Management, Vol. 2, No. 3, 2009An Indian leadership perspective from literatureworks of Poet Kannadasan Balakrishnan Muniapan* School of Business, Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus, Jalan Simpang Tiga, Kuching 93576, Sarawak, Malaysia E-mail: mbalakrsna@yahoo.com *Corresponding author Mohan Dass Faculty of Business and Enterprise, Swinburne University of Technology, John Street, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia Fax: +61 3 98192117 E-mail: dmohan@groupwise.swin.edu.au Abstract: This article provides an Indian (Tamilian) leadership perspective by the legendary Poet Kannadasan. The article is based on hermeneutics (a qualitative research methodology) which includes content (song) analysis, besides leadership interpretations from the Ramayana, Mahabharata (includes the Bhagavad-Gita) and other ancient Indian literatures. Swami Chinmayananda (2003) asserted that from time to time, there is a need for us to look and re-look at these ancient literatures and provide intelligent interpretation and re-interpretation to apply effectively in the modern context of leadership. Unlike the western approach to leadership which focuses in exploring the external world of matter and energy, the literary writer Kannadasan recommends a leadership approach which focuses on exploring the inner world of the self. This means the leadership of the self first before any other type of leadership. This approach is also consistent with the teachings of the ancient Indian and other ancient East Asian philosophies such as Confuicianism and Taoism. The prospects of analysing Kannadasan’s other Tamil songs and ancient Indian literatures in the areas of management and people development such as communication, work motivation, conflict handling, values and attitude improvements can be considered for future research. Keywords: Indian leadership, Indian values, Tamil cinema, Tamil song. Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Muniapan, B. and Dass, M. (2009) ‘An Indian leadership perspective from literature works of Poet Kannadasan’, Int. J. Indian Culture and Business Management, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp.326–340. Biographical notes: Balakrishnan Muniapan, MSc. HRM (UK), BEcons (UKM) currently teaches HRM at the Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus in Malaysia. He had previously taught at the CurtinCopyright © 2009 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.
  2. 2. An Indian leadership perspective from literature works of Poet Kannadasan 327 University of Technology (Sarawak Campus), BIMC in Beijing, China and Economics at Disted and Rima in Penang, Malaysia. He is also considered by many scholars as a pioneer in promotion of Vedic HRM approach in Malaysia and often an invited speaker for various HRM conferences in Malaysia and abroad. He has published several articles, book chapters and international journal articles. He has also presented HRM-related papers at academic conferences in several countries in Asia and Australia. Mohan Dass, PhD (Melbourne), MBA (EAU, Macau), BA (Hons) USM, Malaysia, is currently the Programme Director, Master of Management at the Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. He has written several conference articles, journals, research papers and is actively involved in major research projects, including an SME study of Western European Companies and the Management of FTZs in Penang. He is also an External Moderator for several International Colleges with relationship to the Australian Universities. His previous position includes being the Vice-President (Academic) for a Malaysian College; Manager, HRM, and Management Staff Member of the Penang Economic Development Corporation.1 IntroductionLeadership is one of the most researched subjects and an interesting topic of discussionsaround the world. Generally, leadership is defined as the process of influencing theactivities of an individual or a group in efforts towards achieving certain goals. The word‘influencing’ can be substituted with other words such as transforming, empowering,driving, motivating and inspiring. In leadership, the leader is the key in transforming thefollowers. The leader is the most important element in leadership. The personality,behaviour and character of the leader are an important determinant for success of anyorganisation, society and country. Napoleon Bonaparte once said that he would have anarmy of rabbits led by a lion than an army of lions led by a rabbit (Sheh, 2003). It is theleader who navigates and provides vision and mission for his1 people. In mostorganisation, societies and countries, the failure or poor performance whethereconomically, politically or socially are not due to poor administration but poorleadership. Therefore, leadership is the life force and the spirit of an organisation thatholds everything together. The wise leader uses the force from within to inspire andmotivate his people. Without the leader, an organisation, a society and a country aremerely collection of people (Sheh, 2003). A review of leadership literature reveals that many leadership theories and conceptsfrom the western world and has been in dominance over the last two centuries due to thewidespread use of English language. However, several western leadership theories andconcepts popularised today by the west, have been in existence and have been in practicein Asian countries especially in India and in China for centuries. However, theseleadership practices were not in the context of management, but in the context of state orpolitical governance, with kings playing major leadership roles. The study of leadership is also culture specific and the practice of leadership is deeplyattached to culture. Sharma (2001) argues that for a leadership to be effective, it has to berooted in the cultural soil of the country, where it is practiced. Owing to the crucial roleplayed by culture, cross-cultural leadership studies have also caught the attention of many
