Business Sutra |3.3| Ramayana and Mahabharata

Business Sutra |3| Business Ethics and Morals

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: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles.

The third episode relates to the Business Ethics and Morals. In the first part, a broad spectrum of business ethics and dilemmas of the leader has been covered. In the 2nd Part, a closer look at these issues has been taken up, in the perspective of relationship between owner and the organization. The present 3rd part deals the subject of The Right (Dharma) from two opposing points of view – the Ramayana way and the Mahabharata way.

Business Sutra |3.3| Ramayana and Mahabharata

The treatment of rules-based-principles-compliance (Ramayana-way) and principles-based-rules-compliance (Mahabharata-way) is fundamentally approached at very different levels in the Western world practices and in India’s mythological concepts.

The West seems to lay more emphasis on compliance as the goal of ethical and moral conduct, whereas Indian mythology approaches it as way of life. I have chosen three representative articles that effectively present the current Western thinking on the subject:

The shift from rules-based to principles-based companies : Lynda Gratton has been studying the behavior of corporations for more than three decades. But what she has observed in the past few years has surprised even her. Under the influence of megatrends such as globalization, hyper-connectivity and worldwide financial instability, the professor of management practice at the London Business School has witnessed the erosion of rules-based organizational models and the rise of companies driven by principles.

Principles-Based Regulation and Compliance: A Framework for Sustainable Integrity – To remain competitive and even to survive in this complex and uncertain environment, pioneer thinking and innovation must go beyond product lines and services. They must encompass active evolution and management of the corporate social value proposition. They must engage the engineering and design of compliance systems that grow organically. Essentially, they also must deliver incentives for cultures to take root that are defined by their integrity. In a dynamic risk environment, this all forges a foundation of adaptability and enterprise…. Increasingly, non-market aspects of business – social justice, environmental matters, income equality and the like – have become key components for long-term business success. At the same time, these considerations make business increasingly relational rather than purely transactional.

A 21st century model based on principles, not rules – The need for principles-based governance is fuelled by the pervasive public scrutiny of organisations, a trend that will only increase with advances in social media and technology. There are precious few remaining “dark corners” in which any organisation can operate. The manner in which government acts and business is transacted has been, and will be, transformed. Every organisation’s approach to governance, increasingly, will determine the organisation’s value.

So we quickly take up what Devdutt Pattanaik has to say in Segment 3 of the episode 3 – Ramayana and Mahabharat, as the Indian Mythology’s point of view.

We have discussed Dharma, we have discussed Dharma Sankat. Both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana talk of many different instances of what is the road to Dharma – the principle and what constitutes Dharma Sankat. We have a very interesting question from Ajay Piramal referring to both these great books and what he draws from that.

What are the learnings that we can get to apply in the modern world from the Mahabharata and also from the Ramayana. Sometimes on first reading it looks that there are several contradictions in to what is said in Mahabharat and what is said in Ramayana. Can you just explain that to us?

Ramayana and Mahabharat are both considered History (Itihaas). Itihaas is conventionally translated as history but what it actually means it is a tense agnostic term – which means so it was, so it is and so it will be. That means it is timeless. Second is the context of Ramayana and Mahabharata. They exist in two different contexts. So they cannot be seen as equals. That is the mistake the Western mind forces us to look at them that way.

West is obsessed with standardization, but our way is according to tastes – one is that of Dwapar Yug and the other is that of Treta Yug. Treta is the earlier, innocent, phase of the organization whereas Dwapar is the later, a little darker, phase in the life of the organization, which is slightly more corrupt.

Let us revisit the principal of Dharma again:

Now let’s do a simple 2 by 2 matrix to understand the Ramayana – Mahabharata:

You have rules on one side – the rules are followed or the rules are not followed. We have the principle (Dharma) on the other side – Principles are upheld or are not upheld.  Now look at the Ramayana – in Rama, Dharma is upheld and rules are upheld at the same time. Everything is about others, even, almost always,s at the cost of oneself. So it is misery in forest and misery in case of palace. His opposite is the great alpha male which somehow people seem to like today. That tells you about the times. He is Ravana. No Dharma no rules; no rules no Dharma. Your wife is my wife.  and I’m an animal. Even my son dies I will not let go of my little toy, my brothers die I will not let go of my little toy. That is Ravana.

Now look at the same thing – rules are broken, bent. Krishna always keeps bending the rules, breaking the rules but the principle is intact. It is always for the other. Now let us look at the most favorite character Duryodhana. He never breaks the rule but he’s constantly violating the principle – he is holding the letter of the law never the spirit of the law. Left side is the spirit, right side is the letter. The Top Left is the belief, whereas Bottom Right is the behavior.  He is Pretender.

Where does Yudhisthira fit in all of this?

Yudhisthira is someone struggling to be Rama, he moves from Ravana square to Rama square – this is the journey of Yudhisthira, with the help of Krishna. His honesty is about rules, not realizing it is all about rules as well as about principles. Mahabharat is the story of focus on the principle. When a woman is being disrobed, everybody discussing legal matters- is it okay or not okay to disrobe her. Bhishma and Drona watching a woman being disrobed and they are supposed to be very educated people and they are not doing anything this in the matter.

That brings me to a very interesting issue. You said that the Ramayana comes from an older age of more innocence whereas the Mahahabharat comes from a darker, newer, age.

Mahabharat represents a more matured organization, whereas Ramayana represents a very early phase organization, which has just tasted success. Everything is right – market is right. The principles have just been created. So it’s exciting and new, people are not smart enough to subvert it yet.

In the case of a mature organization, people have started forgetting the principles, now it is a slightly more rule focused organization.

The principles have been forgotten, rules have become more important. It has become bureaucratic. For a bureaucrat, letter of the law matters, not the spirit of law. Like any bureaucracy all the rules upheld but people still don’t have food. So the principle is forgotten the woman is disrobed but nobody is arrested.

People want Ram. So, the rules are created. But rules do not make Ram.

In our next session, we will take up the 4th episode – The Conflicts – in this Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra.

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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Business Sutra |3.2| Relationship between Owner & Organization

Business Sutra |3| Business Ethics and Morals

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: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles.

The third episode relates to the Business Ethics and Morals. In the first part, a broad spectrum of business ethics and dilemmas of the leader has been covered. In the present, 2nd Part, a closer look at these issues has been taken up, in the perspective of relationship between owner and the organization.

