By Nishtha Shukla December 2003 Leadership is no longer about aggressiveness and cut-throat competition. It is about intellect, fairness and justice. A report on a workshop on work and ethics conducted by Swami Parthasarathy Qualities of a Good Leader- The leader commits to an idea – He moves up from self-centredness to a bigger idea (the ideal) – Knows his job well– Is industrious– Takes decisions with the intellect. This helps focus the mind that otherwise keeps shifting to the past and future, what we can call distraction – Leads the way and involves others in a co-operative Endeavour– Is sharp enough to detect talent and train others– Is ‘dispensable’ as good manager– Is familiar and available to people, yet is not overt because that is vulgarity– Simplifies procedures and implements them– Is never attached to anything but maintains objectivity– Has a sense of values and proportion-in other words, his values are set in the right proportion. He belonged to a wealthy family and was sent off overseas to study law. But that was not what education meant to him. Swami Parthasarthy. Today, as the founder-head of the Vedanta Academy in Lonavala near Mumbai, Swami Parthasarathy understands that education really means to draw out what is within an individual. The multifarious ‘career options’ available to us today have sadly left many dissatisfied about what we are doing vis-a-vis what we would like to do or what we can do better. If we understand that education is really about bringing out the innate talent rather than hankering for it all around, things would be simpler. The questioning mind that has been revered across all literature is hardly to be seen in today’s conveyor-belt model of education. Against this background, Parthasarathy’s wisdom comes as a breath of fresh air. He likes to educate through questioning. The answers come from his students as they try to understand the idea of using the intellect to grow as individuals. The intellect uses reason and judgement as against the mind, which becomes involved in emotions, impulses and irrationality. He is even ready to question things like soothsayers, stars and astrology with a reasoning eye. At his Work Ethics workshop in Delhi in November, Parthasarathy motivated a team of corporate professionals along these lines. For the convenience of his students who sat rapt in pin-drop silence during sessions at the workshop, he suggested two broad divisions of human personality: aggressive and passive, which are further divided into good and bad, making a total of four categories: aggressive good, passive good, passive bad and aggressive bad, hierarchically placed in that order. The passively bad are those who have developed harmful actions or habits without even thinking about them. For instance, being superstitious. They have a mechanical way of functioning that is negative. Passive goodness is that which involves no analysis or intellectual direction. Such people are merely involved in routine good activities because they have been taught to do so. Like the Pandavas who did everything good, blindly trusting anyone who came their way. The aggressive good are those who use their intellect for the welfare of the community. They will not wince at getting involved in a project if it is for the welfare of people, like Krishna, who was never to be taken for a ride. The aggressively bad, the worst of the lot, are people who are constantly manoeuvring, scheming and planning for self-benefit. They do it successfully because they use their intellect. An infamous example is Harshad Mehta who shook India in the mid-1990s with the stocks scam. Parthasarathy explains that it is when the passive good are dominated by the aggressive bad that the honest people are troubled by the dishonest. Parthasarathy thus points to the need to be aggressive and use the intellect to survive successfully. He even says that when the aggressively bad are creating havoc, people should get in an aggressively good person to counter it. One of the great strengths of good leaders is using the intellect when situations and environments demand that of you. “Along with strengthening the intellect, develop right ethics,” he advises. As we become aggressively good, we are led towards developing the right attitude, right intellect, right ethics and right understanding, all of which make us self-sufficient. Explaining his concept of generation of energy among people and of avoiding its dissipation, Parthasarathy says, the higher the ideal, the greater its potency. “When the idea is high, there is no need for incentives.” He believes that fertilising an employee’s action by incentives is like popping vitamin pills for the body, leading to false actions and false bodies. Instead, he suggests that it is the initiative that comes from within that brings about dynamism. This requires a conceivable goal that is followed by consistency of action. He also suggests thinking of the goal and then working towards it by backward planning, which leaves you with a comfortable time-frame. Then even if your objective changes later as you gain more knowledge, you will have sufficient time and energy to achieve what you want to. Parthasarathy authenticates his teachings by mentioning that these are eternal principles he has gleaned from the ancient literature of India and abroad, and are not just his opinions. If the Vedas and world literature are the source of his wisdom, management institutes have many grounds to work on.
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