  3. 3. 328 B. Muniapan and M. Dassresearchers in the last fifty years. Studies of leadership styles have revealed that there arenot only differences in the styles preferred by followers in different national cultures, butalso the specific behaviours (Shahin and Wright, 2004). Recognising this importance ofculture in leadership, many communities and countries in the world are now trying todiscover and explore their own system of leadership. In the Malaysian context, thecurrent Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is also promoting anapproach called Islam Hadhari or civilisation Islam, in which leadership is, also included(Swee Hock and Kesavapany, 2006:39). Presently, the interest in the studies of Asian leadership is growing due to the growthof the many Asian economies especially Japan, the four tigers (Singapore, South Korea,Taiwan and Hong Kong, which is now a part of China), China and India. India, in termsof geography, population size and cultural influence, is currently the most importantnation in Asia due to the consistent high economic growth rates over recent decades. As aresult an interest in studying leadership systems, culture in the Indian context is necessarynot only for the foreign multi-national operating in India, but also the Indians themselveswho live in India and around the world. In recent times, Maruyama (1994) was one of the authors who explored the Asiancontext of leadership beginning with wide understanding of Japanese leadership threedecades ago. As for the Chinese leadership, the discussion and the studies are alsogrowing in recent years especially based on the literatures on Confucianism and Sun TzuArt of War. Today, the Sun Tzu’s Art of War and the teachings of Confucius are usedwidely in the leadership and several studies have been conducted to integrateConfucianism in leadership and the war strategies of Sun Tzu in the context of strategicleadership. We should also note that besides China, countries such as Japan, Korea,Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore are significantly influenced by Confucian philosophicalteachings (Gannon, 2004). Similarly, the Indian leadership also has a strong philosophical tradition whichcontinues to sustain the interpersonal world in Indian organisations. The Indiancivilisation, with recorded history of more than 5000 years is one of the oldestcivilisations in the world and the contribution of India and Indians to this world isenormous in various fields of knowledge. Several ancient Indian classics such as theValmiki Ramayana2, the Mahabharata3 (includes the Bhagavad-Gita4), the Puranas5, etcoffers several leadership lessons which are be useful even in the modern context,although many of these literature were written more than 5000 years ago. In the Indiancontext, the leadership studies should also focus on development of indigenous leadershipmodels, which revolve around Indian cultural roots and values (Panda and Gupta, 2007).2 The broad purpose of this articleResearch works in analysing ancient Indian literature in the context of modern leadershippractices are indeed limited. Indian6 leadership in particular, are still focusing in applyingwestern models of leadership practices due to the wealth of western leadership andmanagement literature and concepts available. Besides, many of the new generation ofIndian leaders have received their education in leadership from western countries(especially in the UK and the USA) (Muniapan, 2006). According to Arindam Chaudhuri, one of the proponents of Theory ‘I’ Managementor Indian management (also includes leadership) while India may claim to have some of
  4. 4. An Indian leadership perspective from literature works of Poet Kannadasan 329the best management and leadership schools in the world, most Indian organisations havenot been able to do well internationally. Among the reasons cited is the failure of Indianmanagement to develop the indigenous management style, which revolves aroundIndian cultural roots and upbringing. He (Arindam Chaudhuri) further asserted that anIndian grows up in a social system where family loyalty and sense of belongingness isparamount and with this type of background, he or she may not be able to adjust or fitinto the job environment practicing American philosophies of individualistic, direct, lowpower distance and contractual style of management (Chaudhuri, 2003). According to a Goldman Sachs (one of the world’s most prestigious investmentbanks) report recently, Brazil, Russia, India and China can become a much larger force inthe world economy over the next 50 years. The report said India could emerge theworld’s third largest economy as it had the potential for achieving the fastest growth overthe next 30 to 50 years (The Star, Monday, 11 September, 2006). As a result, it isimperative that India should focus its effort on human resource development, amongwhich management development of managers is essential. In an earlier study by Hofstede in 1983 on ‘National Cultures in Four Dimension’(cited in Deresky, 2007, pp.93–96), India is high in power distance as employeesacknowledge and respect the authority of the manager based on his or her legitimatepower and they seldom bypass the chain of command. Besides high power distance, Indiahas a low uncertainty avoidance which means managers have a propensity for low riskaversions and employees exhibit little aggressiveness in businesses. India also has lowmasculinity and low individualism, which means group, family and society, are moreimportant than the individuals. As a result a management culture which is based on highindividualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and low power distance, might belimited in the context of Indian management and leadership culture (Hofstede, 2005;Gorden, Thomas and Schmit, 2007). On reflection of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions forIndian leadership values, it might be appropriate for Indians to revisit management andleadership models from their own