Business Sutra |3.2| Relationship between Owner & Organization

Generally, business ownership can be classified as proprietorship, partnership or a limited liability company. The form, nature and complexity of working of the business have evolved ever since man learnt the barter system. The morality and ethics of a business organization and its owners also evolved in tandem. Then, as the form the State also started evolving, formal and informal legislations and regulations that governed the moral and ethical behavior of the business also entered the co-existing cycle of evolution.

Over the 19th century, scale and nature of the business started tilting more towards the large corporation with (legal) concept of limited liability. That, apparently, put the ownership and the management at an arm’s length and did get formalized under the law. However, that distance also brought the morality and ethics of both, the owners and management, severally and collectively, under my public glare. Like the excesses of East India Company, which prompted London to step in, the behaviour of Gilded Age (end of 19th century period) tycoons spurred new legislation to help modulate America being free-market economy. Today’s entrepreneurs operate in a drastically different world – one that is not only more global, but vastly more competitive, inclusive, regulated…[1]

As the more and more public debate took up the subject of corporation’s moral and ethical behaviour, and the associated role of owner as well as that of the management, more and more literature came to be published w.r.t. the moral ethics of the corporation’s owners – the shareholders – that of its management. However, there is not much of documented literature on internet in so far as moral and ethical relationship of a proprietor partnership form of ownership with the business organization that they operate.

It would be pertinent to remember here that we have not included the subject of Corporate Governance in our present discussion. Of course, that area also has evolved well in last few decades. But it views the subject of morality in ethics more from what ought to be THE corporate governance. We would like to look at the subject more from the point of view of an individual as what he or she perceives as his/her moral role as an owner of the business. I have selected two representative views, representing different points of view here:

Measuring Small Business Owners’ Differences In Moral Thought: Idealism Versus Relativism is a research study to measure small business owners’ differences in moral thought based on idealism and relativism. This is measured by determining the ethical ideological classification of individuals based on Forsyth’s ethical taxonomy. The research followed a quantitative analysis and an online survey questionnaire was used to collect the data from Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) owners in South Africa. The results found that the majority of SME owners fall in the situationist and absolutist category of Forsyth’s ethical taxonomy.

On the other hand, K.P. Kaiser in his post, Personal Morality vs Business Morality  looks at the more fundamental need of such business and their entrepreneur /owners.  Here is his question: What makes you think you know what’s better than an entire world full of people choosing where to spend their dollars?…. We have representative governments to impose moral order on the market. As a business person, you need to have a second set of morals. Your business morality should look to profit maximization above all else. Because the market doesn’t tell you the ways people imagine a fair world should work. The market tells you the way the world actually works. The beauty of the market is its amoral nature. We aren’t accountable to other people’s ideas of what we should be spending our money on.

Kaiser seems to be more concerned about the stakes – the livelihood – of the individual entrepreneur.

So we quickly take up what Devdutt Pattanaik has to say in Segment 2 of the episode 3 – Relationship between owner and the organization, from the Indian Mythology’s point of view.

The one predominant conflict that exists, at least in the context of business, is the relationship between the owner and the organization, management and ownership. I can find different ways of putting it, but that is the one key area of conflict. It is the one area that all the Western governance rules seem to actually try and control or mitigate. Yet, in India it is the biggest issue that we face when we talk about corporate governance, when we talk about organizational behavior or leadership traits, the whole relationship between the owner and the organization.

In the Western context, the organization is independent of the leader, while in the Indian context the organization is a manifestation of the leader. So Raja and Rajya are integral to each other. This is one fundamental thing.

Now let’s look at it in the form of a story in the Mahabharata, about this very honest person called Yudhisthira. Then we talk about a gambling episode. He gambled his kingdom. I have heard people talking about this episode, but not asking a very fundamental question – was it his?  It was Draupadi who asked the question – can he gamble the kingdom? What he and everybody is assuming that she’s asking about her. But she’s actually asking about everything. She says, on what basis has he gambled the kingdom away? Is the kingdom the King’s property?

Is it?

No.

Why does the kingdom exist, that is the fundamental question? Does it exist to mitigate my fear? Then it’s Adharma. If it is to mitigate my people’s fear, it’s Dharma. How are you mitigating fear – by gambling it away?

That is one extreme example. But if you were to look at modern-day business, the owner, or the promoter is the person who vests the most, invests the most in that business, both from a money point of view and from emotion, energy, risk everything. Why then does he not get, in some sense, stake for the rest of his life and treat this like his kingdom?

In India the relationship of the king and the kingdom was that between a cowherd and a cow.  If you see wealth as milk, where does the milk come from? It comes from a cow. What is good milk? Rich in bottom line? or Utterly Buttlerly Milk? The cow that gives that milk is a good cow. Now that cow’s milk belongs to the cowherd or does it belong to the cow?

It belongs to the cow.

There is a nice relationship between the cow and the cowherd. The cowherd takes care of the cow, and in exchange takes a portion of the milk. The king as the cowherd is the keeper of the cow, his kingdom. When a king gives a cow to another man, what has he done? He has given that person a lifetime of food and fuel with that milk and dung. This effectively means that you have given him survival; you have allowed him to live.

In other words, giving away a cow or Godaan, is job creation. I have created a job so that he can sustain himself forever. So the more cows I give, I basically create employment, so that more people can live. Why do they need to live? Otherwise they would be at the mercy of the elements. The great king distributes many cows. But does he own the cow? That relationship is one of trusteeship. He is the trustee of the cow.

This is very simple to understand when there is one king in one cow. If you were to expand it in the context of an organization, let us assume the king is the promoter or the entrepreneur, the founder. But thereafter, the king alone is not able to take care of the cows. The King needs the help of other people. and therefore the right on the milk he gets distributed amongst those other people who also help in taking care of the cow. Has it to be proportional? Should it be distributed disproportionately because it is the king actually who began the entire process of taking care of the cow, and  the others came on later? This is the question that constantly gets asked in India – can the promoter undertake actions that benefit himself as the shareholder, and by the way, benefit other shareholders as well ?Because they benefit him, the shareholder, should that be treated as fair or that is not fair? Should all his actions be taken from the other shareholders point of view?

The first thing is – what is fair is subjective. Fairness is a subjective concept. Second, it offered equality. In India you are equal at a soul level. So the soul (Atma) is equal, but the flesh is not.. There are inequalities based on our intellectual make-up, our emotional make-up and our material make-up.

So what you’re saying, then, is that the founder, the promoter, the entrepreneur rightfully deserves more based on the risks and the effort that he has undertaken.

The word right is not an Indian concept.  It is duty in Indian concept. Our entire culture is based on the concept of duty. Duties are for the other, right is for the self. So when you ‘this is my right’, you have in a way provoked the animal instinct of territoriality. It is mine. For what? So we’re celebrating the territoriality of our being. Which means we are surviving the animal which is celebrating the animal instinct – the imagination and amplification of fear.

