Tag Archives: Business

Advaita and Wholesome Leadership

As we look forward to the start of a New Year, I feel a sense of both satisfaction and excitement, and write this blog post to share certain key insights with readers. I believe that these insights will help us to define new paradigms of business, that are based on treating people and communities with respect, sustaining our environment and serving the common good. The transformational power of these new paradigms will mean that it becomes possible to co-create joy, peace and wealth for all on Earth!

The reason I want us to start thinking and working in this direction is because I believe that the existing theories of business are no longer serving individuals, organizations or society as a whole. On the one hand, businesses are under pressure to improve profit margins and reduce costs, while on the other, all kinds of waste – of resources, opportunities and energies – is allowed to continue undeterred. Individuals within organizations suffer from the effects of high stress at the workplace, as well as a lack of engagement. This leads to a feeling of being cut off from their personal power and the expression of their natural talents and gifts, and even depression in extreme cases. The business environment demands constant learning and innovation, but opportunities to relate, converse and exchange ideas freely are getting scarce. We see many cases where organizations function without a sense of responsibility and cause environmental damage or contribute to corruption in society.

The new paradigm that I visualize is based on the concept of Wholesome Leadership, and assimilates the principle of Advaita, which is an ancient teaching (Vedanta) from India. Understanding and adopting these principles can help to build leadership that functions in an integrated and holistic manner, caring for people, the planet and profits. We can develop leaders who have a systems perspective …. greater breadth and new ways of seeing and responding to the challenges that life and business is throwing up rapidly at us. This also calls for understanding the interdependence, complexity and connections not just in organizational life, but in social, environmental, technological, markets and political landscapes as well.

Such a unifying and integrating paradigm is the paradigm of Wholesome Leadership.

Wholesome Leadership is leadership coming from a space of Wholesomeness. Wholesomeness is a space wherein all notions of ones limited self (or “I”) have dissolved. When we define ourselves in any limited way, we are not wholesome. We then “see” our capacities and potential in limited and bounded ways. This also limits our perception and thinking.

On the other hand, if we know ourselves as “that which sees everything and cannot be seen”, we are unable to define ourselves in any limited way. All notions of who I am are dropped. We let go into the silent space of the witnessing Awareness and all boundaries of my “self” disappear. This is ‘Wholesomeness’. It is also about being one with all of life. (When we are none, we are one!). Wholesomeness is the dissolving of all limitations and being one with all of existence. All seeming divisions and separations (which come from the mind) are transcended. Being Wholesome means being one with the indivisible, peaceful and unchanging reality which contains (and is) all things. We can also see Wholesomeness as a space of balance, freedom, joy, peace, love, compassion and gratitude. It is the space of pure Consciousness or Awareness which is the source of all values. It is non-duality.

Leadership that “happens” from the loving and creative space of Wholesomeness is “Wholesome Leadership”. Living a life based on a deeply lived experience of Wholesomeness is the foundation for being a Wholesome Leader.

Wholesome Leadership is leadership that emerges from being fully present in the “now”. It is spontaneous and creative. It is instrumental in unfolding wholesomeness in other people. Wholesome Leadership is about initiating action on things that one deeply cares about. It is leadership for the well-being of all.

As we practice Wholesome Leadership, we see things happening of their own accord. This includes an experience of one’s bodymind “doing” things! There is an amazing sense of wonder as we witness this paradox of total inner stillness co-existing with intense goal directed action. A deep attachment to people and things co-exists with a supreme detachment. There is just a vast stillness, peace and a deep contentment which is undisturbed by anything or anyone.

Advaita and Wholesomeness

“Advaita” is Non-duality (“A” means “non”, “dvaita” means “duality”) or absolute unity. This ancient teaching (also known as Vedanta) from India, comes to the conclusion that there is no duality between the subject that knows and the object that is known.

Both Wholesomeness and Advaita refer to non-duality or oneness. Both are grounded in the principles of Awareness. Awareness is that which sees everything but cannot be seen …,the innermost witnessing essence which has no boundaries. Since Awareness has no boundaries (remember, it is the witness of all boundaries), everything becomes Awareness. This everything is the Whole all together as One.

Both Wholesomeness and Advaita talk about the feeling of joy, freedom, exhilaration, totality, health and harmony that come from living from this space of understanding and awareness. Wholeness is the union of all opposites.

A discerning reader might wonder why we need another label for Advaita when Advaita and Wholesomeness are exactly the same? To respond to this, I would like to share a small analogy. Electricity at 250 Volts and 50 Hertz is the same all over the world. However, the shape of plugs and sockets in different countries are different. If you try to use the plug that works in India with a socket in Hong Kong, it won’t fit in. So we need adapters which help the connection to become easy. The word Advaita is linked to Vedanta and to India. For many, it is also the foundation of Hinduism. While it is a profoundly universal and all-inclusive concept, it may prejudice some people and therefore may not be accessible to them. The word Wholesomeness on the other hand, is culturally neutral. It is a scientific term easily understood. It is our hypothesis that the business and scientific mind may find it easier to identify and relate with the notion of Wholesomeness.

