One big lie : Leadership lessons II
Feb 05 2013
Leadership is about rising above the baser instincts of sensual gratifications and continuing the evolutionary processes towards what humanist psychologist Carl Rogers says the ‘actualising state’. Understanding this proposition is fundamental to not becoming arrogant, conceited, self-righteous, aggressive, narcissist or egomaniac with so much media hype, public adulation, and money floating around. Lance Armstrong was well-known as an egomaniac around whom the world revolved, and one who determined the rules of engagement.
The first requirement for leaders is to consciously cultivate a stable chitta (predisposition of mind). Sometimes this is difficult since the leader’s current position is because of restlessness — an anti-thesis of stability. Karma should be energetic, yet the mental processes ought to be stable and steadfast. This can be achieved only through a mindset of seva and atma-shakti.
Leaders must evolve and an easy-to-remember life-perspective what can be termed as the 3D rules of leadership: distance (attitude of custodianship and detachment), discretion (balancing what and how of speaking), and discipline (controlling self and beyond adulation). This is in the context of gratification of the five basic senses (eating, touching, speaking, hearing, and seeing) relating to aahhar, vichaar and vyavhaar. The three Ds allow a saintly yet energetic approach to decision-making. This is not idealism — it is highly practical and necessary. All the fallen heroes have been guilty of breaking the 3D golden rule of leadership (as we shall see later).
Gurbani mentions three thought-conditions (or gunas) of the human mind, viz. saatav, raajas, and taamas. Saatav predominates since it gives inner joy, while raajas impels one to excessive activity, and taamas clouds the intellect thereby making the person lazy, dull and mind-blind. The permutation of the three gunas determine an individual’s personality, mind and intellect.
In practical terms, it is, perhaps, easier to think of human mind-states in terms of inert, overt and covert personalities. The overt man embraces the external world from an enlightened perspective maintaining discipline, discretion and distance. His mind is pure and calm. They are the torch-bearers of ‘correct’ action and character in the company. The overt man is holistic and strategic in his approach and acts for the societal good.
The covert man has a strong ‘ego’ dimension. ‘I only’ or ‘me first’ becomes so dominant that the person becomes insensitive to others and to the environment. The strategic intent is selfishness (sometimes couched in overt language). This is finagled leadership characterised by manipulation, trickery. Here discretion (of senses) and distance (neutrality) are largely missing, and the person survives on discipline only. In the inert man, the ‘discipline’ aspect is missing with the other two Ds remaining dormant and irrelevant. Such people would not be able to reach leadership positions.
Not infrequently leaders say ‘I am a sensitive person’. It shows a heightened self-elevated ‘I’ with strong likes and dislikes, rather than being accommodative to others’ sensitivities. They, more often than not, are ‘fragile’ individuals. With an unstable chitta and a flawed character, they shut the doors even on ‘normal’ interactions with colleagues and peers.
Leadership is character! It is not just about economic wealth-creation — it is also about setting a moral-wealth agenda! The latter is much more lasting and happiness-giving than the former. Unfortunately in our management education system, the focus is mostly on the core competence of the corporation when the emphasis must at least be equally on developing a unique character of the company. At the leadership level, budding managers can be taught how the overt personality flourishes and consciously sublimate the covert.
It requires faith to believe that when all the doors seemingly are closed, there is a window that is gradually opening! Leadership positions are a chance for making lasting contributions and solving problems of the world. It depends much upon the individual’s capacity and willpower to ‘control’ his mann and senses. Leaders who can crossover the sensual dimensions live across history. On the other side, imploding rising stars are not only tragic to watch but lead to loss of societal trust — the only energy that makes the world run smoothly in the long run.
(The writer is a professor of strategy and corporate governance, IIM-Lucknow)
(This is the second article of a two part series)