Now the question is no law can say how much is fair. That is for you to figure it out. It is your duty to work out how much are you giving to people. Remember it goes to inner space, inner landscape.  No rule can tell me that. You should know that if you give me ten percent it is fair and if you give it twelve percent it is unfair. So the king has to decide. And that’s why the Kings were worshipped. Once upon a time they were put on a pedestal and the Abhishek – coronation, ablution – rituals were performed.

And yet they routinely gambled away their kingdoms or they lost their kingdoms in war which was the desire to expand their kingdoms. So if the relationship between the king and the kingdom was one of trust and trusteeship, we don’t have that many examples of Kings that actually upheld that principle.

This is because you see we are talking about the struggle to be perfect – the struggle to be human not even perfect, the struggle to step out of an animal desire, to dominate our animal desire to be territorial. 99% of our being is animal the struggle is to make 99 into 98. You never overcome your animal. If at you can do it, then you will be a living of god.

Can we make 99 into 98? That’s the Indian – introspective- method. Rules will domesticate animals. It will not fix your animal.

The episode seems to end, rather abruptly. In a way, that is because the 3rd part follows immediately and continues the link. However, if we look at the end as a poser to the questionCan we make 99 into 98?- , it provides us the food to ponder over our role of the owner and our relationship with organization that we run.

The laws of Corporate Governance are the rules that may domesticate the animal within us. But only we, with our own inner strength of our moral and ethical values, can really undertake the task of making 99 % of our animal-self into 98% animal. Be that in the capacity of proprietor or partner or the shareholder, or even that of the management.

In our next session, we will take up the further extension of the topic – Ramayana vs. Mahabharat – the two differing points of views of the Core Principles – Dharm – in the 3rd segment of the Third Episode of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra.

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.

[1] SuperEconomies –  Raghav Bahl

Business Sutra |3.1| Ethical and Moral Dilemmas

Business Sutra |3| Business Ethics and Morals

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: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles.

The third episode relates to the ethical and moral dilemmas of the leader, and hence in turns that of the organization. The ethics and morality are the human concepts. Animals and plants belong to Prakriti or nature, where no one has choices. Everyone is fettered to their nature. Purusha or humans have the unique ability to make choices and hence reject what is ‘in their nature’ – the idea of dharma comes from this space, the core ethical and moral values of the human being. The concept is beautifully illustrated in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Dharma is a principle, not a rule, which is why in Ramayana rules are upheld and in Mahabharata rules are broken. Beneath the actions of Ram and Krishna is dharma – which may result in rule making or rule breaking, depending on the context.

Business Sutra |3.1| Ethical and Moral Dilemmas

Let us begin with first  things first and take a glance at what do values, ethics and morality mean- in the western management literature.

Bahaudin Mujtaba presents Understanding ethics and morality in business . He states that values are professed statements of one’s beliefs, ethics is delivering on one’s professed values and morals are actions of good conduct as judged by the society that enhance the welfare of human beings. ..With an understanding of values, ethics and morals while using ethical principles, a business owner or leader can form a framework for effective decision-making with formalized strategies. The willingness to add ethical principles to the decision-making structure indicates a desire to promote fairness, as well as prevent potential ethical problems from occurring.

Surbhi S has clearly presented the Difference Between Morals and Ethics . The word Morals is derived from a Greek word “Mos” which means custom. On the other hand, if we talk about Ethics, it is also derived from a Greek word “Ethikos” which means character. Put simply, morals are the customs established by group of individuals whereas ethics defines the character of an individual.

Basis for comparison Morals Ethics
Meaning Morals are the beliefs of the individual or group as to what is right or wrong. Ethics are the guiding principles which help the individual or group to decide what is good or bad.
What is it? General principles set by group Response to a specific situation
Root word Mos which means custom Ethikos which means character
Governed By Social and cultural norms Individual or Legal and Professional norms
Deals with Principles of right and wrong Right and wrong conduct
Applicability in Business No Yes
Consistency Morals may differ from society to society and culture to culture. Ethics are generally uniform.
Expression Morals are expressed in the form of general rules and statements. Ethics are abstract.
Freedom to think and choose No Yes

Business Ethics is a brief, structured, treatise on the subject.

Conventional Approach to Business Ethics  is a presentation prepared on the 7th Chapter – Business Ethics Fundamentals – from the book Business and Society. We get a quick-glance view of serval fundamentals of the subject.

12 Ethical Principles for Business Executives : Ethical values, when translated into active language, establishing standards or rules that describe the kind of behavior an ethical person should and should not engage in, are ethical principles. The following list of principles incorporates the characteristics and values that most people associate with ethical behavior. 

  • HONESTY – honest and truthful in all their dealings.
  • INTEGRITY – personal integrity and the courage of their convictions by doing what they think is right even when there is great pressure to do otherwise.
  • PROMISE-KEEPING & TRUSTWORTHINESS – worthy of trust.
  • LOYALTY – worthy of trust, demonstrate fidelity and loyalty to persons and institutions by friendship in adversity, support and devotion to duty.
  • FAIRNESS – fair and just in all dealings.
  • CONCERN FOR OTHERS – caring, compassionate, benevolent and kind.
  • RESPECT FOR OTHERS – respect for the human dignity, autonomy, privacy, rights, and interests of all those who have a stake in their decisions.
  • LAW ABIDING – abide by laws, rules and regulations relating to their business activities.
  • COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE – pursue excellence in performing their duties, are well informed and prepared, and constantly endeavor to increase their proficiency in all areas of responsibility.
  • LEADERSHIP – conscious of the responsibilities and opportunities of their position of leadership and seek to be positive ethical role models.
  • REPUTATION AND MORALE – protect and build the company’s good reputation and the morale of its employees.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY – acknowledge and accept personal accountability for the ethical quality of their decisions and omissions to themselves, their colleagues, their companies, and their communities.

The Seven-Step Path to Better Decisions : We make thousands of decisions daily.  Most do not justify extended forethought but when confronted by major decisions with no clear answers it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.  This seven-step guide to making good decisions is an excerpt from the book Making Ethical Decisions .

  • Stop and Think – One of the most important steps to better decisions is the oldest advice in the word: think ahead.
  • Clarify Goals – clarify your short- and long-term aims.
  • Determine Facts – You can’t make good decisions if you don’t know the facts.
  • Develop Options – make a list of options, a set of actions you can take to accomplish your goals.
  • Consider Consequences – Two techniques help reveal the potential consequences: “Pillar-ize” your options.  Filter your choices through each of the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship, and, “Identify the stakeholders” to determine how the decision is likely to affect them.
  • Choose – make your decision.
  • Monitor and Modify – re-assess the situation and make new decisions, if the outcomes do not follow the plan.