Wholesomeness provides an excellent foundation for a new kind of leadership that would help us to meet the current and future challenges of Business. The principles of both Wholesomeness and Advaita are eternal, and grounded in the dynamics of the wholeness of life. I will keep sharing more aspects of Wholesome Leadership, its applications and benefits, on this blog. I wish each of you a very Happy and Wholesome New Year!

About the author: Arun Wakhlu

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Wholesome Leadership and Self Mastery

A Google search on  the word Leadership yields 113,000,000 hits. Leadership  is one of the most researched areas when it comes to business. Business touches the lives of almost all of humanity. Of the top 100 revenue generating entities of the world, more than half are multinational corporations. The power of Business for good is therefore huge.

Leaders in the world of Business have the potential to create positive breakthroughs for the entire planet. What kind of leaders do we need for this?

The leaders of today need to be different from the leaders of yesterday. Today, business can no longer  see itself as an isolated island dedicated  merely to the creation of shareholder wealth. Business Leaders have begun to recognize their larger role in delivering value to all stakeholders and preserving the environment for future generations. That is why hear about”Conscious Capitalism” which takes care of People, Profits and the Planet. We are also increasingly reading about  business leaders “expanding consciousness” in organizations.

This  is manifested through outcomes like:

  • Creating a joyful and engaging environment at work
  • Valuing interconnectedness and working across interfaces in Government and  civil society
  • Stewardship of organizational resources and
  • Actively working for an area of social concern .e.g. environment, child rights etc

This sort of Leadership which is based on an understanding of our intrinsic “oneness” and “interconnectedness” is called “Wholesome Leadership” tm. Wholesome leaders actively deliver value to all stakeholders.

What does it take to be a Wholesome Leader? Leaders, irrespective of their industry, need to be good at creating a powerful vision, inspiring people to follow that vision, thinking strategically through various business options, adding value  through innovation, leading teams and people  and most importantly, being in integrity and acting as role models for  their teams.

As Wholesome Leaders, we also need to be grounded in “Self Mastery”. Self Mastery means  both being aware and in control of our attitudes, thoughts, preferences and mental paradigms. It is about the ability to see, understand your mind and its tricks. It involves understanding that we have tools and options for thinking , and having the discernment and awareness to know what to use at the appropriate time.

As  a Leader, it is only when I am helping myself that I am in a position to help and serve others. I can lead others only when I have first leant to lead myself. Self mastery is the ability to make the most out of your physical, mental, and spiritual health. In other words, to be the best you can be. As a result of your efforts, you will be able to help and lead everyone around you.  In order for you to change the world around you, for the better, you have to change yourself for the better, along the way.

As  Business Leaders, self awareness  helps in making the right business choices. Self mastery refers to mastery over self. Being in control of ones emotions, feelings and not letting preferences, biases and prejudices sway  one from making the right decision helps us in Leadership. Paying attention to “self” is the foundational step in Leadership. When we work at the “roots”, only then can we expect significant changes to happen in our behavior and our actions. Self-Mastery refers to these roots. When we nurture the roots,we will automatically get the “fruits” which is the  business outputs we  desire.

Self Mastery refers to a number of attributes that have to do with  self awareness and self management.Some of these are:

  1. Awareness and Presence: Being in the now, unblocking all that comes in the way of being fully accepting and present in the moment Awareness is the foundation for self-mastery. Awareness has its roots in the deep understanding of  life and existence. An aware and conscious leader would be able to see the reasons for a problem/challenge and make choices that look at  the larger picture. All situations in life are inter-connected. What we do in one situation has it implications in another. As situations are interconnected, so are human beings. Being grounded in Awareness helps us to remain centered, calm, and see the oneness in all of life. Presence comes from Living in the now. Being present to the present moment helps us to develop the quality of “Presence”. This is not to say that one shouldn’t learn from the past or plan for the future. Remembering that the”now” is the only part of reality that we have to work on helps us to be grounded in awareness. Practices that help to build awareness  include meditation, yoga, reflection, practice of being in the now etc.
  2. Attitudes of Abundance: Attitudes broadly refer to the way we see things and consequently act on them. Attitudes refer to the mental models that we hold about ourselves, work and life. It is therefore abundantly clear that the attitudes and mental models that a Leader holds will shape not just her behaviour and actions but also impact the way she runs the organization.As a leader, if we consciously choose to see “Life and Business” as realm of possibilities, then we create a very different aura around ourselves. We think big, think out-of-the box and genuinely feel that “all is possible”. Along with this is the attitude of  gratitude and appreciation. This is well exemplified by the best selling book ”The Secret”.Attitudes of Abundance refer  to the attitudes that help us to build self-mastery. It is about being abundance inspired rather than deficiency driven. Working from an inner space of acceptance, appreciation and gratitude. This helps Leaders to attract abundance and positive outcomes through steadily held positive and appreciative thoughts. Thinking in ways that attract abundance is a conscious choice as a leader. It is not a matter of coincidence that “good things” seem to happen more to aware and conscious leaders.
  1. Courage and Audacity: Courage has been defined in many ways. It is deep faith in self and the universe and the conviction that life  will support what you intent to do. Courage is an attribute that we see in most Leaders. It may be a physical act or a business or people related decision. Having courage and relentless faith enables  a leader to tread  the pathway where others would hesitate. Having courage does not mean that there is no fear. Courage is persisting despite the fear. Freeing oneself from the outcome, helps in reducing the hesitancy and also the fear. As a Leader, when we live and demonstrate courage, we would  take on large audacious  goals for our organization, live in integrity with our values, work and hire people better than ourselves, develop people to take on our roles, speak up when things in the organization are not aligned with the values. Without demonstrating personal and professional courage, a Leader would not be able to be effective.
  2. Living out ones Values: Self mastery would be incomplete without a deep awareness and alignment with ones values. A wholesome leader reflects and is clear about  his/her value system – what they hold dear and for which they are willing to stand up. Living out ones values is  a indicator that the Leader has the capacity, conviction and the courage to take the tough road to  success. There would no compromises on Values. Taking tough decisions is  a test of self-mastery.