cultural roots. Therefore, the purpose of this article isto explore the leadership perspective from Indian literature works such as from there-known works of Poet Kannadasan. His literary work contains essential planks forleadership development in the Indian (Tamilan) context.3 MethodologyThis article is based on a qualitative research methodology called hermeneutics.Hermeneutics is related to the name of the Greek god Hermes in his role as the interpreterof the messages of the gods. In the current context, hermeneutics can be described as theinterpretation and understanding of ancient literatures and religious texts and can also beapplied to interpret songs. It is also used in contemporary philosophy to denote the studyof theories and methods of the interpretation of all texts and systems of meaning. Theconcept of ‘text’ is here extended beyond written documents to any number of objectssubject to interpretation, such as experiences. A hermeneutic is defined as a specificsystem or method for interpretation, or a specific theory of interpretation. The scope ofhermeneutics also includes the investigation and interpretation not only of ancient texts,but also of human behaviour generally, including language and patterns of speech, socialinstitutions and ritual behaviours. Hermeneutics is widely applied in many field of social
  5. 5. 330 B. Muniapan and M. Dassscience such as philosophy, religion and theology, law, sociology and also internationalrelations7. Analysis of songs and its messages also involves the understanding of the languageused and the interpretation of its contents. The Aandavan kattalai, was written by PoetKannadasan in Tamil language. Besides Sanskrit, Tamil is one of the ancient languagesof the world with records in the language dating back over two millennia. Tamil isspoken predominantly by Tamil people originating from India. It has official status inIndia, Singapore and Sri Lanka and is also spoken by Indian minorities in Malaysia,Mauritius, South Africa and around the world (Raymond, 2005). The analysis of Tamilsongs requires a good mastery of the language in which it is written. Although bothauthors are not educated in Tamil (received early education in Malaysia in Malaylanguage), they speak fluent Tamil and have a good understanding of the language interms of its history, culture and tradition. The translation of Aandavan kattalai used inthis article is not a direct translation as several words in Tamil or other Indian languagedo not have equivalent in English.4 Background of the Tamil cinema industry and Poet KannadasanIn the Indian context, besides the ancient literatures, poems and songs that reflect onleadership qualities have been written to convey numerous lessons to Indian communitiesaround the world. For instance, The Bhagavad-Gita which was delivered by Sri Krishnato Arjuna more than 5000 years ago in Kurukshetra, India, is also in the form of songs(geetam). The songs are constantly sung in reminder and applied in modern lifestyle ofIndians to this day. Such is the might of these lyrics. Today, lyrics are mostly written forcinemas in India and in the Indian context research reveals that the cinemas in thetwentieth century have formed a major part of mass communication and have also servedas mass-entertainment to people of different socio-economic status (Bhawani, 1994).Together with the lyrics and movie, the Indian cinema industry especially Tamil,Telugu and Hindi film industries has created many politicians. To name a fewTamil film stalwarts turned leading politicians such as CN Annadurai8, M.G.Ramachamdran (MGR)9, M. Karunanidhi10 and J. Jayalalitha11. Telugu movie-politiciansuch as NT Rama Rao12; Hindi stars such as Amitabh Bachan13, Rajesh Khanna14,Shatrughan Sinha15, Dharmendra16, Vinod Khanna17 and Govinda18. Many of the cinemalyrics are written specially for the actors to capture and retain the audience and theirinterest throughout the movie which last for three hours. The song-writers are likenovelists or poets who want the audience to think, react or be affected, in some way. Thewriters impart to the audience through the movie stars ‘the message’ which they intent tosay through the songs. These lyrics are much beyond the purpose of only providingsimple entertainment. The intangible meaning that carries in the lyrics relates to everyaspect of human life that is meant to teach, encourage, motivate, remind, inform,influence, inspire and develop people. Essentially, these songs serve a social function tostrengthen the circle of society. While some other songs sought to impart to individualsof his roles and responsibilities to the society and nation. In addition, a number of songslyrics also give an inspiration for life. It provides a powerful message to motivate one’slife and fight against any obstacles that stops the progress (Muniapan, et al, 2006). In examining the history of Tamil cinema, there is a history of poets who havecontributed outstanding lyrics. The power of the words and lyrics which were used by the
  6. 6. An Indian leadership perspective from literature works of Poet Kannadasan 331Tamil song-writers act as a strong instrument to provide hopes in hopeless situation andalso power in powerless lives. Hence, the Tamil songs become important components ofmass media to deliver the intended message to the audience, incorporated with theinteresting storyline. Among the great lyric writers for the Tamil songs from 1944 to1981 was Poet Kannadasan who is also known as Kavi Arasu (translated as a king ofpoets). He had made great impact on the life of the Tamils worldwide. To Tamils (Indian)worldwide, Poet Kannadasan is a legendary poet, writer and lyricist. He is remembered asthe lyricist who created several thousand songs for the Tamil films from 1944 till hisdeath in 1981. His lyrics are noted for their depth of feeling and thought conveyed insimple, yet elegant language. The song lyrics, written by Poet Kannadasan havecontributed extensively to the development of the Tamil community