Having covered some details of the fundamentals of Ethics and Morals- as perceived by the West, we move on to what the present management literature has to state on the subject.

In a well presented article – How did Peter Drucker see Corporate Responsibility? –   in HBR, Frances Hesselbein notes that, according to Peter Drucker, “Leaders in every single institution and in every single sector … have two responsibilities. They are responsible and accountable for the performance of their institutions, and that requires them and their institutions to be concentrated, focused, limited. They are responsible also, however, for the community as a whole.”…Peter Drucker strived to make business leaders see the community as the responsibility of the corporation. He called on leaders to embody “the Spirit of Performance” by exhibiting high levels of integrity in their moral and ethical conduct; focusing on results; building on strengths; and leading beyond borders to meet the requirements of stakeholders, ultimately serving the common good.

In ‘What is Business Ethics?’, Peter Drucker  categorically states that the traditional Western moralist would probably treat Business Ethics as oxymoron. However, all the authorities of Western tradition are, however, in complete agreement on one point: There is only one ethics, one set of rules of morality, one code, that of individual behavior in which the same rules apply to everyone alike. They would accept the difference between what is ethically right or not would be grounded on social or cultural context. He then goes onto detail the evolution of term Business Ethics over 18th Century till now.

The individual ethical thinking and behavior in an organization has to be translated into the organizational level integrity.

Lynn S. Paine looks at the role of the organization in shaping the individual’s ethics in an HBR article, Managing for Organizational integrity.

We look at (only) some of the videos:

DuPont Sustainable Solutions  has compiled Workplace Ethics Scenarios that show, in the lighter style, the “wrong way” and the “right way” of handling 17 common ethics issues at the workplace.

Creating ethical cultures in business: Brooke Deterline at TEDxPresidio –

As Corporate Director for the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP), Brooke Deterline helps boards, executives, and teams at all levels develop the skills to act with courage and ingenuity in the face of challenging situations. This fosters leadership credibility and candor, builds trust, engagement and reduces risk.

Legal vs. Ethical Liability: A Crisis of Leadership and Culture | Mel Fugate | TEDxSMU

Professor Fugate argues that leaders at all levels and across industries need to focus on ethical liability above and beyond legal liabilities for themselves and their organizations. Ethical liability tests the true character of a leader and determines the character and quality of an organization’s culture. He illustrates this point in the context of higher education, where he contends a lack of accountability has led to a crisis of leadership and culture. Fugate uses scandals in college sports as common examples of a pervasive and larger problem of university leadership (at all levels) that fails to meet its ethical liabilities. He outlines a number of potential causes for the patterns of unethical behavior in higher education and also provides a few suggestions on how to overcome the challenges of this crisis.

We are now geared up to listen to what Devdutt Pattanaik has to say, in Segment 1 of the episode 3 – Dharma and Dharma Sankat.

Humans are the only creatures on earth that can choose to overturn the law of the jungle to outgrow the beasts within us. Firing this eternal struggle is our ability to imagine, imagine a better place.

But the problem with imagination is also that it amplifies our fears. I can think of the worst situations. I can imagine problems which do not exist. Even in times of abundance I can think of drought and go into a depression. So it is a tragedy of imagination, while I can imagine good things I can also imagine horrible things. It amplifies joy, it amplifies fear too. The most tragic and interesting thing about imagination is suddenly we ask ourselves and because you can imagine and because are aware we can die, we start asking the question what’s the point of it all. That is where everything starts. That is the home. That is the source of our solutions and our problems.

How is it connected to Dharma?

I can imagine not being afraid. If you look at all the gods, they have their hand sticking out and what they are saying is ‘do not be afraid’. This is the Fearlessness Pose (Abhaya Mudra). The fact is any deity, anyone, is holding the hand out. That is what a leader is supposed to do.

Just visualize a simple number chart. There is a positive axis and there is a negative axis. Now imagine the number zero as what is call in Sanskrit as Matsya Nyay, A Law of the Jungle. The big fish can eat the small fish in the sea.

This means I am allowed to be territorial. I can be dominating because I want to survive. That is an animal instinct. If I can outgrow this animal instinct of survival, then I start thinking about others. I empathize because I can imagine your fear, and because I can imagine your fear I can empathize with you. If I can walk towards empathy that is outgrowing the beast, But if I allow the fear to amplify my fear then in my fear I will say that I have to stay alive and I have to thrive and others don’t matter. Nobody else matters, but me. Then I start exploiting people. I will tame other people. I will dominate. I’ll become worse than an animal. Animals don’t exploit, humans do. Animals are not cruel, humans are. So exploitation comes or the empathy comes from the human imagination. Both these, the exploitation and empathy come from the same space of the human ability to imagine and be creative. So both are possible. If I move more towards positive scale, then this is Dharma. It is a work-in-progress.  It is not an endpoint, it’s not destination, it’s a process. If I move in the opposite direction, overwhelmed by fear, it is Adharma. The choice is ours and every choice has consequences, if not in this life, then in the next life.

What is the Dharma Sankat (Ethical or Moral Dilemma)?

Dharma Sankat is the ability to take this decision, What is life all about?  Every moment we have to take decisions. At a moment of time what do I decide? What decision do I take? Let me give you an example through a story.  Once upon a time there was an eagle. The eagle was chasing a dove and the dove came to a king and told the king: save me. The king said I will save you and the Eagle said what will I eat now. So the eagle ate another dove. That is cruel. King said do not eat dove, eat rat. So the Eagle said, that’s cruel why should a rat die to save the dove. Finally the king said because I say so. The Eagle then said you are foolish. How long can you feed me? Sooner or later you will die and I’ll have to eat the Dove. So you are just delaying its death. This is Dharma Sankat.

In nature nobody would have come to the rescue of the dove. Now the King thinks he is very noble in saving the Dove. King is imagining that by saving the dove I am being a nice man, but in effect he is cruel to the eagle. You decided that the eagle is bad, the dove needs saving. Now look what is happening – the Dove is calling the king a kind king and the eagle is calling the king a cruel King. Who is right?

What should the king do?

There is no prescription.

How do you fit this in a business or corporate context? What are the more common Dharma Sankat situations that business leaders face and how are they supposed to overcome them?