Where do we start learning the secrets of self mastery? If you accept things around you, without demand, you already have taken the first step. There are two important factors here.

  1. Once you accept people, and situations, for what they are, you won’t waste time and energy with frustration. This causes inner frustration, emotional turmoil, worries, and depression.
  2. Once you change yourself, through positive self mastery, the world around you will change for the better, without much effort on your part.

Self-Mastery is an ongoing journey for a Leader. At every stage in the Professsional Life of a leader, he/ she needs to work on themselves at the foundational level to go to the next level of capability and effectiveness. This is best done by working at the roots of  awareness and building the self-understanding to mature to the next level. Building skills and competencies comes at a far later stage. Business Leaders who understand this mature into effective leaders early enough. Unless one can lead oneself, one can hardly lead others. As the Gita says ”Atha Raja,tahtha praja” (As the leader,so the people).

About the author: Anu Wakhlu. View Anu Wakhlu’s video profile.

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Branding as a Strategy for SMEs

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

What is a brand? Among the numerous definitions I have come across, the one I like best is this – it is a quality which ensures that consumers ‘desire’ a consumable product or service being offered. Put simply, a brand gives an irresistible IDENTITY to a business. Consumers ‘buy the brand’ and NOT the product or service!

Very often, small and medium businesses that are in their early days of growth and evolution tend to view branding as an aesthetic cost-exercise – one that involves creating some or all of the following things:

  • Name (of the company, product or service)
  • Logo – a visual trademark that gives it a unique identity
  • Tagline – (a catch-phrase that explains the offering)
  • Colours
  • Shapes (of the product)
  • Sounds (A unique tune or notes used in advertising the brand)

Once they’ve gotten themselves this kit, most of them tend to forget all about branding and focus their energies and spends on infrastructure and processes, in their quest for greater business results.

There a few exceptions, though, which believe in the power of branding and the continuous evolution of the brand. History has shown us that, more often than not, such businesses grow to become industry behemoths both in terms of business value and by the immense ‘soft-power’ they wield over consumer behavior. Such brands tend to become synonymous with the product or service they offer. Consumers tend to use them as a benchmark against competitive offerings and therein lies the power of branding!

There are examples galore in India – Parle-G for biscuits, Chik Shampoo for ‘sacheted’ grooming products, Godrej for ‘Steel Almirahs’… the list goes on for iconic brands that became synonymous for the products they stood for.

We’ve heard about brand strategies and plans for branding but can branding in itself be a strategy? In other words, can branding be USED as a STRATEGY for the growth of the company?

  • How can branding enable SMEs to stand out in the crowd and attract FDI or grab the attention of big MNCs that will set-up shop in India, sooner rather than later?
  • With internet access facilitating wide and direct reach to consumers across the world – can branding help SMEs bridge the digital divide and reach out to untapped customers?
  • In fact, can branding enable SMEs to realize the maximum value for their offerings and then go on to create sustained, breakthrough business results?

Many interesting questions pop up given this new approach to branding. This article aims to answer some of these and along the way explore 5 SIMPLE yet POWERFUL, MUST-Dos for every SME. In doing so, it is hoped that these SMEs will be able to use the full potential of their brands as a strategic tool to power the growth of their businesses.

1)      The ‘equal-to’ Mantra for IDENTITY

DO NOT claim to solve generic problems. Period. Your customers have specific problems and they’re looking to you for solutions. Answer them with specificity. This is perhaps the most powerful way for you to establish early credibility and mindshare that can sustain. Keep it simple. Let your product or service be ‘equal to’ a specific solution.

Hero_Honda_Splendor_2007 pulsar_320x240

For example, if one goes by consumer perceptions in the motorbike segment over the past decade, Hero = Mileage whereas Bajaj (Pulsar) = Power. This ensured clear segmentation of the customer base. Every other new entrant had to fight them for this slice of the market-pie. Proclaim, upfront, clearly, what your brand is ‘equal to’ and capture a market segment that ‘belongs to your business alone’. Mind you, your business model must enwrap your brand and get tied-in!

