Emotional intelligence explained practically

This article was published in the July’2008 issue of the magazine Management Compass. The magazine version is in this pdf file eintel-practical-july-2008

In my previous article on Emotional intelligence, I had tried to throw light upon emotional intelligence and life purpose or self actualisation. One wonders how emotional intelligence applies to more mundane issues. I was surprised to read in one article on board exam suicides as how to emotional intelligence should be taught in schools. In his book Working with Emotional intelligence’, Daniel Goleman has said, “Our entire system of education is geared to cognitive skills. But when it comes to emotional competencies, our system is sorely lacking.”

Though emotional intelligence primarily depends on empathy and social skills, the practical skills are based on five elements — self-awareness, motivation, self-regulation, empathy and adeptness in relationships. All this is irrelevant to students because they involve group dynamics of working in a team. Emotional intelligence issues are so complex that many a time, they require one-to-one session with the counsellor. Among the various guidelines for emotional competence training that Goleman has given, providing role models can be applicable to the young as a kind of example. As it is, it is said that “Attitudes are caught, not taught” and role models that one may come across, maybe within the organisation or the ones that one may come across in day-to-day life from people’s conduct even if they need not always fulfil common goals.

The thing worth noting that Goleman has said in his book Working with emotional intelligence is that emotional intelligence is not about being nice. He says, “At strategic moments it may demand not being ‘nice’ but bluntly confronting someone with an uncomfortable and consequential truth they have been avoiding. It means managing feelings that they are expressed appropriately and effectively.” I was reminded of this when, in one of the test matches of the recently concluded Australian tour, in response to sledging and all kinds of other tactics employed by the Australian cricketers to win the test, our test captain Anil Kumble, who has a reputation for being a nice guy, summed it up in one sentence: “Only one team was playing in the spirit of the game.” That was not a very nice thing to say for the hosts but it was said in a very tactful and dignified manner to befit the stature of the elder statesman of cricket which Kumble has become. Even the Australian media and Australians in general did not mind this. If there was one good example of communication as a tool of emotional intelligence, this was it,

Even at the end of the 2007 World Cup when India did not do well, former Australian cricket captain Ian Chapell commented on how Sachin was playing only for records and should contemplate retirement. Kumble, who, had always maintained a low profile and never spoken controversially, stood up for Sachin, saying “Mr Chappell is entitled to his personal opinion but since he is not so knowledgeable about Indian cricket, they should be ignored. “Since Sachin and Kumble had their cricketing debuts in 1989 and 1990 respectively, they probably played together more than anybody else and when the situation called for it, Mr Nice Guy Kumble stood up for him in a dignified, inoffensive manner.

Just as it is said in management that one has to move southwards to move northwards, one can also learn from negative examples how to control oneself. One also gets to read that the need for emotional intelligence is more as one moves higher up the ladder. One reason for this perhaps is that one also has to set an example for the people lower down. The obvious cricketing example is the slapping controversy where the captain of the Mumbai IPL Team, Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth of the Mohali team on not being able to control himself after Mumbai lost to Mohali. Goleman has given the example of Mike Tyson, “When Mike Tyson became enraged and bit of a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their 1997 heavyweight title match, it cost him $ 3 million and a year’s suspension from boxing”. Though Harbhajan did not get that physical, the one thing common is that according to newspaper reports, he lost Rs 3 crores because of the slap. Perhaps Harbhajan Singh needs training in emotional intelligence — identifying his trigger situations and dealing with them. One may add here that some time ago in Australia, the whole nation stood behind the very same Harbhajann Singh when he was provoked by the Australian players. In my view, if one has to solve the problem at the root or nip it in the bud, the person causing the problem should also be dealt with to eliminate the problem in the long run.

Another sports star that Goleman mentions in his book is Michael Jordan. He says that the game comes so naturally to him that he may not be as good a coach as he was a player. Peter Drucker had also said “Those who excel at something are rarely able to explain it”. The issue is not only of communication alone. The main thing involved in coaching is being able to have good relations among and with players while commanding their respect.

One person who comes to memory in recent past is former cricket coach of the Indian cricket team, Greg Chappell. He had been a great player himself and from the kind of presentations he made, he impressed everyone with his cricketing knowledge. Lacking self-awareness and self-regulation as a coach, he was too high – handed and hardly adept at handling relationships as he antagonised both senior and junior players in the team. Despite having far better credentials than his predecessor, John Wright, this situation was typical of what Goleman says, “People with high IQ performed poorly at work while those of moderate IQ did extremely well.” Whether as captain or coach, leadership positions automatically entail a certain finesse in relationships and in this context, having very good cricketing knowledge or experience did not suffice.

Other recent examples of nastiness was when some of the leading stars of the Hindi film Industry chose to write nonsensical things about one another on their blogs and later apologised. Internet as a medium facilitates self regulation in the sense that internet discussions tend to be the way they should be — detached, objective and rational, without the element of strong emotions. On the net, one can read the other person’s point of view without interruption, which also aids empathy and avoids friction. However if the people concerned themselves choose to say provocative things, no medium can help. Aamir Khan saying that he had a dog named Shahrukh does not befit a man of his stature and reputation- a cerebral actor with so many unique films.