worldwide throughthe powerful messages of his songs which encompasses all aspects of human life. ForTamils worldwide he (Kannadasan) epitomised Tamil poetry as even the illiterates whocannot read and memorise the poetry of Kamban (Kamba Ramayana) or the maxims ofThiruvalluvar (Thirukkural), can hum the compositions (paadalgal) of Poet Kannadasan(Sri Kantha, 1991). Sri Kantha (1991) also describes his (Poet Kannadasan) remarkable song lyricscontribution to the Indian film industry as follows “…. If only Kannadasan had been born in Europe or the USA, instead of Sirukuudalpatti village in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, he probably would have become a Nobel laureate in literature and received international recognition. But on the other hand, Tamils would have lost a goliard, who composed lyrics in Tamil from every sentimental moment they experience in life….”The lyrics composed by Poet Kannadasan touched the sympathetic chords of Tamils fromall walks of life – school boys, undergrads, housewives, farmers, manual labourers,plantation workers, middle class representatives and even upper class elites (cited inMuniapan, et al, 2006). Poet Kannadasan’s songs and his messages were very powerful. The politicians inTamil Nadu used his songs from 1950s to late 1970s for their political purposes. In 1962,when the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) government treated the Tamils badly, Poet Kannadasan leda protest rally against the Ceylon government in Madras. When this news reached theauthorities in Ceylon they imposed a blanket ban on all Poet Kannadasan songs overRadio-Ceylon with immediate effect. But, after a week it so happened that the ban wasunofficially lifted and Radio-Ceylon began to broadcast Poet Kannadasan songs. WithoutPoet Kannadasan songs Radio-Ceylon could not survive and it was true because that wasa period where every other third song released was by Poet Kannadasan (Mahendra Raj,Unknown). Poet Kannadasan produced approximately 5000 movie songs lyrics, however,in this article the song Aandavan kattalai (the supreme commandments) has been selectedand analysed from the context of leadership.5 Aandavan kattalai or the supreme commandments (1964)Aandavan kattalai or loosely translated as the supreme commandments which wascomposed in 1964, was themed after the teachings of Swami Vivekananda19. PoetKannadasan realised that the ordinary people were unable to read about the philosophy ofSwami Vivekananda; hence, in this song he had simplified the works of great philosopher
  7. 7. 332 B. Muniapan and M. Dassand spiritualist for the benefit of illiterate or semi-illiterate people in the society.T.M.Soundarajan20 sang the song with the acting wonderfully done by Sivaji Ganesan21.Aandavan kattalai expounds six commandments for effective leadership, development ofhuman values and harmonious human relations regardless of race, ethnicity and religion.A deeper analysis of this song also reveals essential leadership lessons to strengthen ourcharacters and develop our personality. The song begins with following lines: “aaru maname aaru andha aandavan kattalai aaru; serndhu manidhan vaazhumvagaikku dheivaththin kattalai aaru ” (The supreme commandments are six for us to live successfully in a society and foster unity among the living entities).It is often said that a man is a social animal and without society he is nothing but animal.This is collectivism which holds that the individual is not an end to himself, but is only atool to serve the ends of the group. Collectivism, unlike individualism, holds the group asthe primary and the standard of moral value. Like other Asian societies, Indians arecollectivist in nature. This was also asserted by Hofstede (1983) in his studies of cultureand value dimensions in the international context (cited in Deresky 2007) that animportant principle of leadership in a collective society is the subordination of individualinterest to the organisation, the societal or the national interest. We have seen a practicalexample of this in Ramayana, when Sri Rama (king) had to make the painful decision tobanish Sita (queen) from Ayodhya. Sri Rama as an ideal king had to uphold the honour ofhis dynasty. He needed to set examples for all generation to follow. Although Sri Rama’sdecision to banish Sita may seem to be harsh, the king or the leader sometimes needs tobe harsh, as the first duty of the king is to rule his people while other considerations aresecondary, even if they affect personal happiness (Muniapan, 2005a, 2007). Kautilya22 inhis Arthashastra also maintains that a leader (king) should have no self-interest,happiness and joy for himself, his satisfaction lies in the welfare (happiness) of hispeople, i.e. he has to submerge his personality into the larger personality of his people.Kautilya states prajasukhe sukham rajnah prajanam cha hite hitam; natmapriyam hitamrajnah prajanam tu priyam hitam (in the happiness of his subject lies the happiness of theking; and in their welfare lies his welfare, he shall not consider as good only that whichpleases him but treat as beneficial to him, whatever pleases his subjects). This is alsohas a relevance to the modern concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).Thiruvalluvar in Thirukural had also dealt with CSR on the characteristics of a well-runleadership, when talking about the responsibility of a king (leader), Thiruvalluvar quote “Murai saithu kapatrum mannavan makkalkku iraiyentru vaikkapadum” (the king who administers justice and protects his people will be considered of divine quality).and “Irai kakkum vayyakam ellam avanai murai kakkum muttacheyin” (the leader or king protects the world and if he acts according to justice or dharma, then justice itself will protect him)(Vittal, 2004)These ancient CSR concept bahujana sukhaya bahujana hitayacha – the welfare of themany and the happiness of the many need integrated into the area of corporate leadershipas the basic principle (Muniapan and Dass, 2008).