Marketing is often said to be capturing a large slice of an identified/ existing market. I’ll go one step further. If your product or service offering is new then go forth and ‘create a new market’ for it by simply playing the ‘equal-to’ game. You can then merrily watch competition play catch-up for a long, long time!

 

2)      The ‘WHY-HOW-WHAT’ mantra for CONSISTENCY

Now that you’ve figured out your ‘equal-to’ platform, it is necessary to ensure that the communication is clear and sustained across channels. Mind you, it is far more important for your team to have clearly understood your brand and speak about it in one language, than your advertising. Not to say that is not important. At the start, your brand’s attributes must resonate with your company’s values and purpose. This will reflect as your company’s culture, imbibed and displayed by your employees. They will then speak the same language to the outside world.

image for blog post

Again, keep it simple. Answer, clearly, the ‘Why-How-What’ of your brand, to borrow from Simon Sinek’s famous TED TalkBy that I mean, find answers to the following questions:

1)      Why are you doing what you are doing as a business?

2)     How are you planning to achieve your desired goal?

3)     What will you create/ offer to achieve this goal – create a product or offer a service?

Have regular discussions on these three fundamental questions. Freeze on the answers and proclaim them, consistently, across channels/ media. Remember, this is ‘Who you are’ as a business. Be consistent. Get people talking about this mantra, within and outside. Chances are that your customers will align with your deeper ‘Why’, appreciate your ‘what’ and help you in your ‘how’!

 

3)      The ‘Whispering-voice’ mantra for EMOTIONAL Connect

Customers either think rationally (left-brained and data-driven) about your brand OR they can connect emotionally (right-brained, emotion-driven) with it. History tells us that it is the latter behavior that all ‘Brands’ desire from their customers – an emotional bond that translates into preferred purchasing patterns. With such customers, there is always an inner voice telling them to choose you over your competitors for no logical reason. And that is what you want to retain and nurture for a long period of time. Because, it doesn’t break easily.

Take ‘Salt’ for example – for decades, families in India have sought out and asked for TATA Iodised Salt with the firm belief that it was/is the purest / safest.

tata-salt-pack

Salt meant TATA-Salt, back then in 1983 when it was first launched, it still does to a large extent even now! Even though competitors have presented consumers with seemingly superior facts about their products, TATA-Salt’s market leadership has remained pretty much unaffected.

There’s a powerful emotional connect between consumer and product established, in this case it made them feel safe and secure through its purity. It is the way the brand makes a customer feel that binds the two together.

Find that ONE emotional connection that can hook customers to your product or service and then proclaim this. Do you make you customers feel safe and cared for? Do you make life easier for them? Connect with your customers on these points before and after a sale. Even better, involve them in building an interactive community. State this boldly and confidently like you would to a loved one. Make them believe that you’re constantly thinking of them and listening to their needs and concerns. Engage on social media with your customers and answer their grievances/ concerns/ suggestions/ comments et al with full honesty. Before you know it, you won’t have customers – you’ll have brand ambassadors.

4)      The ‘Unwrapping-gift’ mantra for CRM

Once you are off on this journey, you will discover that these very brand ambassadors are doing a whole lot of brand-building and selling FOR you. These are customers who already love you and your product/ service! They are unabashed fans who sing hosannas to your offering in public!

First-up, put processes in place to ensure you recognize these true ‘friends’ as they come into your inner circle, acknowledge them and then reward them. Cultivating loyalty from these ‘early adaptors’ will not only ensure a steady stream of new customers, it will also mean a steady inflow of business earnings. All this with a little effort on your part!

Thank you card

For example, at Pragati Leadership, we generously give away ‘I thank you’ and ‘I appreciate you’ cards to all of our colleagues, vendors, well-wishers et al! Some prominent businesses incentivize customer loyalty with valuable gifts, takeaways, prizes and recognition. And get rewarded with ‘referrals’ in return!

Figure out your loyalty rewarding mechanism and keep in regular touch with your brand ambassadors. Be active on social media. Write to them. Ask them to write back. Seek feedback, suggestions and advice. Inform them about how you’re putting their ideas into action or otherwise. Reward them again. Soon, you’ll have more and more customers vying to be part of this inner-circle, waiting to unwrap a gift of acknowledgment from you. Keep your door always open for them. They’ll open many windows as ‘referral channels’ for your business!

5)      The ‘Elastic-asana’ mantra for FLEXIBILITY

In this rapidly changing economic, social, political and consumer scenarios, you must be ‘flexible’ in your approach to using branding as a strategy. Staying updated and evolving with times is a necessity. Speaking the language of the times, evolving your offering to suit changing needs and tastes is integral to a good branding strategy.

parachute

For example, look at how Marico’s Parachute Coconut Oil has reinvented itself as a brand over the past decade to stay relevant and create new markets through innovative product variations.