In sports, coaches often have to face the kind of situation that was faced by Shahrukh in the movie Chak De when he had to exhort the two major players to put their egos aside and work for the common goal. Talking of Mr Khan, he is himself not a bad example of emotional intelligence in real life. I am reminded of one of his episodes in Kaun Banega Crorepati where in response to his traditional parting gesture one lady who was a teacher remarked, “I don’t need your hug.” Without being ruffled, Mr Khan responded, “With your kind permission, can I hug your mother and give the award money to her.” It is said that your natural self is tested only in spontaneous crisis moments and the way he handled it was as good an example as any. This was functional emotional intelligence at its best.

This kind of response apart, if one is witty and good at repartee without causing offense, that can he a vary handy tool of emotional intelligence. There is a saying ‘Humour is a rubber sword. It allows you to make a point without drawing blood.’
I had given an example on empathy which could not be included above because of lack of space. I feel it deserves a mention:-

One cannot conceive of emotional intelligence without empathy. Some years ago, in some TV programme on Children, Shahrukh Khan gave a very good speech on what society and the world was headed towards and wondered what kind of world would we leave for our children. He had seen in the TV news how a father was trying to shield his child desperately from gunfire is some area in the middle east. He stated that being a father himself, he could empathize how that man must have felt and what the world was coming to was a really sad state of affairs. Considering Shahrukh’s witty and smart image, I was pleasently surprised to learn that he could speak seriously so well. His speech reminded me of what J.krishnamurthy always used to say “Man has progressed technologically but regressed psychologically”

Emotional Inteliigence and Life purpose

This article was published in the June’2008 issue of the magazine Management Compass. The magazine version pdf file is eintelligence-and-life-purpose-june-08

When work’s delight

It’s better to do what we love doing, even if rewards are greater elsewhere

In addition to my previous article on concentration that appeared in the May issue which made it to the Times Wellness Book , another article titled Emotional intelligence and life purpose I had written for the Times of India also made it to the Times Wellness Book. This is the elaborate version of that article:

“There was once a salesman, who because of his predisposition to be authoritative hated his job, as he had to be continually subservient to customers, which revolted against his primary nature. After he opted for a career switch and became a policeman, all his complaints vanished because in the new occupation, he was calling the shots.

“Research has revealed that our emotions, more than anything else, make us tired and cause serious health problems. Daniel Goleman, in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, says ‘Great work starts with great feeling.’

“Psychologists use the word “temperament” to describe the emotional aspect, which can be a reflection of the person’s personality. Type A personalities by their very nature strive for achievement and personal recognition, and are aggressive, hasty, impatient, explosive and loud in speech. They should be careful because they are prone to stress and heart disease.”

Since the title and thrust of the article is emotional intelligence and life purpose, it is preferable to focus on this part. In my personal opinion, if the person concerned is struggling hard with himself like the example of the salesman above, any further analysis or expecting emotional intelligence out of that person is useless unless one gets to the root of the problem and solves that first, which in this example was to a drastic change in profession. Emotional intelligence and life’s purpose inevitably form a virtuous circle in the sense that if you are engaged in your life purpose for a majority of waking hours, you are in a better position to be emotionally intelligent, which in turn can rebound and result in high quality work or fulfillment of your life purpose.

Daniel Goleman’s book is virtually considered a Bible on emotional intelligence. His views on the same are worth reflecting:-

“Except for the financially desperate, people do not work for money alone.. What also fuels their passion for work is a larger sense of purpose or passion. Given the opportunity, people gravitate to what gives them meaning, to what engages to their fullest commitment, talent, energy and skill. That can mean changing jobs to get a better fit with what matters to us”

I once came across a site called careerspice.com, where they had actually listed the options in the order of passion, strengths and skills. Though earlier, a list of passions, skills and strengths were listed on the website in that order, they have made the passion module more specific while maintaining the overall order, which only goes to show the wisdom of Mr Goleman’s words. In the previous decades, strengths and skills used to matter more. Another site worth mentioning in this context is passioncatalyst.comwhich again makes passion the main focus.

Though flow is a term introduced by psychologist and social scientist Mihaly Czikszentimihalyi who described it as being totally absorbed in whatever one is doing at the moment, Goleman’s comments on it in the context of management are worth noting:-

“Flow blossoms when our skills are fully engaged… by work that stretches us in new and challenging ways. The challenge absorbs us so much that we lose ourselves in our work, becoming so totally concentrated that we may feel out of time. In this state, we seem to handle everything effortlessly, nimbly adapting to shifting demands. Flow itself is a pleasure. Flow is the ultimate motivator. Activities we love draw us in because we get into flow as we pursue them. When we work in flow, the motivation is built in — work is a delight in itself. Though there are rewards in terms of salaries, bonuses and stock options , the most powerful motivators are internal, not external. It feels better to do what we have passion for, even if the rewards are greater elsewhere.”

