Management Skills and the Bhagavad-Gita

Embedded in every business success story from Standard Oil to Ikea, there is a culture story and the power of a distinct corporate culture to enable greatness.  A timely reminder of this truism is the story of the New Delhi metro as told in today’s New York Times.  On time and on budget, the metro appears to be a miracle of infrastructure renovation in a country not universally known for the success of its public works.  What is behind this miracle?  A visionary 77-year old who, according to the Times, hands out the Baghavad-Gita to his senior managers as a management training tool.  As a spokesperson for the agency pithily observed: “It is the story of how to motivate an unmotivated person.”

Those of us worn out by the leadership lessons of the Tao Te Ching, Helmuth von Moltke and Genghis Khan, could do worse than turn to the wonderful story of King Arjuna and the Lord Krishna disguised as a charioteer.  Risking the scornful howls of scholars, we’ll give away a couple of central themes: “it’s up to you” and “persevere,” but viewed from a management perspective it’s actually a fascinating discussion of action/inaction and the mental obstacles to successful execution of a strategy.  We’ll leave you with a quote from Text 47 in the Macmillan-Collier edition of 1972: “You have the right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action.  Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities and never be attached to not doing your duty.” 

Companies can stumble into greatness, but few can sustain it for very long without a powerful narrative of purpose that is consistently communicated to all employees.  If sacred texts are not your cup of tea, The Purple Crayon works, too.


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2 Responses to “Management Skills and the Bhagavad-Gita”

  1. Michael B. Goodman Says:

    Let’s see if this works.

  2. bhattathiri mulavana Says:

    Excellent article.
    To motivate him the Bhagavad-Gita is preached in the
    battle field Kurukshetra by Lord Krishna to Arjuna as counseling to do
    his duty while multitudes of men stood by waiting. Arjuna face the
    problem of conflict between emotions and intellect. In almost all of
    the cases, emotions win. Gita teaches Honesty, Sincerity, Truthfulness
    etc.   Integrity in public life requires perfect coordination,
    synchoranisation in  thoughts, action and deeds.  The values one
    believes, should be the same as one’s practices.   Today everybody
    wants to accumulate Wealth,  Human wants are galloping in geomatric
    progression.  Greed is the order of the day. Public Life is filled
    with Private wants, desire.  People in power want more power.    They
    are power crazy.   Power corrupts – obsolute Power Corrupts obsultely.
    Very few people in public life are honest. Men & Women in public life
    should follow the principles :- Integrity : Ethics, fairness in all
    their dealings.   Only a very few people have a conflict-free
    emotion and intellect. Emotions are required, for, without them, one
    is a mere robot. They make life pleasant as long as they are sensible
    and within limits.  It has got all the management tactics to achieve
    the mental equilibrium and to overcome any crisis situation. The
    Bhagavad-Gita can be experienced as a powerful catalyst for
    transformation. Bhagavad-Gita means song of the Spirit, song of the
    Lord. The Holy Gita has become a secret driving force behind the
    wisdom of one’s life. In the days of doubt this divine book will
    support all spiritual searches. This divine book will contribute to
    self reflection, finer feeling and deepen one’s inner process. Then
    life in the world can become a real education—dynamic, full and
    joyful—no matter what the circumstance. May the wisdom of loving
    consciousness ever guide us on our journey? What makes the Holy Gita a
    practical psychology of transformation is that it offers us the tools
    to connect with our deepest intangible essence and we must learn to
    participate in the battle of life with right knowledge?. It shows us
    the path to handle the situation with equipoise mind irrespective of
    what comes our way and  reminds us time and again, that what the right
    action is. Developing mindfulness of the connections between mind and
    body is a form of intelligence just as important as IQ, EQ (emotional
    intelligence), or social intelligence. As awareness deepens, bodily
    sensations provide feedback and guidance about every aspect of your
    life—from nurturing relationships to enhancing effectiveness at work.
    By acting on this information you can reduce stress, balance your
    life, and maximize your innate potential for health, creativity, and
    spiritual growth.

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