  8. 8. An Indian leadership perspective from literature works of Poet Kannadasan 3336 Leaders should set examplesIn the second paragraph of Aandavan kattalai, Poet Kannadasan penned the followinglines: “onre solvaar onre seivaar ullaththil ulladhu amaidhi; inbaththil thunbam thunbaththil inbam iraivan vaguththa niyadhi ”(A leader who walks his talk and talks his walk will attain the happiness within; sorrow within happiness and happiness within sorrow are all works of divine).Walking the talk and talking the walk is also one of the key requirements for effectiveleadership, as it is often said that a man who is full of words, but not deeds is like agarden full of weeds. Leadership is an essential element for the progress and developmentof any community or organisation. Leadership is all about the ability to influence, inspire,motivate and stimulate people to achieve their potential (Muniapan, 2005b). Leaders(political or organisational) in the community need to heed this message as they setexamples for other to follow. Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita 3.21 also asserts thefollowing to Arjuna: yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah sa yat pramanamkurute lokas tad anuvartate (Whatever action a great man (leader) performs, commonmen follow; and whatever standards he (leader) sets by exemplary acts, all worldspursue). Leaders also need to be aware that happiness and sorrow is also the part and parcel oflife as it is the work of the divine and happens according to an individual’s karmic actionsand reaction. Sri Krishna also states this to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita 18.54: brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati,samah sarvesu bhutesu mad-bhaktim labhateparam (One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realises the supreme, he neverlaments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In thatstate, he attains pure devotional service unto me). To attain the brahma-bhutah state, the leaders must be able to conquer their mind andbe in equilibrium. Sri Krishna asserted that we must elevate ourselves by our own mind(uddhared atmanatmanam) and this requires effective leadership and management of ourmind. For one who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends, but for onewho has failed to control their mind, the mind will be the greatest enemy (bandhuratmatmanas tasya yenatmaivatmana jitah anatmanas tu satrutve vartetatmaiva satru-vat). The Ramayana provides excellent examples on the brahma-bhutah stage. AyodhyaKanda of the Ramayana narrates the scenario when King Dasharatha decided to installSri Rama as the crown prince; Kaikeyi demanded Bharata to be installed instead and SriRama to be sent to the forest for fourteen years. The scene was so full of tragic sorrowand passion, of greed and selfishness. However, Sri Rama received the news with utmostease and calm. He displayed the highest duty of noble love and virtue. Sri Rama neverrejoiced on being told he was to be crowned, nor expressed sorrow on being told to gointo exile. In the era of measuring emotional quotient, it is hard to find a better exampleof control over emotions and speech. Bharata, on the other hand, who was to be crownedas the king, went to forest to bring back Sri Rama. When Sri Rama declined, he acceptedto rule on Sri Rama’s behalf for fourteen years. Never before in the history of the worldwas there a prince so noble, so sacrificing. While being a king, he lived a hard asceticlife. He acted as a representative of Sri Rama wearing the garb of a mendicant living inNandigrama (outskirts of Ayodhya).