Though the above contents of the book Working with Emotional Intelligence were first published in 1998, even now, 10 years later, one keeps bumping into new sites which reveal the wisdom of those words. One recent site that I came across is careershifters.org, a UK-centric site, where more than 15 career coaches have come together to inspire and facilitate lateral career shifts. The very fact that so many people have come together on one platform indicates that it is a serious problem in that country.

There is one more thing that Daniel Goleman has said which deserves a mention:

“By midlife, there are many many corporate executives and lawyers pulling down seven-figure salaries who wish instead that they were doing social work or running a restaurant. People who feel that their skills are not used well on the job or who feel that their work is repetitive and boring run a higher risk of heart disease than those who feel that their best skills are expressed in their work.”

Goleman’s above extract brings to mind an American consultant, Craig Nathanson of the vocationalcoach.com/ who specialises in helping the kind of people that Goleman has mentioned in his article, who maybe facing a midlife crisis in their early Forties. The irony in all this is that despite it being such a problem in the western world, despite their comprehensive recruitment systems, one wonders how bad the situation in India is. When one talks to HR consultants on lateral career transition or mid- life crisis, one gets an indifference response.. It is almost as if the problem does not exist.

The book The Art of Happiness at Work, which Howard Cutler has co-written along with the Dalai Lama, mentions several other psychologists who have done research on the subject, which again reflects the magnitude of the problem. As for the work being repetitive and boring, even if one is in the profession of one’s liking, some of it is inevitable. Professor Debashis Chatterjee quotes Mother Teresa in his book Break Free, “When you do small work with great love, your work will automatically become great.” Chatterjee advises ‘watch as you work’ and says that to be fully alive is to be fully functional in mind, body and spirit. The real motivation is to be fully alive and to be fully absorbed in the work. This is a kind of voluntary forced flow and even if the work does not become great, one can at least feel great if one is able to do this successfully. One has to face a reality that a lot of work is repetitive and either one tries to do them with full attention or makes games out of them as some management books suggest.

The Dalai Lama also suggests that if one thinks one’s work is boring and repetitive, one should see things in a wider perspective and see how one’s work benefits a lot of other people. This shall enable one to pursue one’s work as a calling if it is not so. If it is, all this can be managed but if one feels completely out of place in the major activity itself, this can be an additional burden. It is like that expression in Hindi- aate me namak ya namak me aata. It is the matter of a sense of proportion. The Dalai Lama says that certain kinds of fruits have a bit of sourness in them and the sweetness cannot be separated from the sourness as they are bound to be mixed. Therefore, one has to brace oneself for repetitive tasks.

As for the state of flow, the Dalai Lama indicated that while it may be possible to achieve flow by meditation and engaging in the work of one’s liking, one should remember that it is not possible to remain in that state throughout the day. One can improve upon one’s emotional intelligence in this context if one tries to apply what all is written above.

India seems to be on the threshold of an economic expansion but if countries, which have achieved material prosperity, are talking about non-materialistic fulfilment to such a degree, one wonders what is in store for us, especially considering the articles that keep appearing from time to time on how executives face stress and burnout. The Dalai Lama pointed out that a career orientation with primary focus on promotions, job titles and designations can be an acute source of misery. In his book Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman while asserting that personal satisfaction is rapidly gaining on financial rewards as a determining factor for choice of work, says, “Our economy is rapidly changing from a money economy to a satisfaction economy” which is actually a paradigm shift in emotional intelligence.

With achievement of 9 per cent growth rate achieved in the past few years and bright prospects envisaged for the future, the Indian economy is becoming a money economy all right but whether it becomes a satisfaction or happiness economy is the moot point.
Since prevention is better than cure, we have a lot to learn from the developed western world. When Japan prospered economically, it also faced a lot of social problems. The Japanese term Karoshi, implying death from overwork, and Pokuri Byo, meaning sudden death, are a reflection of that time. They actually indicate a deeper malaise — a distorted emotional intelligence; Goleman has indicated above how people not fully engaged in work are more prone to heart disease and it is a well-known fact that the impact of negative emotions are manifested in the body in one form or another.

With our size and population, we cannot afford to miss the wood for the trees. One wonders what is in store in the long run. Will the collective emotional intelligence of a country known for its spiritual legacy go hand in hand with economic progress? Will Individuals flow and India glow, or a truly prosperous economic boom turn out to be some kind of doom ?