There is a recession. Company has to cut costs. I have two ways of cutting cost: reduce salaries of the top management or give pink slips to the bottom of the pyramid. Which way should I go?

The former sounds less cruel. But, to those people it is as cruel.

That would mean that the top management which is running your organization may leave and the company can collapse and the shareholders will withdraw money.

What do you do?

That IS Dharma Sankat. That is why you need a leader. If there was a prescription out there then why do you need a leader? You have to ask yourself – if I have to evolve, I have to ask myself: why do I take the decision? Where from comes a decision that I am taking? Am I taking a decision because I’m afraid? Am I doing it to protect myself? Am I doing to protect my self-image? Am I doing to protect my business, which is actually an extension of my self-image? Or, am I doing it for the good of the people? More often than not it is never for the good of the people.

We have, thus, seen that West and Hindu points of view broadly converge on the basics of Dharma – the Ethics and the Morality. They also do take cognizance of the reality that ethics or morality is not the absolute – they manifest in light of the then socio-economic-cultural milieu in which the human being lives.

When we look at the literature on the values that shape the ethics and morals, we do find a subtle difference in the approaches of the West and the East. For the present, that is beyond the scope of our discussion. However, both ideologies do converge and agree that it is the value system that drives the (ethical and moral) behavior.

In our next session, we will take up the logical extension of the topic – Relationship between the owner and the organization – in the second segment of the Third Episode of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra

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.

Business Sutra |2.3 | Leadership in different Business Cycles

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. The first segment of the second episode dealt with the role of the leader and the second segment what impact the context has on the leaders. The third segment looks at the context in the light of different business cycles.

Business Sutra |2.3 | Leadership in different Business Cycles

Allison McSparron-Edwards, founder and managing director of Consultrix analyzes Business lifecycles and the need for different leaders at different times. It may seem fairly obvious but as companies grow they appear to follow a corporate life cycle including Creation, Growth, Maturity, Turnaround and Decline. [Kimberley, J. R., Miles, R. 1980, and associates The Organisational Lifecycle: Issues in the Creation, Transformation, and Decline of Organisations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.]…In tandem, it appears that, in order to be successful in each stage, companies need to employ different types of leaders including Creators, Accelerators, Sustainers, Transformers and Terminators. [Ward, A., The Leadership Lifecycle: Matching leaders to evolving organizations. Ebbw Vale: Palgrave MacMillan]

A Ward’s book – The Leadership Lifecycle – presents a model of the leadership process that identifies which factors create an effective leader at different points in the organisation’s lifecycle and which forces act as moderators to that effectiveness. The dimension of how the dynamics of leadership play out over time is what distinguishes this work from previous books on leadership.

So here is your challenge: Do you know whether your leadership behaviors suit your company’s growth cycle?

The Business Lifecycle & The 5 Phases of Leadership :

Phase 1: Innovation

During the startup phase, the leader is very single-minded and highly driven. Their enthusiasm and energy alone is enough to inspire others to shared greatness.

Phase 2: Entrepreneurial

Due to limited resources and a lack of deeper understanding, entrepreneurial leaders tend to surround themselves with followers and, sometimes, subservient players who are not necessarily leaders. A “my way or the highway” attitude could lead the business down the wrong road.

Phase 3: Managerial

The transition from entrepreneur to manager is very challenging. The entrepreneur tends to be a high energy, powerful, dominant, controlling leader. The entrepreneur also dislikes process and procedure. If we don’t transition to a managerial leader, the business will have a ceiling on its growth and potential. New team leaders may put ideas into play that don’t mesh with the original company vision. Getting On Purpose will ensure the business is not sacrificing passion for process, while ensuring a fluid transition of vision to the leadership team.

Phase 4: Administrative

While the administrative phase is generally successful from a business perspective, the success is unsustainable because the company can lose the On Purpose vision. Leadership must be vigilant and strive to allow innovation while constantly resisting the devolution/transition into the “Bureaucratic Phase”.

Phase 5: Bureaucratic

Unchecked, politics and bureaucracy become the accepted cultural norm, with a culture that operates on rules and guidelines. Strong, determined change through On Purpose coaching strategies can re-vitalize leadership, empower the team and bring the company back into the entrepreneurial, maturity or administrative phase.

Leadership Style and the Organization Life Cycle is a research paper and was executed to explore and test the belief that a transition of organization life cycle has a relationship to leadership style

Business Lifecycle and Leadership Fit By Eric Hansen

Leadership Style Lifecycle: Choose the Right Leadership Style for the Right Environment Rod King, Ph.D., AUTHOR of “Business Model Canvas: A Good Tool With Bad Instructions?“; CONSULTANT on Business Model Hacking (BMH):

In 6 Leadership Styles, And When You Should Use Them Robyn Benincasa notes that great leaders choose their leadership style like a golfer chooses his or her club, with a calculated analysis of the matter at hand, the end goal, and the best tool for the job. Here are the six leadership styles Daniel Goleman’s study that his Leadership That Gets Results  uncovered among the managers he studied, as well as a brief analysis of the effects of each style on the corporate climate:

If you take two cups of authoritative leadership, one cup of democratic, coaching, and affiliative leadership, and a dash of pacesetting and coercive leadership “to taste,” and you lead based on need in a way that elevates and inspires your team, you’ve got an excellent recipe for long-term leadership success with every team in your life.

Robyn Benincasa is a two-time Adventure Racing World Champion, two-time Guinness World Record distance kayaker, a full-time firefighter, and author of the new book, HOW WINNING WORKS: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons from the Toughest Teams on Earth, from which this article is excerpted. (Harlequin Nonfiction, June 2012)

Leadership and Life Cycles: Barbarians to Bureaucrats is an edited (20min) presentation on corporate life cycles and leadership styles by Lawrence M. Miller.

Now, let us look at what Devdutt Pattanaik has to say on the subject in the Segment 3: Leadership in different Business Cycles

Why is success so individualistic when we talk about in the context of business? Of course, in successful companies we almost always connect them to one overwhelmingly successful individual. Almost everything about the success of leadership connects to that leader. We rarely praise the board of Apple but Steve Jobs is God. Similarly for Microsoft Bill Gates is God and for Reliance Industries Dhirubhai Ambani is a legend for what he has achieved. Why is success so individualistic when everything in mythology seems to be talking about the community, the other, the outside.

Everything in Indian Mythology talks about other, the outside. The Western mythology is a complex combination between Greek ideas and biblical ideas. In the biblical idea there is God and there is a prophet. The Prophet brings the rules of God to man and we have to align to the rules. The prophet is subject to these rules. He is not independent of the rules. He is not creator of these rules. He is subject to these rules. The Greek model is very different. In the Greek model the hero is someone who challenges the gods, who fights the gods and who triumphs despite the gods.