Mind you, the main product and its promise has remained true and consistent all through – pure coconut oil that is good for your hair! One of India’s oldest consumer brands, through innovations in packaging, branding and tamper-proofing alone, Parachute continues to remain a market leader in its segment, adding newer consumers to its burgeoning base of loyalists. And to think that the name and the product have no relation whatsoever in the first place just goes to show that consistent and powerfully potent branding can be a dependable strategy over decades!

So, if your plans and strategies aren’t working as well anymore, do not be afraid to change and adapt. Use that as an opportunity to go back to your customers and engage with them afresh! Ask them for direction and you’ll be surprised as to how they will show you a way out every time.

Multiple examples across the country tell us that those MSMEs that are flexible and resilient have survived macroeconomic challenges and came out stronger. Those that use branding as a strategy not only come through stronger but go onto become industry leaders once the dust settles and calm prevails. Will you be there too?

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To become a Wholesome Leader, invoke the power of ‘Shakti’ within you!

These are complex times. Uncertainties abound and change has become a veritable norm. We’re swamped with data and analytics and yet, ironically, decision-making and hence leadership has become more complex. And complex times demand complete, Wholesome Leaders, don’t they? Gone are the days when a sharp mind that could access data, crunch numbers and decipher patterns from it, in order to make purportedly logical decisions, was considered a good leader. Today that same left-brained, logic-data driven leader, who was risk-averse, will be seen as a Partial Leader, unfit for these times!

Data - analyticsEnterprises of this era are caught in so much flux in terms of technological change, societal churn, changing attitudes and priorities, cross-cultural challenges et al. That’s why they demand more ‘Wholesome Leaders’ who can:

  • Lead from the front
  • Think out of the box easily
  • Take calculated risks when needed
  • Display emotional intelligence while building meaningful relationships AND
  • Continue to grow the business

wired brain

Now, that’s a tall order for most leaders, don’t you agree? We’re after all, wired differently and conditioned to stay on the left side of things, so to speak. The right side (pun intended) has pretty much remained dormant. No wonder then that most leaders find it difficult to rely on and utilize their Head-Heart-and-Guts* simultaneously while leading their functions/ teams/ organizations. Going by the definition of Dotlich-Cairo-and-Rhinesmith*, they are NOT the ‘Whole Leaders’ that today’s global enterprise desperately needs. Mind you, this applies to both men and women leaders who’ve not yet invoked the power of Shakti within!

Hindu mythology, Paganism and many ancient religions, backed now by Astro-physicists and Quantum Physicists, state that the primal source of all energy that gives life to our Universe is feminine in nature. By that we must understand that it is life-giving, emotional (if we may use that adjective) and instinctive.

shakti

This Shakti or the divine feminine force/ primal energy, exists in each one of us but it is conditioned to remain dormant or under-utilized. Our industrial evolution in recent centuries has necessitated it to be so, don’t you think? So what can we do as leaders to wake this Shakti from her slumber and goad her to unleash her full potential in her full blossom?

1)      Heart-first: Easier said than done isn’t it? From childhood, we’re trained, almost brain-washed into believing that ‘using the head’ meant improving and becoming a better achiever. Now we’re increasingly expected to suddenly ‘think from the heart’ and learn to ‘Manage and Lead’ people and teams ‘from this heart’! What if decisions are taken with a strong emotional foundation with full empathy? Isn’t that why and how meaningful bonds are made? Suddenly colleagues, peers and subordinates are all part of one big extended family that thinks and feels for one another.

heart-first

Even though such relationships are volatile in nature, they’re more likely to last the distance than say a negotiation-based, head-first relationship, usually built in the corporate world. As leaders, we must, therefore, learn to be open about our feelings and transparent in our communication.

This change can happen only if leaders are encouraged, from a very early stage of their career path, to openly and confidently show emotions and demonstrate heart-based decision-making.

2)      Instinctively decisive: When was the last time you, as a leader, had an intuition about something occurring? Doesn’t happen often, right? More importantly, that intuition would have likely been brushed aside as a frivolous thought by that all-weather-ally, Mr. Rationale! Again, this is an after effect of academic and social conditioning. The Shakti-power inside is actually the force that gives us gut-feel, intuition, premonition, call it what you may. Believing in this manifestation of Shakti and honing this quality is becoming invaluable to leaders across sectors and levels, in today’s uncertain times. After all, we’re not always privy to robust and indicative data and analysis that will help us take apparently correct decisions from the head. We cannot wait for all info to arrive on our desk either, can we?

images

From an early stage, if leaders are encouraged to take gutsy, instinctive decisions, every now and then, it is bound to become a source of immense strength at a later stage when the stakes are high. Mind you, failures are bound to happen but the rewards in the long run are much higher because they’re likely to develop a keen eye to see opportunities that don’t seem to exist.

More importantly, by that time, these leaders will more likely get it right than wrong because taking gut-feel-decisions has become second-nature to them! Such leaders will not be risk-averse and will seem to find innovative ways out of sticky, almost impossible, emergency situations in business.