Concentrate on concentrating

This article was published in the May’2008 issue of the magazine Management compass

Vagaries of mind

It’s concentration that helps you achieve your goal

I had written seven articles in The Times of India in the year 2006, out of which two made it to the Times Wellness Book. Out of the two, one is on concentration:-
“Indian children are exposed to how Arjuna was asked to focus on the eye as a target for his arrow, as an exercise in concentration. Ralph Waldo Emerson has said ‘Concentration is the secret of success in politics, in war, in all management of human affairs.’
One way of determining what your purpose in life is to try and engage in an activity in which you completely lose awareness of time and space because you are fully concentrated on it. That would be the activity in which you are in your element. Though it can be described as an intense concentration, Osho has elevated it to the level of meditation. He even goes to say that when you are happy doing whatever you are doing, you are automatically meditative. Meditation is a function of happiness and not the other way around. In the children’s context, if their concentration is monitored proactively, it could give an indication of their life’s purpose…

Emerson’s statement has a different connotation as well. It is a well- known fact in Yoga that the power of concentration is the power of the human mind. People are able to perform miraculous feats with the power of concentration. In this context, if you are caught in the wrong profession, a good power of concentration can go a long way in mitigating the misery. One can pass by with a reasonable degree of efficiency if the general level of concentration is high…

So either one is in the right profession (spontaneous concentration) or the general level of concentration is high. At least one of the two should be strong for you to be adept at what you are doing. Therefore we realise the need and importance of developing concentration not only for children, but for our ownselves too.”

The above article was based on a passage that I had come across in an article on meditation: “Many people cannot concentrate on their work because their minds keep straying. Others keep worrying about their pet obsessions. These are the vagaries of the mind which prevent you from doing a good job at any given time. At the other end of the spectrum, you find people daydreaming a chain of colourful thoughts. So deeply engrossed are they that they lose awareness of what is going around them.” I had this problem and I was looking at it from only one perspective of what I could not do. Later, when the “colourful thoughts” made me a writer and a poet, I realised that my mind was concentrated on them which is why I could not concentrate on the jobs. That is perhaps the reason why creative people do not like nine to five jobs; they are simply not cut out for them.

The most well-known enlightened man in the history of mankind, Buddha had this to say in this context “Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” Some of the great artists of this world have described absorption in their work as a kind of orgasmic pleasure. Pablo Picasso said, “It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction”. Whatever be the form of creativity, nothing can replace the artistic satisfaction that one experiences on being able to complete a creative task when one gets completely absorbed in it and achieves a state of total concentration by transcending thought. Some years ago, in an interview, filmstar Shah Rukh Khan had said, “When I stand in front of the camera, I feel as if I am making love to my audience.”

Creative people are known for being emotional, sensitive and mood swings. Einstein had once said, “All great discoveries come from people whose feelings run ahead of their thinking”. From a writer’s/ poets perspective, some of the best creative ideas come when the mind is given a free run. The mind can be explained in terms of centrifugal (stronger at periphery than centre) and centripetal ( logical and centred — stronger at centre) forces and the mind with a centrifugal predisposition has creative

Ayurveda talks of Vata, Pitta and Kapha people. A Vata (air) predominating person will have emotional tendencies towards fear and anxiety. They are very creative and imaginative, make good artists, poets, inventors and writers or have divergent attention concentrated in ideas. They are indecisive, changeable, excitable, moody and solitary people. Kapha minds are the exact opposite — grounded and centred and have convergent attention focused in implementation.

One definition of creativity is to reveal a new synergy between two seemingly disparate ideas or a rearrangement of the old. One is supposed to drench oneself and the subconscious with all the facts one can muster with full concentration and when the mind is calm and relaxed, ideas incubate from the subconscious to correlate, combine, associate and categorise in different kinds of synthesis. No wonder some of the most important discoveries from science have come in a relaxed state of mind when the concerned individuals have been bathing, walking or even shaving.

Apart from getting creative ideas in a relaxed, concentration is facilitated when the mind is in a creative state and vice-versa. The Bhagvad Gita says, “For he who has no tranquility there is no concentration.” The other extreme is also equally true. Psychiatrists use occupational therapy as one of the means to treat people who have been through severe trauma by making them do interesting activities in which their mind becomes so engrossed that they completely forget their painful experiences. In this way concentration can be used to induce tranquility which can further enhance concentration in a virtuous circle.

In one of his discourses, Osho said that people with a thinking disposition and philosophers often complain that mundane things bore them. He divided people into two broad categories — the ‘buffaloes’ and the ‘Buddhas’. He said that the buffaloes were the hedonistic types — they had no grand purpose in life but were content with their daily existence and never thought too much about the monotony of daily existence. The Buddhas on the other hand were the intellectual types, trying to seek a deeper purpose and meaning in life and their existence and would easily tire of routine. Osho said, “Either be a buffalo or a Buddha”. He meant that either ignore the routine activities completely or observe routine so minutely that the novelty of life becomes apparent in this micro-observation. This is the way to transform the mundane into the sacred. This requires tremendous alertness and concentration, which in this context can actually be called awareness, presence, consciousness, mindfulness etc. Incidentally Buddha also said, “The stages of the Noble Path are: Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Behaviour, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.” Right concentration is mentioned last but is certainly not the least — trains in Japan and Germany move at 500 miles an hour because of the concentrated force of superconductivity or electrons moving in one direction without any resistance.

