Mining sacred text for business tips

Business Timeless Leadership: 18 Leadership Sutras from the Bhagavad Gitaby Debashis ChatterjeeWiley. 3 stars David Wilson

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 10:51pm

Timeless Leadership

by Debashis Chatterjee



David Wilson

Although written more than 2,000 years ago the sacred Hindu battleground text the Bhagavad Gita retains vital relevance to corporate warriors, according to leadership guru Debashis Chatterjee.

"The 18 sutras of the Bhagavad Gita have deep philosophical as well as practical implications for leaders of the third millennium," he writes in his new management guide.

In the 700-verse source text, archer prince Arjuna and his divine charioteer Krishna discuss the implications of the looming Kurukshetra war: a fratricidal dynastic clash where the modern Indian state of Haryana now stands.

Understandably, Arjuna has choked, rattled by the prospect of massacring relatives. Arjuna sees that he will have to kill his dear great-granduncle (Bhishma), on whose lap he played as a child, and his esteemed teacher (Drona), who held his hand and showed him how to wield the bow and arrow. Keen to quell Arjuna's ethical qualms and nerves, Krishna gives him a pep talk.

Timeless Leadership sets out to show how the insight distilled in their dialogue can help you handle the pressure that permeates the 21st-century boardroom. Grasp the Bhagavad Gita's "success sutras" and you will become a better, more productive, more fulfilled leader.

The thrust of Chatterjee's thinking is that if you fine-tune your thought processes, the quality of your actions improves, spawning better results.

How do you do that? Above all, says Chatterjee, channelling Krishna: step back from the babble. "Krishna's solution to information overload is the rigorous discipline of observing one's thoughts and emotions as though they were no more than images on a screen," he writes.

"A leader can gain the composure and quietude of the observer by constant practice and dispassion. This is the practice of watching one's thoughts, as and when they arise, and dispassion towards emotions whether of joy or sorrow.

"Krishna is urging the leaders of our time to evolve a reflective consciousness rather than a reactive mind. In short, his message for our time is: 'Once in a while, be quiet!'"

The director of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Chatterjee has written six previous books that blur the borders between business and mysticism.

You have to admire the chutzpah with which Chatterjee extracts wisdom from a sacred classic and applies it to leadership.

Timeless Leadership should engage anyone tired of linear management guides grounded in humdrum corporate machinations. His audacious take is refreshing.