What the corporate world teaches you versus what spiritual wisdom says…
The Age of Extreme Greed
The wisdom of teachers, thinkers, prophets and great men has abounded for thousands of years. Despite this great body of wisdom, when we look around us today, we realize that we struggle to conduct ourselves in a manner becoming of intelligent, aware human life.
Why is this so? A lot of us read. The question is what do we read? What books do we choose to pick up, read and follow?
The answer to that too is contained in a book whose name at least we are all familiar with, the Bhagwad Gita. The Gita has Krishn telling Arjun that the cause of our behaviour is lust or desire.
Yet all around us we see manifestations of lust, desire and greed. In public life, in corporate life, from common men to leaders, they all seem driven by lust. In the pursuit of the material, they have lost touch with themselves and have no time to acquire wisdom, either ancient or modern, and banish their ignorance.
The result of this is for everyone to see. Our age is not called kalyug for nothing. All around us there is injustice, poverty, inequality, inhumanity, war, hunger, corruption. All borne out from lust.
The Words of the Wise
Let’s take what we can influence for starters. Largely, we inhabit and operate in the corporate world. Let us consider the dichotomy in what we learn and practise there. We are taught to be tough with our people. We are taught that leadership is about command. We are taught that we cannot allow anyone to take advantage of us. At the same time we are taught that we must maximize our advantage from all of our interactions, whether it is dealing with individuals, organizations or our poor customers.
However, outside of the corporate world, in Life, everywhere from the Bible to the Quran to the Gita, there is repeated focus on speaking with kindness to people, on a culture of consulting each other, on dealing fairly with people, to working without greed.
Consider that the Old Testament warns against “skimping the measure, boosting the price and dishonest scales”. Unfortunately we are only too happy when prices of our products or services or real estate get boosted, and we never spare a thought for fair pricing.
Consider that the Quran has lessons in interpersonal skills, teamwork and democratic decision making when it says “And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter”.
Modern management thought coupled with the increased accent on training has ensured that most managers are equipped with the relevant skill; however let us see what pains us most about feedback or appraisal sessions.
Often we have worked with people where we have felt criticized and walked away from a “feedback” session with second hand negativity. What causes the behaviour of otherwise affable people to undergo such a change in feedback situations?
Have we ever felt during an appraisal that our efforts count for naught because the result wasn’t achieved? How often have we been told that the effort doesn’t matter, only the result does. And how often we found ourselves wondering at how starkly that has conflicted with what Baron Pierre de Coubertin had to say?
Take for instance Krishna’s advice to Arjun in the Gita:
Therefore, O Arjun, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.
Krishna clearly advises Arjun to focus on the job at hand without a view on the outcome or gain.
Take also for instance an instance related about Muhhamed. He is known never to have criticized even a simple thing like food, which many of us feel is our right to do. Once he asked his family for a condiment and they said, “We only have vinegar.”
He asked for it and began to eat, saying, “Vinegar is an excellent condiment.
Vinegar is an excellent condiment.”
How many of us think about how the doer of a job (whether cook or employee) feels when criticism or a harsh word is uttered about his effort. How often do we pay attention to Jesus’ advice to us: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you“?
Is there a need for a spiritual education in our times today? Do we hardened, cynical citizens need a course in spirituality? I think so. Some of us are there already. We’ve moved from training our people on soft skills to stress management, from managing others to self-management, from productivity to work-life balance. Speakers like Robin Sharma, Deepak Chopra and Swami Parthasarthy are the rage in America, one country that is the foremost generator and consumer of modern management thought.
CEO’s and corporates are lapping up the work that academics such as Sumantra Ghosal, CK Prahlad, Ram Charan and Rakesh Khurana are doing in the field of values, stakeholder and reciprocity based selfless leadership.
The people that moved to Vedic City, Iowa, in order to be closer to the Maharishi University of Management, a university that is founded on principles of Vedic “consciousness-based” education, have found that their businesses have bloomed.
Also in America, there are CEO’s like Pat Flood who have based their running of the company almost entirely around the values espoused by the Bible. And his company was on FORTUNE’s 2007 list of Top 100 Companies to work for.
Since the late 20th century there has been an emergence of banks based on Islamic principles that prohibit either payment or acceptance of interest fees for loans of money, as well as prohibiting investments in businesses that provide goods or services considered contrary to its principles.
And these institutions are bigger in size than businesses selling either tobacco or alcohol. For example the third largest Islamic bank in the World, the Bank Saderat Iran, has assets more than three times the market cap of the third largest alcohol company in the World, the UB Group in India. Their asset size also happens to be greater than the market cap of Indian tobacco giant ITC.
Truly a victory for all those who believe that values based businesses will make money, probably even more money than dissimilar businesses.
By Aman Zaidi