Another statement of Buddha sums it up: “Wakefulness is the way of life.” J krishnamuthy talked of constantly witnessing all thoughts, feelings and actions as they arise. Osho says that being totally aware and in the present is the key to transcend negative emotions and overcome all kinds of suffering. He says, “If you are present when anger is happening, anger cannot happen… In fact, there is only one sin and that is unawareness. When you become aware, your body becomes more relaxed, your body becomes more attuned, a deep peace starts prevailing even in your body; a subtle music pulsates in your body”

From the above, it seems that constant watchfulness has the kind of effect on your body and mind that sports do. Talking of sportspeople, the best cricket Team in the world, Australia indulges in sledging primarily to disturb the opponent’s concentration. Sachin Tendulkar actually said once, “If concentration wavers, the brain does not pass signals at the pace that the ball comes.” When asked on a tour to Bangladesh on how easy it must be for someone like him to face Bangladeshi bowlers, Sachin replied, “I only think of the ball and its merit and not the bowler.” This is to induce what sportsmen call a state of “flow” in which they forget all else and are totally focused on their sport as a means to excel. Pete Sampras, who won the maximum number of grand slams, attributes his success to being able to achieve flow as one of the main reasons. Martina Navratilova puts it even more precisely and concisely: “I try to concentrate on concentrating.” Can you afford to do otherwise?

Nurturing good habits should be a habit

This article was published in the May’2007 issue of the magazine Educare.

Nurturing good habits

Old habits die hard; good or bad, habits are incurable, so cultivate good habits

In 1991, I had heard a speech from one of India’s topmost management consultants on how the concept of KASH (Knowledge-Application-Skills-Habits) is applicable in management. In management and seminars, the emphasis generally is on application of knowledge and skills but since habits represent ingrained behaviour, in the context of KASH, one should use the expression, last but not the least ‘habits’. Any pattern of thought or action repeated many times results in a habit because of the formation of a brain groove. The brain comprises of around 100 billion cells called neurons. A brain groove is a series of interconnected neurons that carry the thought patterns of a particular habit. When we give our attention to a habit, we activate the brain groove, releasing the thoughts, desires, and actions related to that habit. If we repeat a thought and action enough times, a new habit is formed. Continued repetition strengthens the habit. Inattention and lack of repetition weakens it. Cultivating good habits can be difficult, but it is more cumbersome to maintain or get rid of bad habits.

Some management authors have stated that it takes around 21 days to form a new habit or break an old one but that would depend upon the nature and type of habit. Recently, my yoga teacher while demonstrating how different people hold their tea cups/ glasses, said that if despite repeated action, they are not able to change , the problem is deep rooted. It reminded me of an experience while attending vipasana meditation. It is a ten day full time course where they teach Buddha’s meditation technique. They claim that it is a deep surgical operation of the mind. One of their discourses talks of deep rooted behavioral habits which they say depends on one’s samskars or inherent tendencies. They claim that samskars are of three types — the shortest duration is like a line drawn in water which can vanish instantly. The second is like a line drawn on sand which takes time to disappear and the third is like a line engraved on a rock, which is the deepest and most difficult to remove. They could have even passed on from your previous life. This would explain why despite all attempts, some people are not able to curb their temper or change other such habits. These statements reflect their perennial nature:

Men do more things through habit than through reason.
Habits make or mar one’s fortune.
Habit is second nature.
Man is a slave of habits.
A habit cannot be forced out of the window; it can be coaxed out one step at a time.
Habit knows no cure.
Custom in infancy becomes nature in old age.

Some people even go for past life regression as a part of past life therapy to get to the root of these unconscious tendencies. Though it is not easy to break bad habits, one only has go google for “How to break bad habits” to find various articles on the topic.
Many famous sayings are a reflection of the importance of habits. For instance the saying “Early to bed and early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise” is to emphasise on the importance of getting up early. The problem is that these statements arise out of the experiences of other people. Unlike the Panchtantra stories where the experience is first narrated and the moral is given at the end, here we have the moral in the form of a sentence but no in- depth understanding of it. With advancing age and increasing problems, one begins to appreciate in greater depth the wisdom of those sayings and feel more inclined to follow them. More often than not, learning comes from negative experiences, which is not always easy to pass on to the coming generation experientially or even in words.

In one of my previous write ups on inter personal conflict, I had given a father son example, which is actually more relevant in the context of habits. There’s a narrative of a father, who tried to get his son to wash his hands before eating, without much success. He took his son to his doctor friend, who educated him on what germs were, showed them under a microscope and further showed a video film on what could happen to the body if it got infected with those germs. After being oriented like this, the child started washing his hands on his own without any further conflict with his father on the issue. During my childhood, my father often used to ask me to take precaution against the chill in the mornings and evenings during change of season in October. I did not pay heed to the warning too seriously till at the age of 26 in September when I got a very severe cold which lasted for three and a half weeks. Thereafter, covering myself while going out in the evenings or early mornings in October became a habit. Good habits may not make such problems disappear but their frequency can be reduced. On getting a severe cold recently, when I checked up on the net, I was surprised to find that it had nothing to do directly with cold weather and was spread more in the cold weather by hand to hand contact as people preferred to stay indoors. Strange thing to know at the age of 42 for forming such new habits. Some health habits like not smoking are best formed early. Recently, the health minister, Anbumani Ramdoss took on the powerful tobacco industry lobby for gory picture advertisements on cigarette packets that reflected the dangers of smoking. Those pictures were given to prevent the formation of bad habits.