  9. 9. 334 B. Muniapan and M. Dass7 Leaders should be truthful and humbleIn the third paragraph of Aandavan kattalai song, Poet Kannadasan wrote the followingslines: “unmaiyai solli nanmaiyai siedhaal ulagam unnidam mayangum; nilai uyarum podhu panivu kondaal uyirgal unnai vanangum” (When leaders speak truthful words and do good deeds, the whole world will salute them and when they progress in life with great humility, every living entity will salute them).The message is about truth and leaders need to be truthful. The world is rooted in truthand dharma is also rooted in truth. All religious principles are rooted in truth. Honesty,justice, straightforwardness and sincerity are only modifications or expressions of truth.Truth (satyam) and non-violence (ahimsa) are the highest dharma. However, wise men ofthe past tell us that there is a world of a difference between ‘being truthful’ and ‘speakingthe truth’, when the Upanishad23 says satyam vada, it means, ‘be truthful’ at all times.However, this does not mean speak the truth as Yudhishtara (in Mahabharata) when hecried out asvattama hatah kunjara, he was ‘speaking the truth’ but was not ‘beingtruthful’. He was referring to an elephant called Asvattama being felled by Bhima,although he knew it was only meant to convey to Drona the false impression thatAsvattama, his son, was no more. In Latin there is a saying that ‘suppressio veri’ and‘suggestio falsi’ are one and the same, i.e. one can be untruthful in two ways: you cansuppress truth as well as suggest falsehood. In both cases, one would be violating the realspirit of the Upanishadic dictum satyam vada24. Certainly, there are times whenwithholding the truth is permitted. The Thirukkural25 explains that even falsehood is ofthe nature of truth if it renders good results, free from fault. An astrologer, for instance,while reviewing a chart would refrain from telling of a heartbreak that might come to aperson at a certain time in his life. This is wisdom. A doctor might not tell his patient thathe will die in three days when he sees the vital signs weakening. Instead, he mayencourage positive thinking; give hope, knowing that life is eternal and that to invokefear might create depression and hopelessness in the mind of the ill person. It is said that a leader without truth and honour is a dead man in this world. He isdespised and ignored in the community. In every community the concept of ‘face’ is animportant element in social interaction. The ‘face’ determines status and the role of anindividual in a society. Money is nothing compared to the truth and honour. InRamayana, the whole family of Sri Rama made sacrifices only for this truth and honourof the dynasty and dharma. The father of Sri Rama, King Dasaratha died to protect hiswords, Kausalya and Sumitra Devi lived without their sons (Sri Rama and Lakshmana)for fourteen years. Bharata lived in Nandigrama in a hut outside Ayodhya. Lakshmanaserved Sri Rama without the company of his wife, Urmila. Urmila lived in Ayodhyawithout Lakshmana, Sri Rama lived without Sita (banished), Lava and Kusa were born inthe forest without their father (Sri Rama). The words given are powerful and leaders haveto honour their promise to their people, otherwise, the leader is as good as dead. It is often mentioned, a leader with good honour need to possess some of thequalities such as humility, unpretentiousness, harmlessness, forgiveness, service tosociety, purity, steadfastness, self control, indifference to the object of senses, absence ofegoism, fearlessness, cleanliness, charity, austerity, straightforwardness, peacefulness,compassion to living beings, modesty and also the absence of envy or pride (Sivananda,1990). A man may die, but his name and honour remains as also mentioned in an old
  10. 10. An Indian leadership perspective from literature works of Poet Kannadasan 335Malay proverb which when translated meant that when a tiger dies, it leaves his stripes ortrue colours, but for a leader it is his name and deeds that are left behind death.8 Leaders should conquer their enemies withinIn the fourth paragraph of Aandavan kattalai, Poet Kannadasan penned the followinglines about the enemies of men and the required godly qualities: “aasai kobam kalavu kolbavan pesa therindha mirugam; anbu nanri karunai kondavan manidha vadivil dheivam” (Men who are possessed by lust, greed and anger are animals in human form, while men with love, mercy and compassion are gods in human forms).Lust, greed and anger are three of the six enemies of leaders. The other three aredelusion, pride and fear. All these are barriers to effective leadership in organisations,society and also country. The lessons from the Itihasas26 the Ramayana and theMahabharata has provided ample evidences on how the above six enemies havedestroyed people. Kautilya has also mentioned about these enemies in his Arthashastra. Jesus Christ asserted the message on the control of anger in Bible (Matthew 5.22), “that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”‘Thou shall not kill’ is also one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses, which meansto inflict pain on other living entity is always wrong (ahimsa or non-violence). Do untoother as you would have them, do unto you is a universal truth. “If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (John 4.20) (Kirtananda,1985).Sri Krishna also asserted to Arjuna, the following about anger and delusion in theBhagavad-Gita 2. 63: krodhad bhavati sammohah sammohat smrti-vibhramah, smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso buddhi-nasat pranasyati (From anger, delusion arises and fromdelusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost andwhen intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool). It is important for leaders to manage and control anger for effective human relations.Anger resides in the linga sarira (astral body), but it percolates into the physical body justas water percolates through the pores to the outer surface of an earthen pot. Anger begetseight kinds of vices. All evil qualities and actions proceed from anger. If you caneradicate anger, all bad qualities will die by themselves. The eight vices are injustice,rashness, persecution, jealousy, taking possession of others’ property, killing, harshwords and cruelty (Sivananda, 1997). According to the Mahabharata, God certainly favours a person or a leader who doesnot disturb or cause painful action in the mind of any living entity and who treatseveryone, as would a loving father treats his children and whose heart is pure. In theThirukkural, it is also stated that the principle of the pure in heart is never to injureothers, even when they themselves have been hatefully injured and if a man inflictssorrow on another in the morning, sorrow will come to him unbidden in the afternoon.The Manu Samhita27 says that if the diet is pure, the mind will be pure, and if the mind ispure the intellect also will be pure. The Yajur Veda28 also says not to injure the beings