Now when we use the word leader today in common parlance, these words have come from the Western context. When they are using the word leader they refer to the heroes of Greek mythology who challenge the gods, that is the status quo, who challenge the establishment and innovate and create something new breakthrough. Today there is the Hercules of modern times. Hercules is always alone. Have you seen him with family or Theseus or Jason?  None of them are with family. All of them are individuals. Some of them are kings but you never hear about the kingdom. You only know about their great adventures. All our leadership books that we have are basically Greek heroes.

When we are that individualistically oriented and if the board is not as responsible, as revered, then the Board is always going to come second to the individual leaders. If the Board always comes second to the individual leader, then let us go back to the conversation we had in the very first episode – how is the board ever going to be able to stand up to that leader.

This is the Great Western conflict – the individual versus the community.

In the Indian context how do you apply this concept?

It is not achievement which makes Ram worthy of worship; it is sacrifice that makes him worthy of worship. So I would actually argue a leader has to begin as Parshuram, then become Ram and then evolve into Krishna. Unfortunately many have to become Buddha or Kalki depending on the situation. These are the avatars Parshuram is rule-follower, he is like this very strict teacher who punishes you if you break the rules.  Then he becomes the model leader, Ram, who hopes that by being a model of sacrifice the people will understand the meaning of sacrifice. Because the whole kingdom is watching this great king serving them, making sacrifice in his own personal journey.

He leads by example.

He eventually becomes Krishna. Krishna is the ultimate coach, he is coaching and creating new talent and hoping that the Pandavas will become like Ram. They don’t.  They gamble away their own Kingdom thinking that Kingdom is property. So he has to put them through a great period of exile in the forest and sort of repair the damage and get them back on the trail. There is a lot of bloodshed which happens. So he is coaching them and finally becomes Buddha who switches off.  Or, he becomes Kalki who just breaks the system completely because it is not worth upholding.

So either you withdraw if it is worth sustaining or you destroy because it’s not worth maintaining anymore.

So it is a very beautiful narrative which is in a way saying the evolution of leadership. It is not becoming one style it is context driven. In the early phases, Parshuram, in the perfect phase Ram then become Krishna – create talent move out, go away. The world will continue without you it has been continuing without you.

If it does not continue it will self-implode. Leave it. Detach.

We thus observe that both, Western and the Indian view of leadership styles evolve in terms of the context.

In our next session next month, we will take up Segment 1 of Third episode – Dharma Sankat (Ethical Dilemmas) – of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra viz. Dharma and Dharma Sankat (Ability to grow beyond animal instincts and Ethical dilemmas)

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.

Business Sutra |2.2 | Context of Leaders

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. The first segment of the second episode dealt with the role of the leader. In the present, second segment, what impact does the context have on the leaders.

Business Sutra |2.2 | Context of Leaders

Team Activ8 in its blogpost 4 leadership “weapons” used by great leaders states that ‘good business leaders display many traits but there are 4 leadership “weapons” used by great leaders:

  1. They use their “business binoculars” to provide CONTEXT
  2. They instill VALUES using their “moral compass”.
  3. They build TRUST with their “business shield”.
  4. They encourage MOMENTUM with their “business rocket booster”.

This gives us one dimension of the context of leaders wherein the leader sets the direction for the organization. Neither the leader nor the context impacts each other. Leader sets the sail w.r.t. to the given context.

In The Leadership Paradox, Jim Selman adds one more perspective.  He states that leadership is inherently paradoxical in that it is inclusive of both the individual and the group or team or community. If this is so, then leadership is a context, a powerful opening for innovation and something new to emerge. From this perspective, leadership isn’t about process, or technique, or some set of skills beyond the capacity to be authentic and committed to a possibility larger than oneself.
Leadership from this perspective is the ability to operate within the present and appreciate the larger context: that results and possibilities grow not from our individual choices only but from the power and contributions of those we lead.

Tony Mayo states that Context-based leadership manifests when environmental factors and individual action come together. And “come together” is the most important part…..The environmental factors create a specific and sometimes unique context for business. Within this contextual framework, some individuals envisioned new enterprises or new products and services, while others saw opportunities for maximizing or optimizing existing businesses, and still others found opportunities through reinvention or recreation of companies or technologies that were considered stagnant or declining….. In other words, it can be construed to reflect awareness of and ability to adapt to the contextual intelligence…..The ability to succeed in multiple contexts is based on what Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas in Geeks & Geezers called adaptive capacity — the ability to change one’s style and approach to fit the culture, context, or condition of an organization. Success in the twenty-first century will require leaders to pay attention to the evolving context.

That brings us to the theme of Victor H Vroom and Arthur G Jago’s paper:  The Role of the Situation in Leadership – Leadership depends on the situation. Few social scientists would dispute the validity of this statement. Three distinct roles that situational variables play in the leadership process are:

  1. Organizational effectiveness (often taken to be an indication of its leadership) is affected by situational factors not under leader control.
  2. Situations shape how leaders behave.
  3. Situations influence the consequences of leader behavior.

Looking at behavior in specific classes of situations rather than averaging across situations is more consistent with contemporary research on personality and more conducive to valid generalizations about effective leadership. If . . . then . . . relationships are not only at the core of attempts to understand what people do but are also the basis for attempts to understand what leaders should do.

In What the Best Leaders Know: Context Matters, John Kamensky sees ‘the traditional leader is seen as a charismatic hero, a lone figure, towering above the rest.  These are seen more in the military or business worlds – General George Patton, auto executive Lee Iaccoco, computer guru Steve Jobs.  But in reality, the success of a leader depends on the context or environment, in which they work – the deck they’ve been dealt….Today, new forms of shared leadership are evolving – where a leader serves as a visionary, a broker, a convener, a mediator.  And occasionally is recognized as a hero!  

In an in-depth study, Leadership in Context, Michael Bazigos, Chris Gagnon, and Bill Schaninger note that ‘even the best scripts can ring hollow in the wrong settings. (Their) research suggests that the most effective leadership behavior reflects the state of a company’s organizational health. Top-management teams that are serious about developing vibrant businesses and effective leaders must be prepared to look inward, assess the organization’s health objectively, and ask themselves frankly whether their leadership behavior is strong enough in the ways that matter most at the time. This question has implications not just for developing but also for assessing a company’s leaders. However much an executive may seem to have a leadership “it” factor, the organization’s health, not the claims of individuals, should come first when companies determine which kinds of behavior will be most effective for them. In short, they should spotlight different sets of actions in different situations. Fortunately for aspiring leaders, they don’t have to do everything at once.