Sometimes a simple good habit may help profusely throughout life. In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi says, “I kept account of every farthing I spent , and my expenses were carefully calculated. Every little item of expense would be entered and the balance struck every evening before going to bed. That habit has stayed ever since and I know as a result, though I have had to handle public funds amounting to lakhs,, I have succeeded in exercising strict economy in their disbursement, and instead of outstanding debts have a surplus balance in respect of all movements I have led.”

Professor Debashish Chatterjee , in his book, Break free explains how excellence comes from nurturing good habits; especially from thinking and execution of habits. He explains that a habit is muscle plus mind. Giving the simple example of how if one changes one grip of the pen to write anything, one can experience discomfort, he explains that this is going against the conditioning of your muscle and mind. He says that thinking has to be pruned of stray thoughts to make it effective and calls it lean thinking. The same thing has been explained differently in the wonderful book The power of Now. The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Disease happens when things go out of control. Thinking becomes a disease when you believe that you are your mind instead of being a witness of the thought process. This results in compulsive, involuntary, unconscious, repetitive thinking. Instead of you using your mind, the mind uses you. The author says inhabit the body. This takes your attention away from thought. Sensing the body becomes an anchor for staying present in the now. As soon as your habitual state changes from being out of the body and trapped in your mind to being in the body and present in the now, your physical body will feel lighter, clearer, more alive. In short, being a witness of the mind instead of being closely identified with it is good for both the mind and the body and helps in a variety of ways.
This is put succinctly by the most well known enlightened man in history, Gautam Buddha, who says:

The thought manifests as word;
The word manifests as deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.

The issue is to be able to pass on the importance of habits to the next generation at a young age. Catch them young is more relevant than anything else as habits, whether good or bad get ingrained by repetition. Giving a lecture to children hardly helps for which one has to be vigilant for the right opportunity. When my twelve year old son learnt about taxation in social studies class, I gave him a rough idea of what income tax was and how various bills had to be kept in their places as proof or otherwise, one may end up paying more taxes to the Income tax department. That was to inculcate the habit of putting the right thing at the right place. Once Rahul Dravid gave an interview on how grateful he was to their support staff: the cricket manager, cricket analyst, media manager, cricket coach, physiotherapist, physical trainer etc who did the support work so well that the players could focus entirely on their game. I read it out to my son to explain the importance of being focused and organised. Only if he made a habit of being well organised like putting things in proper places, he would be able to focus well on the main function whether in studies or in sports. At least, children listen to such examples better than a lecture but that also depends on the issue. I tried to stress the importance of yoga after Sachin Tendulkar started doing it seriously but that drew a lukewarm response.

Since habits get formed by repetition, the competency cycle is worth a
mention. When one tries to learn something new or doing the same thing in a better way, one has to go through four stages:

Unconscious incompetence — you maybe unconscious of what you are doing wrong.
Conscious incompetence — you are aware of what you are doing wrong and have started unlearning unlearn established, unconscious patterns/habits.
Conscious competence — acquiring new habits in the process of doing things in a better way.
Unconscious competence — new habits become a normal occurrence and one does not have to think or make a conscious attempt for doing.

Though all this maybe relevant from the point of view of learning a new skill or enhancing an old skill, from another perspective, after one has formed a habit and is able to do it unconsciously, one should still do it consciously to live intensely. Spiritual masters stress on the art of living consciously to be fully in the present which according to some psychologists is an “occupational therapy” and very good for stress management. This implies that even if you are able to do something mechanically after it having become an unconscious habit, one should still try to do it with full consciousness. It could be something mundane like driving to learning a specialised sport or vocation. Therefore, in this context, even not making a habit a habit is a habit.

Money makes the world go round

This article is published in the April’2008 issue of the magazine “Management compass”

Nothing but bucks
How money makes the world go round

In his movie presentation on global warming, former US vice-president Al Gore made this statement somewhat humorously, “It is difficult to convince a man about something if his salary depends upon not following it.” Contrary to what Mr Gore had to say in his presentation, reputed Times of India columnist and former editor of Economic Times, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyer had this to say in his article Global warming or global cooling that scientific truth (of global warming) is rarely mentioned. Why? Because the global warming movement has now become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, with thousands of jobs and millions in funding for NGOs and think-tanks, top jobs and prizes for scientists, and huge media coverage for predictions of disaster. The vested interests in the global warming theory are now as strong, rich and politically influential as the biggest multinationals. It is no co-incidence, says Crichton, that so many scientists skeptical of global warming are retired professors: they have no need to chase research grants and chairs.