  11. 11. 336 B. Muniapan and M. Dassliving on the earth, in the air and in the water. The Bhagavad-Gita 5.26 also states kama-krodha-vimuktanam yatinam yata-cetasam, abhito brahma-nirvanam vartateviditatmanam (Those who are free from anger and all material desires, who are self-realised, self-disciplined and constantly endeavouring for perfection, are assured ofliberation in the Supreme in the very near future). Anger and the other enemies can be management through self-control. Self-controlimplies both control of the body and control of the mind. Self-control does not mean self-torture. Leaders must lead a well-regulated and disciplined life. They must keep all thesenses under your perfect control. The senses are like turbulent and wild horses. Thisbody is like a chariot. Mind is the reins and the intelligence is the driver. This isconfirmed in Katha Upanisad (1.3. 3.4) as follows: atmanam rathinam viddhi sariramratham eva ca buddhim tu sarathim viddhi manah pragraham eva ca indriyani hayan ahurvisayams tesu gocaran atmendriya-mano-yuktam bhoktety ahur manisinah (Theindividual is the passenger in the car of the material body and intelligence is the driver.Mind is the driving instrument and the senses are the horses. The self is thus the enjoyeror sufferer in the association of the mind and senses, so great thinkers understand it(Prabupada 1994)). Therefore, it is essential that one use his intelligence in an effectiveway to control the mind and achieve the equality of mind or even mindedness. Theintelligence (buddhi) gives us the power to discriminate and decide what is good for usand what is not. It is the force behind our wisdom and our reactions to the outside world.A leader of lesser intelligence is constantly driven by the senses and the desire for senseobjects. Thereby, he remains in a constant state of turmoil and sorrow arising out ofunion and disunion with the sense objects. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krishna also described that fearlessness; purification ofone’s existence; cultivation of spiritual knowledge; charity; self-control; performance ofsacrifice; study of the Vedas; austerity; simplicity; non-violence; truthfulness; freedomfrom anger; renunciation; tranquillity; aversion to faultfinding; compassion for all livingentities; freedom from covetousness; gentleness; modesty; steady determination; vigour;forgiveness; fortitude; cleanliness; and freedom from envy and from the passion forhonour are among the essential qualities which are needed for our leadershipdevelopment. A leader who possesses mercy and compassion are of divine nature. In thiscontext, Sri Krishna states in the Bhagavad-Gita 6.32, that a leader should possessuniversal empathy. atmaupamyena sarvatra samam pasyati yo ‘rjuna sukham va yadi vaduhkham sa yogi paramo matah (He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self,sees the true equality of all beings, both in their happiness and distress, O Arjuna). Thisverse, among other meanings, recommends a kind of universal empathy for leaders. Vedic literatures29 assert and emphasise compassion as the main attitude the leadershould have toward their followers and also other living entities. Compassion consists ofoffering prayers, blessings, charities and good wishes to all beings. Charity consists ofactions done to benefit other people and the world, not merely material aid but service(CSR). True compassion comes from the divine and flows through us by the strength ofour devotion. True compassion has no secret motive to gain, or to receive recognition asbeing a compassionate person (Frawley, Unknown). Compassion, mercy and love whichare divine qualities of men, are crucial for the leadership development and human valuesfor the benefits of organisation, community and also the world.
  12. 12. An Indian leadership perspective from literature works of Poet Kannadasan 3379 ConclusionIn this article, an Indian leadership perspective from Aandavan kattalai which includesthe ancient Indian leadership philosophies has been explored. This analysis has provideddifferent dimensions on leadership based on Indian culture and values. Unlike thewestern approach to leadership which focuses in exploring the external world of matterand energy, the Aandavan kattalai recommends a leadership approach which focuses onexploring the inner world of the self. This means the leadership of the self first before anyother type of leadership. In addition, this approach is consistent with the teachings of theancient Indian and other ancient East Asian philosophies such as Confuicianism andTaoism. Besides Aandavan kattalai, the prospects of analysis of other Tamil songs andancient Indian literatures in other areas of management and people development such ascommunication, work motivation, conflict handling, values and attitude improvementscan be considered for future research. However, one of our limitations is lack materialsand research work done on Tamil songs and on Poet Kannadasan in English language.The authors hope this article will also provide groundwork for further studies andresearch of the leadership relevance and lessons of Tamil songs and ancient Indianliteratures in English language.AcknowledgementsWe are grateful to the reviewers for their suggestions and comments on the earlierversion of this article.ReferencesBhawani, L. (1994) ‘The portrayal of women in recent Tamil films and its relevance to social reality (Part 1 of 2)’, Contemporary Women’s Issues Database.Chaudhuri, A. (2003) Theory ‘I’ Management Leadership Success Multiplier Model, Available at: http://www.arindamchaudhuri.com/theory.htm.Deresky, H. (2007) International Management: Managing Across Borders and Cultures (5th Ed.). New Jersey, NJ: Pearson Education.Frawley, D. (Unknown) Religion and Spiritual Practices: The Role of Compassion. Available at: http://www.vedanet.com/Gannon, M.J. (2004) Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 28 Nations, Clusters of Nations and Continents (3rd ed.). London, UK: Sage.Gorden, A., Thomas, S. and Schmit, V. (2007) Impact of Culture on Style and Process of Management and Leadership in India, Grin Verlag.Hofstede, G. (1983) ‘National Culture in Four Dimensions’, International Studies of Management and Organisation, Vol. 13, pp.46–74.Hofstede, G. (2005) Culture and Organisations:Software of the Mind; Intercultural Cooperation and its Importance for Survival. London, UK: McGraw-Hill.Kirtananda, B.S. (1985) Christ and Krishna: Path of Pure Devotion. Singapore: Bhaktipada Books.Mahendra Raj (Unknown) Available at: http://forumhub.mayyam.com/hub/.Maruyama, M. (1994) Mindscapes in Management: Use of Individual Differences in Multi-Cultural Management. Aldershot, UK: Dartmouth.