3)      Strength from Spiritual Awareness: You have a divine, infinite core within you that is the fountainhead of potential. This core is essentially Shakti in all her splendor and glory. As a leader, when you are truly aware of this potential, you have invoked Shakti to guide and lead on your behalf. Think about it. Traits that can never be taught or acquired through rote or sensual experiences are actually the ones that will step you up from a good leader to a great inspiration!

resilience

We’re often taught about developing mental strength. Most often this is mistaken for being stoic, logic-driven, sans-emotion and almost brutally realistic, to use a cliché. True leadership strength springs from an awakened spiritual core or Shakti in blossom. When one has the ability to really think and feel from the heart and be instinctively decisive, one has truly developed strength to take on any challenge in work and life. Sudden mishaps, dramatic changes, road-blocks, startling course-corrections et al will then seem a happy part of this leadership journey.

If you’re looking for examples of such leaders who’ve truly lead on behalf of the Shakti within them, two names come to mind immediately – Mr. Narayana Murthy – co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Infosys AND Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – Chairman and MD of Biocon. Sample these facts/ traits about these two leaders:

  • Both saw an opportunity to start something new and jumped in head-long, driven purely by their gut-feel
  • Both faced tremendous challenges, many unforeseen, along their growth journey but overcame them all through sheer grit, ingenuity and strength of will
  • Both lead organizations that are globally amongst the largest employers of talent and are known for the care shown to nurturing their teams

entrepreneurship

The list can go on but you get the drift right? The standout takeaway in invoking ‘Shakti’ within each one of us is the removal of fear and pre-conceived notions. This state of being essentially manifests as entrepreneurship in the business world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to lead an entrepreneurial team that is led by Shakti at all times?

ardhanarishvara

In fact, wouldn’t it be wonderful to lead on behalf of Shakti by tapping into that fountainhead of divine feminine energy within?

Wait… did someone say the word ‘Man’ is contained inside the word ‘Woman’?

 

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

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Inside every successful leader there is a child at play

Every leader would like to believe that he or she is exercising power that has been rightfully earned, in order to get work done for the best results. In the process though, there is an inherent tug-of-war at play between positional power and pressure to deliver better than before. The collateral damage of this clash is often borne by colleagues, peers, subordinates and sometimes, unfortunately, even family!

When the going is tough and the need of the hour is to step away from the beaten-path to make game-changing moves, most leaders are often found wanting. The ability to take calculated risks and back innovative ideas pretty much separates the great leaders from the rest. Somehow, these leaders seem to possess the curiosity, passion and the ability to demonstrate equanimity under all circumstances. They are also able to identify game-changing opportunities despite being involved in fire-fighting or overseeing mundane tasks. For them, there are no issues to be sorted, only opportunities to be sought and tapped. They are honest enough to state the obvious however bitter it may be and quick to applaud initiative and that gives them the clarity of thought needed to make quick, inclusive decisions. Their teams willingly back them since there is no second-guessing or sycophancy needed to perform and be recognized.

The million-rupee question is how are they able to do what they do? The answer may lie in an old Vedic dictum that prophesizes that a man can discover GOD within when he allows the child in him to thrive. Essentially, what the sages were trying to tell us is that being child-like at all times is the ultimate measure of evolution, however paradoxical that may sound. The famous English poet William Wordsworth also echoed this thought. But we’ll keep that for later. For now, we will see how this is true for business leaders as well.

So, what are those five child-like characteristics that a good leader should nurture and demonstrate, day in and day out?

1)     Be innocent: Yes, you read that right. However difficult it is for us adults to believe in the value of this trait, it is perhaps the most powerful among the lot that a child possesses.

innocent child

As a leader of a team or teams, one must be innocent in thought, words and actions. This is the foundation of trust. It doesn’t mean being naïve or gullible. Rather, it is a quality that defines authenticity and clarity. Communication is then a free-way without barriers and that opens up tremendous possibilities. Followers willingly speak their mind knowing fully well that their leader is genuine, non-judgmental and unbiased. Ideas begin to flow out easily, collaboration is a given and hence breakthrough business results happen!

2)     Be curious: Remember when you were a child and everything that happened around you was new and magical? In hindsight, we’re quick to dismiss that as ‘child-like curiosity’ but that is in fact an unmatched asset every good leader should possess.

curious child

You are then able to continuously and unwaveringly look for opportunities subconsciously. As a leader, you look for talent that is waiting to blossom, you listen to all, you see everything with delight and full involvement. It becomes a happy habit to seek, accept and celebrate ideas from anyone, whatever their position or role. Finding game-changing ideas is then an inherent talent and there is never a dearth of information or solutions when needed. What happens as a result? There is never a lack of motivation or passion and achieving results is a piece of cake!