Reams and reams of literature have been published on the subject of The Context of Leadership. Within the limitations of only one post on the subject, we have set up the stage for enlisting some of the articles and papers to know what the current Western thinking is on the subject.

In Leadership in Context, Kim Turnbull James sets the tone for the future. He states – the leadership literature has begun to identify that if leadership is to meet the organisational requirements of organisations with complex bureaucracies, with multiple stakeholders, multiple professional practices, politics (with small and big ‘p’), working across boundaries within and across organisations, then hoping for a few, or even a whole raft of individuals who can influence deep into an organisation will be insufficient. In addition to good strategic leadership from the top, leadership must be exercised throughout an organisation. Identifying individuals who have leader potential is not the (only) solution. Leadership development ‘in context’ does not just mean individual leadership development adapted to a specific locale, but means people from that locale coming together to learn to lead together and to address real challenges together.

Now, let us look at what Devdutt Pattanaik has to say on the subject in the Segment 2: Context of leaders: jaisa yug, vaisa avatar

Do various incarnations of Vishnu represent leadership at different stages of a corporation’s life cycle?

Before go into reply to the question of different incarnations, we need to understand Vishnu. Mythology is a method of communication of ideas through form. Let us look at image of Vishnu. Vishnu manages the world. He holds a conch with which he communicates with the people. He has a wheel on the other side. He also has a mace and a lotus flower, called Padma. The wheel in his hand is for review. Lotus flower is for appreciation whereas mace is for maintaining the discipline.

In a way this image represents ideal traits of leadership. We do not see any rule book here, but if he has to set the discipline, rules of reference are needed.

However rules exist in a given context only. Rules can thus be interpreted differently, but have to be interpreted with reference to a fixed principle. The concept of context is explained in mythology using the age (Yuga). Human cycle of life has four parts. There is childhood when we learn, then youth when we mature, then old age that represents systems slowing down and then comes death.

In many ways, this represents the phases that a corporation also undergoes. Each of the Age will have different set of rules based on a common principle called Dharma(loosely translated a Faith of morality). Dharma is a principle, not a code of conduct and certainly not religion. So you have to understand the principle of Dharma and then you have to understand the concept of The Age, and then the Incarnation in each of these. Each one is upholding Dharma but following very different rules. For example you have Ram who is monogamous, faithful to one wife and you have Krishna, lover of beautiful, many women. How do you reconcile the two who both are Gods and both are upholding the Dharma. For Parashuram, there is no wife around in his life.

So we have three gods and each has a different rule. In other words, there an overarching principle: different kind of leadership is required in different phases of the life cycle of an organization, but all are abiding one Principle.

All these are equal, they just represent different phases and different styles of leadership, then why is one greater than the rest? For instance, every time we talk of a perfect society we call it Ramrajya. It is supposed to be heaven on earth. There are many other leaders, there are many other gods, then why is Ram revered so much more than the rest?

Remember that’s the only form of God which is visualized as a king. Krishna is not King he’s a kingmaker. You worship Krishna as a cowherd and a charioteer not as a king. Ram is only deity of all the deities in India who has so many temples in India. He is only one deity who  was visualized as a king. He is the only one king who’s worshipped.

But it can’t be his position that draws the faithful. The fact is that being the king is not instrumental in why he is so visual. What is different?

Difference is in his role. Krishna is Vishnu but so is he the cowherd or the charioteer.

Why so much emphasis on the kingliness of Ram?

Because he is doing what a king is supposed to do; he’s living the life of as what a king is supposed to be. That is what Ram is associated with. And, what is that supposed to be? He is living for the people, to the point that when given a choice between an honest and faithful wife and cruel, unjust, unfair subjects, the King takes a decision to choose his cruel subjects and rejects his faithful wife. It’s the classic conflict between personal life and professional life. He chooses the professional life over the personal life. He sacrifices.

But he sacrifices the professional life for the good of the people not the professional life for his own personal advancement in the profession.

If you look at our legends, not mythology, people who have sacrificed their children are put on a higher pedestal, because we know how impossible that is.

So Ram Rajya is almost the attainment of the impossible, because it is about sacrificing what your love for your dearest, and chooses to love others.

We thus observe that both, Western and the Indian view of role of leadership are driven by the context. In so far as the leader does what the context has demanded to do in terms of the dictates of the fundamental principle(s), of is caring for others, first , he has done justice to his role of befitting the Leader.

In our next session next month, we will take up segment 3 of second episode – Leadership – of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra viz. Leadership in different Business Cycles

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.

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.

Business Sutra |1.3 | Short Term Vs. Long Term

Business Sutra 1

Business Sutra |1| Corporations

In the opening part of the first episode of his TV serial, Business Sutra, Devdutt Pattanaik dwelt upon the subject of the Indian way of doing the business. The second part then dealt with purpose of the corporation.

In our present post, the third of the three parts of this first episode, we will have a detailed look at oft-discussed short-term vs. long-term view of the corporation and its purpose.

Business Sutra |1.3 | Short Term Vs. Long Term

This video gives us the basics of short-term (planning) and. long-term (goals.).

Some lightly told, but meaningful messages will also whet our appetite for the subject:

So, what is your long term goal?

When organizational leaders are asked if they think in the short term or in the long term, there is a pretty consistent answer: “Long term, of course” notes Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky in his article Short Term vs. Long Term. … Long term thinking should create and sustain long term growth for all the stakeholders and by extension, community, society, and the environment), not just the shareholders. Rising water raises all ships. This is the model of social capitalism…Yet when we look closely at many organizations and their decision making process, it appears to be clearly short term thinking, too often driven by quarterly, “Wall Street” numbers, which focus on shareholder alone. This is a model of classic capitalism. 

The Long-Term Benefits Of Short-Term Thinking solidly puts forward the case for building up a sound business, if so required, by making good every short-term opportunity that comes up on the way up.

One of the most reported cause for such an approach is high volatility of the entire ecosystem over last couple of decades. In a (now) famous letter that BlackRock CEO Larry Fink had sent to CEOs of S&P 500 companies and large European corporations, he argues that today’s culture of quarterly earnings hysteria is totally contrary to the long-term approach we need. Over the long-term, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – ranging from climate change to diversity to board effectiveness – have real and quantifiable financial impacts…At companies where ESG issues are handled well, they are often a signal of operational excellence.

Gus Levy, at Goldman Sachs, urges his people to “be long term greedy, not short term greedy.”

