LEADERSHIP AND SPIRITUALITY
imam raajarshayo viduh
This verse from Bhagavad Gita, one of the most authenticate book on spirituality, explains that the spiritual knowledge was specifically given to leaders of society. Indian traditional system recognizes three power centers in the society: 1) Knowledge, 2) Administration and 3) Wealth. Leadership means leading group of people to handle either of these three power points. Scientists, professors and teachers deal with Knowledge. Politicians, bureaucrats and defence leaders deal with administration. And business tycoons deal with wealth. All these leaders should have spiritual knowledge and training so that they can contribute to the society in a more positive way.
Dr. Jordan B Peterson, Canadian Professor of Psychology says, “World is a terrible place to live. You will experience miseries one after another despite your best efforts to avoid them. You must have a purpose meaning and direction in life and that should be noble and sublime something that is worth pursuing, something that gets you out of bed every morning, not just pursuit of happiness or wealth or security because those pursuits are going to disappoint you in life. It's a catastrophe to not have a large grand purpose in life.” Pursuit of following traffic rules, exhausting gas or enjoying driving doesn’t make the car journey meaningful and exciting. The destination makes it so. Similarly pursuit of happiness, wealth or security doesn’t make the life meaningful and exciting but the grander purpose does so. When there is grander purpose in life, happiness, wealth, fame, security, etc. automatically follows.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why” remarked Mark Twain, the father of American literature. Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook of Harvard Business School explains in their famous article “From Purpose to Impact”: Over the past five years, there’s been an explosion of interest in purpose-driven leadership. Despite this growing understanding, however, a big challenge remains. In our work training thousands of managers at organizations from GE to the Girl Scouts, and teaching an equal number of executives and students at Harvard Business School, we’ve found that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose. Even fewer can distill their purpose into a concrete statement. They may be able to clearly articulate their organization’s mission: Think of Google’s “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” or Charles Schwab’s “A relentless ally for the individual investor.” But when asked to describe their own purpose, they typically fall back on something generic and nebulous: “Help others excel.” “Ensure success.” “Empower my people.” Just as problematic, hardly any of them have a clear plan for translating purpose into action. As a result, they limit their aspirations and often fail to achieve their most ambitious professional and personal goals.  That’s where the spirituality comes in picture. Spirituality gives grand purpose of life and even grander purpose of creation.
In the beginning of Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna gives humanitarian, moral, ethical and even religious reasons to not lead the war against Kauravas. He decides to give up the chase for kingdom and go to forest for living. Then Krishna explains to him a certain purpose of life and a certain purpose of entire creation by describing five subject matters: 1) Nature, 2) Life, 3) Transcendence, 4) Action and 5) Time. Finding grander purpose of life and creation, in the end of Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna decides to lead a war. The purpose which Krishna explained in Bhagavad Gita surpassed all the reasons which Arjuna gave to not fight. In fact, that purpose was inclusive of betterment of everyone from humanitarian, moral, ethical and even religious point to view.
Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook also remarks in their article, “At its core, your leadership purpose springs from your identity, the essence of who you are.” Usually we go around leading a life, having a self-definition of ourselves as it is crafted and taught to us by the environment around us. And this imperfect self-definition lead us to define a purpose which conflicts with purpose of family or purpose of society or purpose of country or purpose of globe or purpose of universe. That’s how the increase in problems, ranging from stress among people to environment degradation, in last 20 years is greater than that happened in former 120 years.
If two stones are thrown in tranquil lake at two different points one after another then the ripples created by each stone will conflict with each other. But if two stones are thrown to precisely the same point one after another then the ripples will not conflict but will get reinforced to expand further. That’s the difference between misaligned purposes and aligned purposes. In today’s world individual purposes, collective purposes, global purposes and universal purposes are misaligned which has put the world into disharmony. Krishna gives the formula in Bhagavad Gita to align personal purpose with collective, global and universal purposes. Spirituality gives a framework that harmonizes and aligns all of these purposes, personal to the grand universal purposes.
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels” wrote Albert Einstein in a telegram to New York Times . The modern leadership to handle knowledge, administration and wealth, for making of the better world, will be perfected by upgrading its’ thinking level from only material to material and spiritual.
PS: This article is based on the talk delivered by HG Chanchalpathi Prabhu, Vice Chairman of Akshaya Patra Foundation and Sr. Vice President of ISKCON Bangalore, on 22nd February 2020 at IIM Banglore.
Vrajesh Tanaya Dasa is an enthusiastic Gita teacher at HKM, Ahmedabad. Before dedicating his life as a full time missionary, he has worked with Google and NRNB - California as a researcher. He loves reading thought provoking books, especially his favorite, Bhagavad-gita As It Is.