3)     Be stubborn: Throwing tantrums and not letting up till they’ve got what they wanted is but a natural thing for children. They are masters at the game and seem to find newer ways each time! More importantly, they seem to possess an inexhaustible reserve of stubbornness no matter how big or small the need. This is what driven leaders also possess in abundance.

stubborn child

But being stubborn does not in any way mean being unfair and demanding to the point of being overbearing. The stubborn child is able to extract what it wants by being persuasive, friendly, lovable and convincing. As a leader, if you are able back your instinct/ gut-call, to fix your mind on a goal and go after it like a stubborn child, you will discover that the team will come around to supporting and collaborating with you to achieve it. 

4)      Be forgiving: Remember those silly fights with mates that never lasted more than a few seconds? Remember how easy it was to swear never to speak again and get back to noisy banter, fun and laughter? Well, if you are a leader, you must be forgiving by nature. You might have set very high standards for yourself and hence reached where you have but that should not make you demanding and unforgiving towards subordinates and colleagues. It could also be that your role demands superior standards but that should not mean failure or mistakes are unacceptable.

forgiving child

After all, we’re all humans and we’re bound to falter now and then, right? If you can forgive easily and caringly, your Emotional Intelligence comes through in such a way that peers, colleagues and subordinates begin to trust and love you. More significantly, the idea-ramans in the team will never hesitate to share their latest idea or suggestion which could prove game-changing!

5)     Be playful: Yes. Let the child in you play at work. Never take yourself, your role/ designation or what you do, too seriously! Remember the mischievous child, always ready to play a prank or two, never hesitating to diffuse an angry moment with monkey-faces? Well, that child is needed all the more, every time you climb the corporate ladder towards greater leadership.

playful child

The playful leader enjoys every little event, celebrates those inconsequential successes and applauds merrily. More importantly for the organization, this leader handles so-called pressure situations with an unaffected gaiety that is infectious! Playful leaders manage to convert work into play for everyone in the team and that transforms organizational culture like nothing else can!

Did you find resonance with these traits? Do you still have doubts about actually practicing these in real life? Well, all you have to do is observe closely the shenanigans of children at home and if possible, participate in their fun! William Wordsworth suggested that ‘The child is the father of man’ in his famous poem ‘The Rainbow’ and indeed there is so much to learn from children that Leaders would do well to take their little ones more seriously, don’t you agree? You never know – the next BIG idea might just come from your child’s silly game or innocuous comment! Better still would be for you, the leader, to rediscover, nurture and unleash the child in you to lead the way… So go ahead! Be child-like and play!

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

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The 3 laws of E-motion

By Vikas Bhatia

  • First law: The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force.
  • Second law: The acceleration of a body is parallel and directly proportional to the net force F and inversely proportional to the mass m, i.e., F = ma.
  • Third law: The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear.
  •  The three laws of motion were first compiled by Sir    Isaac Newton in his work Philosophiæ Naturalis   Principia Mathematica, first published on July 5,  1687. Newton used them to explain and investigate  the motion of many physical objects and systemsth century,  the laws of classical mechanics were the ones through which we understood the world we see.3 laws of E-motion!!First Law:  Emotions continue to be in a state of flux unless acted upon by an external stimulus called AwarenessSecond Law:  The intensity of the Emotion E is directly proportional to the importance given to the situation, divided by the level of Awareness,   the value of Awareness ranging from 1 to infinite.

    In short, Ei =  S/A  where  S  is the degree of Significance and A is the level of AwarenessThird Law:   Every emotion (positive or negative) released or expressed (consciously or unconsciously) will trigger an equal and opposite response from the universe.First Law of E-motion:  

    Emotions continue to be in a state of flux unless acted upon by an external stimulus called AwarenessThe unavailability of sunlight for prolonged periods has been found to lead to depression in many people.  The multitude of events and environmental changes creates an ever changing landscape of emotions.  The rate of change in the external environment can lead to a frustrating emotional flux.  While the positive cycle of change is always welcomed, the negative cycle is often difficult to control and is very damaging for some individuals.   The key to restore balance and to make sure we are not dragged in a whirl pool of negative set of emotions is Awareness.   Awareness is a state of disassociation, a state of witnessing oneself.   The state of Awareness calms down the turbulent sea of emotions welling up in our being.  Spiritual practices like meditation lead to an increase in awareness.    Many scriptures and spiritual Masters have spoken about this Awareness.  A state of Awareness is like being Awake, and the emotional turbulences nothing but a dream.  This state of Awareness can also be described as a state of Vairagya – or Dispassion from the internal emotional response.  Hence the first law postulates that our awakening – a sense of Higher Awareness leads to the arrest of the constant flux in our emotions.The Second Law of E-motion:

    The intensity of the Emotion E is directly proportional to the significance given to the situation, divided by the level of Awareness,   the value of Awareness ranging from 1 to infinite.In short, Ei =  S/A  where  S  is the degree of Significance and A is the level of AwarenessAwareness as described in the first law is also responsible for mellowing down the level of our response.  The emotional response itself is inevitable, the intensity experienced then is a consequence of the significance we have for the external stimulus and moderated by the level of Awareness.Shama.  Awareness does not reduce the significance we put on that event, it just helps us cope with it better.  Awareness can also be linked to Viveka –  the faculty of discernment which helps distinguish between the permanent and transient, between good and bad.The Third Law of E-motion:

    Every emotion (positive or negative) released or expressed (consciously or unconsciously) will trigger an equal and opposite response from the universe.

