Bhagavad Gita and Management

Transformational Leadership

 After hearing 575 verses from Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna was motivated, energized and acted according to Sri Krishna’s instruction.

This is transformation management (leadership), as quoted by Narayana (1998) who explained what happened after the Bhagavad-Gita . He (Arjuna) stood steady on the ground with bow and arrow in hand. He lifted his arms ready to fight the war. Sri Krishna demonstrated transformational HR leadership qualities in developing and guiding Arjuna to victory in the war.

Transformational leaders (HR managers) exhibit charisma, encourage followers to question their own way of doing things, and treat followers differently but equitably based on follower need. Modern HR managers and consultants can benefit from the philosophy of Bhagavad-Gita , which can serve as a guide in HRM. Mere imitation of western HRM approaches may not be appropriate in the Indian (Asian) context due to differences in the cultural environment. Many new western HRM approaches will continue to emerge, however the Bhagavad-Gita has remained and will remain to be relevant and continue to contribute to HRM for many centuries to come.

It explains:

  1. Time Management (by Joe Landsberger as an international, learner-centric)
  2. Conflict Resolution (Interpersonal conflict handling grid- Kilmann and Thomas)
  3. Leadership (Blake and Mouton’s managerial grid)
  4. Transactional Analysis (Eric Berne’s theory)
  5. Circle of Influence  (Stephen R. Covey’s model).

Management guidelines from the Bhagavad Gita

Employee and individual benefits:

  •        Performance
  •        Motivation
  •        Decision-making
  •        Realistic self-confidence
  •        Self-awareness
  •        Perseverance
  •        Balance
  •        Personal integrity
  •        Self-regulation skills
  •        Relaxation potential
  •        Self-care skills
  •        Clarity and focus
  •        Physical and mental health

 Old truths in a new context

The Bhagavad-Gita, written thousands of years ago, enlightens us on all managerial techniques leading us towards a harmonious and blissful state of affairs in place of the conflict, tensions, poor productivity, absence of  motivation and so on, common in most of Indian enterprises today – and probably in enterprises in many other countries.
The modern (Western) management concepts of vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in work, achieving goals, giving work meaning, decision making and planning, are all discussed in the Bhagavad-Gita .
There is one major difference. While Western management thought too often deals with problems at material, external and peripheral levels, the Bhagavad-Gita tackles the issues from the grass roots level of human thinking. Once the basic thinking of man is improved, it will automatically enhance the quality of his actions and their results.
The management philosophy emanating from the West is based on the lure of materialism and on a perennial thirst for profit, irrespective of the quality of the means adopted to achieve that goal. This phenomenon has its source in the abundant wealth of the West and so ‘management by materialism’ has caught the fancy of all the countries the world over, India being no exception to this trend. My country, India, has been in the forefront in importing these ideas mainly because of its centuries old indoctrination by colonial rulers, which has inculcated in us a feeling that anything Western is good and anything Indian, is inferior. Gita does not prohibit seeking money, power, comforts, health. It advocates active pursuit of one’s goals without getting attached to the process and the results.
The result is that, while huge funds have been invested in building temples of modem management education, no perceptible changes are visible in the improvement of the general quality of life – although the standards of living of a few has gone up. The same old struggles in almost all sectors of the economy, criminalization of institutions, social violence, exploitation and other vices are seen deep in the body politic.

The source of the problem

The reasons for this sorry state of affairs are not far to seek. The Western idea of management centres on making the worker and the manager more efficient and more productive. Companies offer workers more to work more, produce more, sell more and to stick to the organization without looking for alternatives. The sole aim of extracting better and more work from the worker is to improve the bottom-line of the enterprise. The worker has become a hireable commodity, which can be used, replaced and discarded at will. Thus, workers have been reduced to the state of a mercantile product.
In such a state, it should come as no surprise to us that workers start using strikes (gheraos) sit-ins, (dharnas) go-slows, work-to-rule etc. to get maximum benefit for themselves from the organizations. Society-at-large is damaged. Thus we reach a situation in which management and workers become separate and contradictory entities with conflicting interests. There is no common goal or understanding. This, predictably, leads to suspicion, friction, disillusion and mistrust, with managers and workers at cross purposes.
The absence of human values and erosion of human touch in the organizational structure has resulted in a crisis of confidence.
Western management philosophy may have created prosperity – for some people some of the time at least – but it has failed in the aim of ensuring betterment of individual life and social welfare. It has remained by and large a soulless edifice and an oasis of plenty for a few in the midst of poor quality of life for many.
Hence, there is an urgent need to re-examine prevailing management disciplines – their objectives, scope and content. Management should be redefined to underline the development of the worker as a person, as a human being, and not as a mere wage-earner. With this changed perspective, management can become an instrument in the process of social, and indeed national, development.
Now let us re-examine some of the modern management concepts in the light of the Bhagavad-Gita which is a primer of management-by-values.

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Comments

  1. says

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