This reminds one of the Luddite movement that was launched against the industrial revolution which began in the later part of the eighteenth century. The manual labour-based economy of Great Britain began to be replaced by manufacturing machinery and industry. Their main objection was that the introduction of new wide-framed looms that could be operated by cheap, relatively unskilled labour could result in the loss of jobs for many textile workers and cause widespread unemployment. For a short time the movement was so strong that it clashed in battles with the British Army. Measures taken by the government included a mass trial at York in 1812 that resulted in many executions and transportations (removal to a penal colony).

Since one has to keep the kitchen fires burning, people are bound to be desperate when their very survival is at stake; how does one decide the Laxman Rekha in such matters? Over the years, one gets to read or hear of several examples such as these from different professions. Some software people are of the opinion that the people who make vaccines for computer viruses introduce the viruses in the first place. Some years ago, it came in the papers that the head of an aids related organisation in Bombay stated how some US multinationals were trying to advocate that HIV and Aids were linked, in order to promote their drugs, although there was enough evidence to the contrary. There were a couple of programmes on a prime Indian televsion channel, which revealed how teachers used to threaten children refusing tuitions with negative marking in exams and how doctors were in tandem with laboratories to recommend all kinds of tests which the patients did not need.

This reminds me of some of my experiences in this connection. My father, while taking his mother to the hospital, was advised rest and a checkup was forced on him because he looked emaciated. His blood pressure did appear less than normal but he was advised to stay in the hospital for the night and a temporary packemaker was inserted in his body. Later, a permanent pacemaker was put in its place next morning. This entailed a lot of cost and till today, he is not sure whether or not this was actually required.I myself suffered from slip disc seven years back. I was advised surgery but since spine surgery is dicey, we thought better to take more than one opinion. All the three doctors advised surgery and two of them proactively asked me whether or not I had a medical insurance. The manner in which the question was mooted reeked of something amiss and what hurt more was that one of the doctors was known to me. I once also heard about a commercial pediatrician, of all things. Even children have started being treated like commodities. The recent case of kidney thief Dr Amit Kumar, aka Dr Santosh Raut who had stolen more than 600 people’s organs in the past seven years is an extreme manifestation of this trend.

There are examples from different strata of society. The Times of India (Nov 25, 2007) talks of Maoist insurgencies violently disturbing the peace in 165 of India’s 602 districts and these are largely made up of unemployed young men, which implies that had they been employed, the turmoil, if any, would be of a lesser degree. This has been true for some of the other terrorists as well. The October 29, 2007 issue of India Today reported how in the last six years, 17 officers of the rank of Brigadier and above have been indicted in corruption and misappropriation of funds, which includes the sale of military rations like meat, pulses, liquor and fuel in the open market. The situation was aptly summed up by a retired major general, “Among politicians and bureaucrats, it is an exception to be honest, in the Army, it is an exception to be corrupt. “There are many people of the view that the Kashmir issue had to be kept alive to sustain the Pakistani Army’s dominance and importance in that country.”

We have cases like prohibition not being implemented because of fear of losing excise revenue of liquor industry and ditto for tobacco. The Times of India reported that health minister, Ramadoss stipulating gory picture advertisements after December 1, 2007, as a measure to prevent smoking , said: “Four chief ministers and 150 MPs have met me to tell me that they don’t want anti-smoking advertisements and labeling of products. Seven chief ministers wrote to me pleading for the beedi workers and one chief minister met me three times regarding this. Are the lives of 1.1 billion people not more valuable than the livelihood of 30 lakh beedi workers from this kind of work?”. He further added that it
was unfortunate that the fight against the tobacco lobby had run into opposition from his own colleagues.

In the corporate world, Arthur Anderson and Enron are examples of fraud by the company’s auditors, as their audit and other consultation compensation depended upon the powers in the corporate world. The chairman of Infosys, Mr Narayan Murthy, a man known as much for his integrity as for his numerous achievements in the software industry admits in the book Business Gurus speak, “Since all our operations were outside, we had very few operations here(India) and had no need to bribe anyone. Maybe we would have done it, if forced to by circumstances. Every corporation can take only a limited amount of nuisance; beyond that it becomes very difficult”. One has to admire Mr Murthy’s forthrightness in admitting this. In motivation speaker Arindham Chaudhary’s book Count the chickens before they hatch, it was mentioned that a popular teleserial espousing simplicity was discontinued for fear of losing ad revenues.

Speaking from my own experience, the best boss(an outstanding CEO and later very successful businessman) that I worked under told me once that “ I draft a legal agreement with the assumption that the entire world is a cheat.”. When I started my career, my father who turned around a sick company warned me: “All your inter-departmental communication and not just communication with outside parties should also be in written form. People flatly deny what they may have committed or said” . One of the factors attributed to Dhirubhai Ambani’s success is trust but it is better to tread the middle ground as advocated by a book on leadership by Harvard University which cautions “Trust but Verify”. How is one to know that the person being trusted remains trustworthy throughout his life.