    Unlike the physical world where the action produces an immediate response, why does the emotional response meander through time and space?  We do not know fully understand the fabric of the consciousness, the space through which the emotional world works, but it does seem to have the mechanics of the response built in.   At the pinnacle of awareness, the field of consciousness is completely neutral, and all actions and their responses dissolve.   In some sense this is the annihilation of the positive and negative forces which creates the drama in human mind.Brahman, in absence of duality, these laws do not have relevance.  In total Awareness, I am that!

    Aham Bramhasmi

    Aum Tat Sat 

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    Profit through the Prophets

    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.

    If we operate from a place of desire, we will be led to pursuing those activities, not those that will help us banish ignorance or those that will lead us to enlightenment or goodness.

    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“?

    Ethical Earnings

     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.

    References:

    1. BusinessWeek.com,
    2. indusbusinessjournal.com,
    3. money.cnn.com,
    4. bnet.com

    By Aman Zaidi

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    The 3 P’s

    By Vikas Bhatia

    The 3 P’s which drive the entire world of politics, business and societies are power, profit and pleasure. The 3 P’s have been the fundamental forces which have shaped the world we live in, right from the days of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jesus Christ or that followed by the rise of Roman empire, the conquest of the British empire, the industrial era, and the global economy as we see it now. The challenges we face whether it be that of global warming, the oil crisis, the rising inequality, the economic recession have the indelible imprint of these 3 P’s. So profound are these and so deeply embedded that we possibly cannot imagine. Trying to remove them is possibly as inconceivable as removing the DNA from our bodies.

    Can we then ever expect Peace, Purity and Pluralism to be around, the counter or the spiritual P’s. It would appear that what we are wanting is that these forces to balance the overwhelming and destructive power of the three P’s of power, profit and pleasures. It is apparent that the positive P’s often make their presence felt only after the devastation created by those forces has left the individual or the society completely paralyzed. Revolutions are often brought about once the destruction is near complete…this battle of Ying and Yang forces is as eternal as the universe and this drama often witnessed at the sub atomic level as well as the cosmic level. Galaxies often eat up other galaxies, black holes gulp down everything around them. Such is the power of monster black holes swallowing matter, if Hitler ever knew about them would have felt utterly defenseless.

    The world problems as we have seen are also created by these powerful P’s. The Mayaa created by the 3P’s are so blinding, that individuals and societies at large mostly overlook the Frankenstein in making. So what is then the solution to the ills the world faces? Can we ever look at Utopia? The answer is yes and no…If the fundamental forces are embedded as it appears, we will continue to oscillate between periods of turmoil and then relative peace. It is the constant churn which has been documented in the Vedas, through the movement of time through the Yugas.

    Essentially, one of the forces of profit, power and pleasures have found strength alternatively or collectively by the changing mindset of the society. The roman society became decadent with pleasure after the conquest to establish the Empire. The British too got caught up with profits after the power was established. It is when the excess are committed on any of the three dimensions, a revolution brews. In the current Kal Yug, the worst of the four Yugs, the forces profit, power and pleasure have been very dominating. So caught up is the current generation in pursuing profits or being in power and all this with pleasures and comfort of the world, that if continued unchecked will lead to total destruction as we have seen in the past. Can this be avoided?

    At some point the seed of purity, peace and pluralism needs to be sown, watered and nurtured. That is the balancing P’s, or the spiritual forces which are also embedded, though they remain dormant unless awakened. That awakening is the dance of Siva, the God of Transformation, happening both at the individual and collective level. We are often awakened rudely and suddenly by the events around us or by an enlightened Master, the nurturer of these three spiritual P’s. While the material P’s will always be around, we can be released from the stranglehold of their malefic effects, if the spiritual P’s are brought to the fore. Often the awakening or the revolution at the individual level happens towards the mid life of the individual when the plans as set out by the individual fail to materialize or due to events which create a significant emotional turmoil. At the collective level, the strengthening of the spiritual P’s is a much more complex process. It requires an inspired individual who takes collective responsibility for the society or group in concern, identifies with the cause of the negative effects of the materialistic P’s and strives to generate a collective will to counter the effect through spiritual P’s. Gandhi was one such example. India’s freedom movement was achieved through the pluralistic efforts and peaceful movement against the British rule. The role of spiritual leaders like that of Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of Art of Living is immense in bringing this balance, or awakening of the spiritual P’s. Such leaders through their personal quest, wisdom and dedication to the cause, work towards restoring this balance.

    The individual also needs to invoke the awakening, if he wishes to experience the beauty of life. There is possibly no escape to the dreadful P’s, but the quality of life can be significantly enhanced by inculcating the spiritual P’s, through a conscious and determined effort, or either through a revolution, sometimes violent.

    Is the dance of Shiva, the lord of transformation, going to create a Tandav in us?

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