BOOKS: ANCIENT WISDOM & MYTHOLOGY IN MANAGEMENT

From Chanakya neeti, to Hanuman’s indecisiveness and Krishna’s wise words, these books offer a wealth of ancient wisdom by creating an engaging dialogue.

By Anuradha Varma

AN INDIAN APPROACH TO LEARNING: THE TALENT SUTRA

By Devdutt Pattanaik

Aleph (Rupa), Rs. 399

A delightful, quick read by the master of mythology in contemporary times, Devdutt Pattanaik, An Indian Approach to Learning: The Talent Sutra, draws parallels with teachings from the epics. As the book’s blurb says, it aims at making employers and managers become more inclusive leaders who are able to carry their teams along with them. When Lord Ram is upset with Hanuman for burning Lanka while finding Sita, the latter decides to do nothing without his leader’s advice. When this becomes a crisis, Ram has to devise a situation for Hanuman to start thinking independently. A wonderful tale, it serves to show us how leaders have to create potential leaders under them, allowing them room to make mistakes and thus, learning to take decisions. Lakshman, another example of obedience, leans decision-making the hard way when he is told to stand guard as Ram isolates himself, and allow no one to enter. On facing the wrath of sage Durvasa, who threatens to destroy the kingdom, he breaks his vow, putting the kingdom first, to his brother’s pleasure. It’s important, as Pattanaik points out, that for a leader to become more independent, he has to become dependent on others. “Growth happens when more people can depend on us.” Hindu mythology, he tells us, warns us against chasing Lakshmi and instead advises making oneself attractive to the goddess of wealth, so she walks our way. Pick up the book for a crash course in managerial excellence or gift it to a friend!

CHANAKYA’S 7 SECRETS OF LEADERSHIP

By Radhakrishnan Pillai

Jaico, Rs 299

Do you think your management style is stuck in a rut? Nobody did it better than Chanakya, ancient India’s legendary leader and author of Arthashastra. Radhakrishnan Pillai, author of Corporate Chanakya, gives his distilled wisdom in Chanakya’s 7 Secrets of Leadership, broken down in easy to follow chapters. Written in consultation with former Mumbai police chief D Sivanandan, he uses case studies to bring home the point.

The seven secrets of leadership (or the big picture), follows this template:

Swami: The king (the leader)

Amatya: The minister (the king’s advisors and councillors, manager)

Janpada: The country (The citizens / marketing / customers)

Durg: The fort (the housing / infrastructure)

Kosha: The treasury (Money / finance)

Dand: The Army (The team / teamwork)

Mitra: The Ally (the friend / consultants / mentors)

He uses the story of the Mahabharata to show us how critical it is to choose the right advisor at the right time. As we know, Duryodhana chose Krishna’s army, while Arjuna chose Krishna as charioteer. The Pandavas won the war due to Krishna’s strategic advice. “Successful companies understand the value of good advisers. Therefore, they have advisory panels that guide them from time to time.” The author gives the example of the crucial “Phone a Friend” lifeline in the show Kaun Banega Crorepati.

Here are his tips for working with allies and friends:

Network: it is important to have a good network of friends.

Organise meetings: Gather regular information from your team.

Use your intelligence: It is important to distinguish between right and wrong.

Cultivate informers: They are your key to creating strategy.

Help your friends: You need to help your allies when they are in need.

TIMELESS LEADERSHIP: 18 LEADERSHIP SUTRAS FROM THE BHAGAVAD GITA

By Debashis Chatterjee

Wiley, Rs. 499

There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom and to bridge the gap, one needs the Bhagavad Gita. Debashis Chatterjee breaks it down for us in Timeless Leadership: 18 Leadership Sutras From The Bhagavad Gita. Leadership is defined as an adventure of consciousness. It’s about not being lost in thoughts of yesterday or thinking of a holiday in the Bahamas as you shower, but being mindfully aware. When Krishna tells Arjun to do the same, he is asking for devotion to the “physical person called Krishna, but to this conscious energy that Krishna embodies”. He mentions the importance of harnessing the potential of silence or “shunya” and the ability to observe without judgement or interpretation.

Arjuna’s problem on the battlefield, with his emotions “out of control” and mind unruly are not unlike what managers face today with information overload. Krishna wisely calls for a reflection-break in the midst of battle to silence the “mob of unprocessed thoughts and emotions” by observing them as detached images on a screen or an external drama, creating distance to achieve clarity. His message, says the author, is: Once in a while, be quiet!

From Karma Yoga, when leaders enter the timeless cycle of action, to applying invincible wisdom, powered by the intellect and driven by unselfishness, and seeing the ego as a disposable idea, there is a lot of practical wisdom contained between these pages!

THE DIFFICULTY OF BEING GOOD: ON THE SUBTLE ART OF DHARMA

By Gurcharan Das

Penguin Allen Lane, Rs. 499

In The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma, author Gurcharan Das quotes Immanuel Kant, Tolstoy, as well as Budhha and the Upanishads to draw parallels with the ancient epic of Mahabharata in contemporary living. In his introduction, he explains his fascination for the epic and how the grand patriarch Bhishma’s selflessness made him wonder whether a human being can be intent on the act and not its fruits and whether a person’s ego could shrink that far. This probing has resulted in a book that asks difficult questions and provides a conversation, which leads to answers that offer a guide to leading a responsible life.

As Yudhishthira learns, to function in the imperfect age of Kali Yuga, “one cannot escape the world’s suffering, but the values of dharma, especially ahimsa (non-violence), can inform one’s life.”

According to Das, the Mahabharata rejects the idealistic, pacifist position of Yudhishthira as well as Duryodhana’s amoral view. He explains the principle of reciprocal altruism, “Adopt a friendly face to the world but do not allow yourself to be exploited. Turning the other cheek sends the wrong signal to cheats.” If you’re facing an existential crisis in your career or life, it’s a good idea to engage in a dialogue with this book!

THE YOGIC MANAGER

(A Business Novel Inspired by the Mahabharata)

By Avinash B. Sharma

Jaico, Rs. 225

Arjun Atmanand has the perfect scores, but an inopportune puddle of light that distracts him during his interview for a visa, spoil his American dreams. He manages to have a promising career under Raja, his boss, with occasional visits to a psychiatrist fixed by his elder brother Karan, who is living the US dream. However, when Arjun is caught in a battle of principles, urged by Raja to recommend an environmentally damaging, but profitable option to their clients, he decides to meditate on a park bench.

The golden light now manifests into a yogi, who takes him on a journey into past and present, showing him how ethics and yogic principles are critical to good management.

Arjun moves from knowledge to wisdom, as he learns “An effective and efficient manager does the right things right. A Yogic Manager practicing larma-Yoga does the righteous thing righteously.” Explained simply, through the young protagonist’s journey, a Yogic Management path is laid out. For instance, “Achieve guaranteed success by performing work for the sake of work and not for the results of the work.” Or, “Pursue education and wealth as if you were to live forever. Practice Dharma as if you were to die at any moment.” Life truths come easily in this fictional novel about a young manager struggling with ethical dilemmas!

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