By Pawan Kapoor
Spirituality can be an excellent guiding principle of business economics. It enhances business acumen by refining perceptive and judgemental faculties
Peter F. Drucker very beautifully describes in his book The Practice of Management that the purpose of any business enterprise as an organ of the society, is to satisfy the wants of the society. These wants may have already been felt and expressed by the customer before he was offered a means to satisfy them. Alternatively it could also have been an unfelt want, which an entrepreneur senses, and makes it an effective demand by creating a business enterprise.
The purpose of business, Drucker says, is never to create profits. Profit is a result of the performance of the business in marketing, innovation and productivity. The guiding principle of business economics is not the maximisation of profits but of avoidance of loss. Profits are essential to cover risks involved in operation, and to help provide continuous service and product to the customer.
However, not many businesspersons subscribe to Drucker’s philosophy. A majority of people in business and management talk in terms of financial bottomline, which seems to have become the sole goal of most businesses. ‘Business—An organ of society’ is a concept hardly understood and rarely practised.
If making profits, and that too maximum profits, becomes the goal of a business enterprise, then there is every chance that certain choices may be made which may not be ethical. In the long run it leads to development of a culture within the organisation, which can be detrimental to the organisation itself. The age-old idea that ‘excess of anything is bad’ holds good even today in all walks of life, and this demands balance in one’s approach. To remain balanced in the external world, one needs to be balanced within, with all faculties remaining integrated. This is where the concept of spirituality comes into the picture.
What is spirituality?
Four primitive urges, namely, food, sleep, sex and self-preservation dictate the lives of all living entities in our world. The urge for self-preservation in the case of human beings is not just for the body but also for all the ideas and concepts that one identifies with. The fear of losing one’s mere self at the time of death and the inbuilt urge of self-preservation, make one unconsciously acquire more wealth, possessions, relationships and power, hoping that all this would preserve the self. Many individuals establish institutions and organisations in their names, ostensibly to extend their existence on the earth and make them immortal. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, except the real Self, which is eternal.
Spirituality is not an intellectual idea but a conviction that one is not just the body and mind, but one is part of the eternal Self, of which all other entities in the universe are also a part. This conviction may be fashioned by several factors like one’s upbringing, experiences and spiritual practices. This realisation brings a shift in one’s perspective towards life itself. One is then able to comprehend the broad picture and one’s own role in the cosmic drama.
Even if one has not experienced the Self through spiritual practices as a sincere aspirant, contemplation and company of the wise ones invariably tone down one’s egocentric approach to the external world.
Applying spiritual principles
Those who promote or own business enterprises, with their lack of spiritual inclinations notwithstanding, would at some stage grow and evolve. Otherwise, with the passage of time, the imbalance and insecurities of their minds would have a negative effect on their organisation and on the society as a whole. It is worse if the business is making profits due to various reasons, for in such a scenario, the realisation may never come and the future generations may have to face its consequences.
The spiritual path is like a climb up a hill. To be able to climb higher, one needs to get lighter by shedding one’s load. On the spiritual path, the load is in the form of past impressions stored in the subconscious. Removal of impressions from the subconscious enables one to become more spontaneous. Good management is all about objectivity and spontaneity, and taking the right decisions keeping as many inputs in perspective as possible. Persisting with prejudices, experiences and rigid views prevent the individual from viewing situations in an objective manner. This affects one’s capability to manage a situation in a fair and efficient way.
Leadership is all about vision, broad perspective, will power and ability to motivate and guide people. One can only do this well if one has walked on the razor’s edge of the spiritual path at least for some distance. The lesser the load of past impressions, the higher one has climbed the hill and the clearer is the vision and broader the perspective. Trying and failing on so many occasions along the spiritual path makes a person more patient and compassionate to others’ faults. As one has to keep motivating and leading one’s own self along the arduous but rewarding spiritual path, one automatically learns numerous ways and means of motivating different types of people. The spiritual practices make a person more integrated and capable of keeping large organisations intact.
We may not be able to comprehend the influence business enterprises and other organisations have on our lives. From world peace to an individual’s peace, and from an individual’s turmoil to the global turmoil, all these are affected by businesses in some form or the other. Somewhere along the line, business lost its linkage with ethics and values, and has become a means to make money and gain power. The turmoil and wars that we have been witnessing in recent times are a reflection of the decline in our value systems and spiritual bankruptcy.
With an understanding of spirituality as different from religion, we see a ray of hope. The business schools around the world need to understand that they have an important role to play in bringing about a change in the mindset of leaders and managers of enterprises. This can be done effectively by introducing practical spirituality in the curriculum of various programmes. There needs to be an understanding that a spiritual person is a better leader, a better manager and a better entrepreneur, who is able to see things both from a short term and a long term perspective and take practical decisions which benefit self, the organisation and the society at large.
Pawan Kapoor is a management expert and motivational trainer.
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