Business Sutra |2.1 | Does a leader create, sustain or destroy?

Business Sutra |2| Leadership

In the first episode of the TV serial on CNBC 18, spread over three segments, Devdutt Pattanaik presented to us the most visible form of the business – the corporation : its meaning, its purpose and its action perspective.

In the second episode Devdutt Pattanaik discusses Leadership. What is the role of a leader? Does he exist for the goals or for the followers? The goals being too impersonal, he feels leadership should be about people. That is why Mughals rulers were called Jahanpanah – shelter of the world or Maratha rulers as Chhtrapati – the bearer of the roof. Leaders care for their people, give them direction and purpose. However a manager is, typically, focused on a goal. In fact, so much focused on the goal that, over the time, people, or ethics, stop to matter.

In our present post, take up first segment of the second episode and see whether a leader should be like Indra or be like Vishnu.

Business Sutra |2.1 | Does a leader create, sustain or destroy?

Leadership should be one of the most discussed, extensively studies and exhaustively documented subject in the field of management art and science.

So we will take only so much of references from the western world that can set the tone of our topic.

Marissa Levin’s article – Preserve, Destroy, Create: Your Only Path to Breakthrough Growth quite succinctly reflects the western world’ views on role of the leadership w.r.t. to the title of our post:

Over lunch with my executive coach, Mike Harden (www.ceosuccesscoach.com) I learned that business activity falls into three buckets: Preservation, Destruction, or Creation. These buckets can actually be applied to any life situation, from something serious like ending a relationship,  to something “easy” like cleaning out your closet or changing your diet/workout habits.

Preservation: Keeping the lights on

Most organizational activity can be categorized as “Preservation.” Everything a business owner does to keep the company running falls into this bucket .All of these activities are necessary but too much of a focus on them creates a short-term mindset, or a mindset that is focused on immediate needs. Preservation happens when a company expends energy on leveraging existing competencies, rather than developing new competencies, or worrying about today’s competitors, rather than scanning the landscape for new entrants.

Destruction: Courage to discard the broken and outdated

For a business to grow, it must closely analyze what isn’t working. This is where the Destruction phase comes in…Not everything we do today works for us. It takes courage, but to move forward, we need to selectively forget the past. ..To quote one of my all-time favorite authors Marshall Goldsmith, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”  (http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com/html/marshall/books.html)

It is the pain of the change that brings the reward of the growth.

Creation: Infusing new life

Creation activities prepare your company for long-term growth – beyond survival.

Linear vs. non-linear thinking

Creation also means breaking away from linear thinking in which a company simply makes a current product better.

Non-linear thinking doesn’t make a product better; it makes a new product. It requires the ability to forget the past, move beyond organizational memory, and create a new future. It’s looking at all situations with a “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if…” perspective to formulate ideas on where you want to be in the future.

Moving from surviving to thriving

So how does a company incorporate the three phases of Preservation, Destruction, and Creation? It starts with awareness of the idea that some practices just have to go. Simply being aware of the need to make a change is the first step in making it. This step, followed by the change itself (to include getting rid of the old to make room for the new), leads to breakthrough growth.

Awareness, courage, action, reward form the recipe for making the changes you need to take your organization to the next level.

The following image presents another – more mundane – facet of Destruction. This very clearly puts across the impact of role the leadership, knowingly or unknowingly, plays in this process.

Kathy Caprino, in her article – 7 Traits of Inspiring Leadership That Uplifts rather Than Destroys – provides direct linkages of the role of leadership on the destiny of the organization:

  • They are clear about the challenges ahead, but they inspire faith, hope and collaboration, not fear.
  • Blame is not in their rhetoric – they never stoop to recrimination or demeaning, belittling language.
  • Their self-esteem is strong enough to take constructive criticism and critique, and in fact, they welcome it.
  • Their communication style is positive, with words that inspire greatness and growth in us.
  • They don’t surround themselves only with people who “yes” them – they surround themselves with diversity, truth and openness.
  • The success that they long for is success and opportunity for all – not just one faction, group, or organization.
  • They operate at all times with integrity, truthfulness and transparency, even when that’s excruciatingly difficult to do.

Now, let us look at what Devdutt Pattanaik has to say in Segment 1 of the episode 2 – Does a leader create, sustain or destroy?

In his present talk, he has used the role models of Indra and Vishnu to present how Indian mythology looks at the role of leadership.

Indra, king of gods and the lord of heaven is in constant pursuit of success and wealth Lakshmi but Lakshmi prefers the side of Vishnu.  Are you Indra chasing success or are you Vishnu with success chasing you?

Therein lies the answer to who is a leader and what are the ideal leadership qualities.

Indra really is not a leader because the definition of leader here we are talking about is someone with a wider role. What is Vishnu’s role? He is taking care of the world.  In other words this means his reference point of action is the world, others not him. It is not about self-actualization. He is not trying to actualize himself. He is taking care of others and in just doing that he becomes a fortune magnet. Indra the other hand is taking care of nobody except for himself, his own self-actualization.