In their article – The Biology of Corporate Survival –  on HBR, Martin Reeves, Simon Levin, Daichi Ueda have conducted a survey to check the longevity of 30,000 pubic firms of America over last 50 years. The results are quite stark: Businesses are disappearing faster. They are of the opinion that this because hey are failing to adapt to the growing complexity of their environment. Many misread the environment, select the wrong approach to strategy, or fail to support a viable approach with the right behaviors and capabilities. The authors have compared business corporation with any other biological body, who survive (or don’t) on account of their inherent and adapted biological survival skill and strategy.

In an another article – Long-Termism Is Just as Bad as Short-Termism – on HBR, Ken Favaro cites Drucker: “He recognized that all companies face an inescapable reality: they must invest in their future if they are to have one, but they must also produce earnings today in order to pay for doing so. Moreover, you have to meet your previous promises of returns from investments made in the past in order to have the license to continue investing for the long term. You cannot sacrifice the short term for the long term and expect to have a future any more than the other way around. In other words, ‘long-termism’ is just as bad as ‘short-termism.’”

In “Short-Term or Long-Term: Where Do You Live?” Marshall Goldsmith provides us a model that shows five different modes of behavior and how they can characterize our relationship to any activity — either at work or at home:

  • Stimulating is for activities that score high in short-term satisfaction but low in long-term benefit. A life spent solely on stimulating activities could provide a lot of short-term pleasure but still be headed nowhere.
  • Sacrificing is for activities that score low in short-term satisfaction but high in long-term benefit. A life spent solely on sacrificing activities would be the life of a martyr — lots of achievement, but not much joy.
  • Surviving is for activities that score low on short-term satisfaction and low on long-term benefit. A life spent solely on surviving activities would be a hard one indeed.
  • Sustaining is for activities that produce moderate amounts of short-term satisfaction and lead to moderate long-term benefits. A life spent solely on sustaining activities would be an O.K. one — not great, yet not too bad.
  • Succeeding is a term for activities that score high on short-term satisfaction and high on long-term benefit. A life spent in succeeding is a life that is filled with both joy and accomplishment.

The perception of both short-term satisfaction and long-term benefit is dependent upon the individual engaged in the activity. If we cannot change our activities, then we can at least try to change our attitude toward them

So, one may conclude that –

Let us now look at what Devdutt Pattanaik has to say in Segment 3: Short Term Vs. Long Term from the point of view of Indian mythology.

Here are the key points from his present discourse:

One of the conflicts continuously in the creation and sustenance of systems of corporations really is the ability to balance shorter with long-term radius. Jack Welch has this to state:

When you look at mythology you know there is a God sustains the world – Vishnu. He is associated with two animals one is called Serpent (Sarpa) and other is Eagle (Grauda). Their way at looking at things is known as Serpent Vision (Sarpa Drishti) – the immediate goal – and Eagle Vision (Garuda Drishti) – the long sight – respectively.

Question is what should one focus first?

Right when you look at how the story of creation, the moment to they talk about creation they also talked about its destruction. They talk immediately about destruction, which means you don’t just talk about the building of the organization at the day it is begun. You also discuss how it’s going to die. It’s not assumed to be immortal because mortality is the universal truth and you are aware of it. You are discussing about mortality. When you say that okay if I’m going to be born and am going to die too, then how do I live a healthy and happy life? How long can I sustain?

As much as that applies to health, it applies to the organizations as well.

Unfortunately the way we are structured, we break it down into bits, into say, years. When you look at your lifespan over two years or three years and you have to win every year. You know I am not allowed to lose. So effectively, than the pressure is on the Serpent’s vision – at your shadow’s level. You have to keep winning every year, keep growing to be more and more profitable year in year out. We are told that that’s the measurement and that’s the reward. So, if I have to last for three years, I just make sure that I win each of the three years. I am not thinking of 30 years and 300 years.

The system, per force, unwittingly perhaps, is saying Serpent vision.

How do you correct that because you’re always going to have someone in charge for a limited period of time? They’re going to try and excel within that limited period of time, and therefore, for them, short-termism will always be the first goal to achieve as opposed to long-termism. We do understand that the ideal should be long-termism but not all of us can actually put that bill, in that sense.

In the case of health, you see you can’t escape the consequences. It is personal.

In an organization you can escape the consequences because perhaps you may not be around. Or that I may not be held responsible for doing what I did in good faith, for the good of the organization. Particularly in the case of a limited company, individual’s role is also limited. A shareholder tends to behave more like a moneylender and may create any type of pressures to get their returns. However, all employees would  not feel the direct, and equal,  consequences of his /her actions.

In a way, Short-termism breeds freedom from long-term consequences.

Interestingly this seems to make a case for family-owned businesses. For almost 10 years now in this country the phrase family-owned business is looked at with some amount of contempt. It is again a Western concept, that we have inherited over the past 20 30 40 years, that ideally an organization must have separation between ownership and management. It should be professionally run and it should be run for the benefit of all stakeholders as opposed to the benefit of the entrepreneur that may have started that organization. But, the problem is that if you’re going to have leaders that come in for limited periods of time, they’re going to be concerned with their immediate term. So, again back to the short-termism. But if you have organizations owned by families that will patronize these organizations, help them sustain, help them grow over generations over the long term. It is obvious that you’re making the case then for family-owned business a phrase that we looked down upon in some ways for the last 10 to 15 years.

As professionals, we’re using it again without context. Used anywhere anytime, if it’s professional it is good. What does the mean to be professional? It means – cut out emotions, be logical. So of the three goddesses (L,S,D) which 40,000 years have been celebrated, one, D (Durga, Shakti, Power), is out. That is the one thing that we crave for as human beings, we want to feel powerful and if I look at physiologically you’re seeing focus on the left brain, right brain is bad. Right brain is not good, focus on the left brain and that is good for the organization.

The problem with the family-owned business is that talks too much of the, emotional, right brain – my son is better or my son will not be better.

India is called Bharat. But we forget a story of the character whose name is Bharat. There are Bharats in mythology. But there is one very obscure story, which is amazing and is very interesting. It is about is the son of Shakuntala. He had many wives and many sons but he rejected all the sons and we don’t know why. He said he doesn’t look like me. That is the literal translation. But perhaps that is why, he then adopts, or is given by the god, a son, allegedly an illegitimate child, rejected by a spell, an orphan. He elevates him to be the heir.

If the story is decoded, basically being a king he rejected his own biological children in favor of a son who was good enough to rule. Remember, we are named after that man BhArat.

It is equal to meritocracy.

So that’s that-

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

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.