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Management guidelines from the Bhagavad Gita -
October 13th, 2010
Management guidelines from the Bhagavad Gita
There is an important distinction between effectiveness and efficiency in managing.
Effectiveness is doing the right things.
Efficiency is doing things right.
Forming a vision
Planning the strategy to realize the vision.
Cultivating the art of leadership.
Establishing institutional excellence.
Building an innovative organization.
Developing human resources.
Building teams and teamwork.
Delegation, motivation, and communication.
Reviewing performance and taking corrective steps when called for.
Thus, management is a process of aligning people and getting them committed to work for a common goal to the maximum social benefit ‐ in search of excellence.
In the mythical Ramayana, the battle leading to the climax was being played out. Would the exiled Rama edge out the evil Ravana, rescue his wife Sita whom the latter had abducted, and return home to reclaim kingship, or would he face defeat at the hands of Ravana’s massive army?
Rama’s motley group of men and monkeys were no match for the evil Ravana’s forces and weaponry. Or so thought Vibhishan, Ravana’s brother who had defected to Rama’s side. Unable to contain his concerns, he questioned Rama: How will you defeat this huge army with your limited resources? The reply that Rama gave stands out as a great lesson in leadership, more on the role and importance of EI as one can ever come across.
As a charioteer, he told Vibhishan who listened with rapt attention; you have to make sure you have a clear vision, and a cause worth fighting for. In the case of Ramayana, the cause was to rescue his beloved Sita and the vision was to defeat the evil forces.
Many prominent industry leaders today opine that you need not necessarily have a vision; rather, taking one step at a time could be a much more practical way of going about, but I think that unless you have a vision, you will never be able to follow a trajectory.
In the words of the great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, “The world steps aside to a person who knows where he or she is going.” In that parlance, unless you know where you are going, how will the world step aside and aid you in your pursuit?
Coming back to the battlefield of Ramayana, Rama narrated to Vibhishan, that the four wheels of the chariot are character, courage, ethics, and valor. Character is the most fundamental thing for a leader. As a leader, you must know who you are and what you stand for and communicate the same to your people through actions rather than words. It is essential for a leader to walk the talk; leadership doesn’t come from a business card, nor does respect.
It is the ethics, the value system you embody that does the needful. Courage in this scenario would be the ability to take unpopular decisions, while valor is the courage to defend those very decisions.
In the event of an unpopular decision, and such decisions are a part and parcel of a leader’s life since leadership begins where logic ends, it surely gets lonely out there, but you show the valor, walk the talk, and your teammates are sure to follow you.
Rama continued to enumerate what the horses drawing the chariot stood for. They are, he said with gusto, strength, energy, and passion. In a battle, you must have the strength to discriminate between the right and wrong, and the zeal and perseverance to keep working towards your goal.
The four reins of a horse, he went on to say, are forgiveness, compassion, consistency, and equanimity. It is essential to touch the hearts before you ask for the hand. Touching heart needs compassion and forgiveness. Consistency and equanimity are hallmark of character which creates trust with the followers.
The chariot’s wheels, the horses, and their reins are among the most important of a warrior’s (and therefore a leader’s) repertoire: The weaponry: knowledge, strategy, intelligence, skills, commitment, and a restraint of ego—these are the weapons that will help us win this mammoth battle, proclaimed Rama to his army and Vibhishan before leading them into the epic struggle.
“Arm yourself with these and no war will be lost,” he told them. After a spirited battle, his army—the motley group of men and monkeys defeated the heavily equipped Ravana and his forces.
The way the Ramayana portrays the essential attributes of a leader is a revelation. Many of today’s thinkers analyze too much and thus lose the charm of simplicity. You need not analyze and complicate things; what the HBR and the statement of Rama in the Ramayana say are one and the same; that EI, an embodiment of all these things mentioned above, is what makes victory possible against any opposition.