Indra is self-focused and therefore is insecure, and therefore chases Lakshmi.  Vishnu is focused on the others, therefore more secure, and therefore Lakshmi chases him.

In fact, Vishnu is not secure because he looks at the others. He is secure, and therefore looks at the others.

And yet when we talk about the creation of the world, we talk about three gods. At least, this is popular perception. These are: Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the God that maintains) and Shiv (the destroyer).  So the logical question is why is Vishnu the most important of these three gods and the most revered?

When we talk about creation, even the word creation implicitly visualizes the god as it is told in the Bible, one who creates the world. But in the Indian context the man who is creating the world is not worshipped, but the one who is destroying the world is being worshipped. Now either we are mad or there is a problem with our understanding of the words.

Creating what? Destroying what? Preserving what? These are the questions to be asked.

When we see Brahma’s action, when you read the scriptures, it can be seen that He is a God who is yearning constantly, he’s chasing things because he is seeking to understand who he is and therefore he creates the world to answer this question of who he is. When he creates the world, rather than figuring out the answer he starts chasing it and wants to possess it and wants to control it, wants to dominate it. In the process, he lost his eye and he has lost his original purpose. So he is forgotten, and therefore should not be worshipped. Because of his yearning he is chasing the wrong thing.

One could say that this Brahma is aham brahmasmi, you and I.  We, as human beings keep chasing something, so we keep losing sight of what we really want and we have to introspect to figure out what it is.

On the other hand the gods that are worshipped are Vishnu and Shiva. Neither of these gods chase the goddess but the goddesses comes to them. Now, the difference between these two gods is: Shiva says the world doesn’t matter, this is wrong, it is Maya , a  delusion, I shut my eyes to the world and I switch off. So he gives up, he lets go. Vishnu says when the world doesn’t matter so let us enjoy it. It is a question of perspective.

We, thus, have three different characters in mythology, which are engaging with the three currencies in a very different way. One says I (constantly) yearn for Lakshmi, Saraswathi and / or Durga. That’s Brahma. That’s you and I.  This is no average human being.  On the other extreme is Shiva who just switches off. He does not want any of these. So he is Vairagi, the Hermit. He is surrounded by cold icy mountains, the destruction. He is switched off. The goddess goes to him and says you know what you may have figured it out but the rest of the world has not. So please, open the eyes. She marries him, appeals to him to engage with the world.  Now, you have two forms of Shiva – Shiva whose eyes are shut and Shankara whose eyes are open. He is the benevolent one, the boon giving one.  He is engaged with the world. The Vishnu is that the server, his eyes are always open. So when you go to Vishnu temple, you will find his eyes are always open, he  is looking at you and is amused by you. He is amused because we are all Bramhas, he is caring, telling us that you know your direction is wrong. In that respect he is similar to Shankara.

This is what we need to try and be. This is what a leader should be, which means he is to be wise enough to care. So leader is someone who enables you to grow materially (L), intellectually (S) and emotionally (D). That is the role of the leader. In doing so, grows himself, so your growth becomes his growth.

So the logical question is – why is the Creator, the man who has helped create all of these, not given equal importance.

To answer this we have to find out what has he created. To know this, we have to go back to the Scriptures. He has created desire, he has created ignorance, he has created the chase. He has created the reckless human being, he has created rat race. Now would you worship the creator of the rat race or will you worship the person who tells you how to step out from the rat race so that the goddess of wealth chases you. You decide.

We have two apparently divergent views.  What would be applicable depends on the context of the situation. You decide which model you would follow

These discussions are as much applicable to leadership in the management of business as leadership in type of human activity.

In our next session next month, we will take up segment 2 of second episode – Leadership – of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra viz. Context of leaders

Note: The images used in this post are the irrevocable property of their respective creator. They have been taken up courtesy the internet, so as to illustrate the point under discussion.

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Author: ASHOK M VAISHNAV

In July 2011, I opted to retire from my active career as a practicing management professional. In the 38 years that I pursued this career, I had opportunity to work in diverse capacities, in small-to-medium-to-large engineering companies. Whether I was setting up Greenfield projects or Brownfield projects, nurturing the new start-ups or accelerating the stabilized unit to a next phase growth, I had many more occasions to take the paths uncharted. The life then was so challenging! One of the biggest casualty in that phase was my disregards towards my hobbies - Be with The Family, Enjoy Music form Films of 1940s to mid-1970s period, write on whatever I liked to read, pursue amateur photography and indulge in solving the chess problems. So I commenced my Second Innings to focus on this area of my life as the primary occupation. At the end of four years, I am now quite a regular blogger. I have been able to build a few very strong pen-relationships. I maintain contact with 38-years of my First Innings as freelance trainer and process facilitator. And yet, The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

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