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  15. 15. 340 B. Muniapan and M. Dass14 Rajesh Khanna is a popular Hindi film actor in the seventies. He also served a five year tenure as MP in the Indian Parliament (1991–1996).15 Shatrughan Sinha is considered one of the most successful actor politicians of India, having made history by being the first member of the film fraternity to become a cabinet minister with the Government of India. He is still a member of the BJP and campaigns for the party all over India and is well known as a leader of the masses and a brilliant orator.16 Dharmendra is a member of the 14th Lok Sabha of India. He is considered as the biggest Hindi film star after Amitabh Bachan.17 Govinda is a popular Hindi film actor and a politician currently serving as the 5th MP for Mumbai North Constituency of Maharashtra, India.18 Vinod Khanna is a popular Hindi film actor and a politician in India, but he is known more for his contribution to the Indian cinema.19 Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) is considered one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of India. He was the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and was the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. He is considered by many as an icon for his fearless courage, his positive exhortations to the youth, his broad outlook to social problems and countless lectures and discourses on Vedanta philosophy.20 T.M.Soundarajan or popularly known as TMS, was a dominant singer of Tamil cinema songs and devotional songs from 1950s till the late 1970s. He used to sing in distinct styles for the two great heroes of his time, MGR and Sivaji. His voice was majestic, resonant and very stable at even very high pitches. The songs, which TMS sang for MGR, were used by the latter as a tool for his (MGR) political propaganda.21 Sivaji Ganesan (1927–2001), was also known as Nadikar thilagam, Nadippu chakravarthy (loosely translated ‘Acting Emperor’). He acted in more than 300 movies since 1952 till 1999. He is most well known for his portrayal of Veerapandiya Kattaboman in 1960. Together with MGR, he dominated the Tamil cinema industry from 1950s to late 1970s.22 Kautilya is also called Canakya, or Visnugupta was the adviser of Chandragupta Maurya. Kautilya was a statesman and philosopher who wrote a classic treatise on polity, Arthasastra a compilation of almost everything that had been written in India up to his time on artha (property, economics, or material success).23 The Upanisads are part of Vedic Shruti scriptures, which are philosophical. They are the commentaries on the Vedas.24 Sudarshan K Madabushi comments on ‘Yudhishtara’s Lies’, Oppiliappan E-Group Discussions available at http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/oppiliappan/archives/jun03/msg00016.html.25 Thirukkural written by Thiruvalluvar is one of the most notable literary and ethical treatises in the Indian languages. There is a general consensus among the historians and literary authorities that Thirukkural was written around 2000 years ago.26 Itihasas are literatures describing historical events pertaining to either a single hero or a few heroic personalities in a lineage: for example, Ramayana describing the pastimes of Sri Ramachandra and Mahabharata describing the pastimes of the Pandavas in the lineage of the Kurus.27 Manu Samhita, Manavadharmashastra or Manusmriti, known in the West as The Laws of Manu is the most important work regarding dharma, i.e. the principles, laws and rules governing both the cosmos and human society of the ancient India.28 Yajur Veda is one of the four Vedas. It contains religious text focusing on the rituals. Other Vedas include Rig, Sama and Atharva.29 The Vedic literatures are composed of many books. However, Sri Madhva, one of the principal teacher of the Vedic philosophy, while commenting on the Vedanta-sutra (2.1.6), quotes from the Bhavisya Purana as follows: rg-yajuh-samartharvas ca bharatam pancaratrakam mula-ramayanam caiva veda ity eva sabdita puranani ca yAniha vaisnavani vido viduh (The Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva veda, Mahabharata which includes the Bhagavad-Gita, PancarAata and the original Ramayana are all considered Vedic literatures…. The Vaisnava supplements, the Puranas, are also Vedic literatures).