Since most cases are reported in the media, they also have their share of the black sheep. On July 5 2007, The Times of India reported that a Rajkot woman stages semi-nude protest against dowry demand when alleged mental and physical abuse by her husband’s family drove a 22-year-old woman,Pooja Chuahan to strip to her underwear and walk through the city in protest. I happened to be in Rajkot in August on some personal work and could not help asking a well known personality about this incident. She said that while there was some truth in the matter, she had learnt from reliable sources that Pooja had been encouraged to do this by a local Journalist for a news story. Then she narrated her own experience on how she had given an advertisement in a newspaper once and was called by a rival newspaper to give a similar ad to prevent being projected in a bad light in that paper. When I narrated this story to a gentleman from pharmaceuticals industry on my train back to Delhi, he narrated a similar story of his own. The autobiographies of cricketing superstars, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev reflect very poorly on some elements in the media . A former filmstar who used to be asked about his reported rumors reported in the film press would dismiss such talk with a brusque remark “They have to sell their magazines”. It sounded like they could write anything to sell their magazines. Many spiritual books denounce the ad world for projecting wants as needs or necessities.

The examples of lower strata of society are somewhat amusing. When a panwallah was interviewed during the Babri mandir demolition in Ayodhya about his views on the Mandir- masjid issue, prompt came the reply, “Chaahe kuch bhi bane, humare pet pe laat nahin lagni chaahiye”. (Whatever happens, our livelihood should not be affected) This was followed by a Rickshawalla’s comment in Delhi, “ Mandir bhi banao, masjid bhi banao par sabse pahle Rickshaw stand banao. (Construct both Mandir and Masjid but first construct a Riksha stand). The most humorous remark that I have heard in the context of someone trying to defend his professional interest is “It is like asking a barber whether you need a haircut or not”.

One comes across articles not only on politicians but people from other professions on how they go to any lengths to make money in total disregard of all professional ethics. “Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship god and over these ideals they dispute but everybody worships money” — Mark Twain . It reminds of an old song: “na biwi na bachha na baap bada na bhaiyan the whole thing is that ke bhaiya sabse bada rupaiya.”


One more song which is perhaps one of the all time greats of Hindi Cinema but could not escape the editor’s scissors above but is representative of the situation(particularly the last two paragraphs). It shows that people have a natural tendncy to pull out all stops to safeguard their professional interest .:-

Chingari koi dhadke, to savan use bujhaaye
savan jo agan lagaye , use kaun bujhaaye ?

Pathjar jo baag ujaade, toh baag bahaar khillaye
jo baag bahar mein ujade, use kaun bujhaye ?

Koi dushman thes lagaaye , to meet jiya bahlaaye,
Man meet jo ghaav lagaaye, use kaun mitaaye ?.

Duniya jo pyaasa rakeen, to majhira pyaas bujhaaye
Majhira jo pyaas lagaaye, use kaun bujhaaye ?.

Majhdar me naiya dole, to maajhi paar lagaayen
Maajhi jo naav duboye, use kaun bachaaye?

Child-A seed or a weed?

This article was published in the April’2008 of the Education magazine Educare

Right education

Enforcing a standard system of education on children to whom it does not apply can be disastrous

On March 17, 2008, The Times of India reported that a total of 5,857 students committed suicide in the year 2006. According to national crime bureau statistics, of this 5,628 students were below the age of 30. In my previous article on the subject in March 2008, I was not aware of the statistics and one really wonders what the overall trend over the years has been. In the previous article, I had mentioned some small practical steps that the government has been taking to ease the exam tension. That apart, since a lot of competition is for admission in educational institutions, the government should seriously contemplate inviting foreign universities or whatever it takes to increase the number of educational institutions. In the same NCRB statistics, it is given that farming related suicides in 2006 were 17,060. If the government can waive Rs 60,000 Cr for farmers in the recent union budget even if it represented vote bank politics, they can surely do something for the students.

The previous article ended with how the education system does not cater to the kinesthetic learner or people who prefer to learn through a more hands on approach. An article on boosting brain power in the Readers Digest divided learners into several IQ groups — the bottom five per cent with a risk of not functioning in society, the next 20 per cent ‘slow learners’; the middle 50 per cent hands-on types who learn better on the job than in the classroom; the next 20 per cent potential leaders. The last category was of the successful five per cent that were the best brains or thinkers. It seems that in spotting the last two categories or the cream, the education system converts the dream of the rest into a nightmare.

As stated above, many people prefer learning by doing or application and to have a standard education system for different kinds of learning or assessing styles is fundamentally wrong. That apart, in practical life, it is application alone that matters and the education system should be more application oriented instead of testing knowledge and memory, which, in any case is a little out of place in the internet era. In an India Today article a few years ago, professor Yash Pal, eminent scientist and chairman of the Steering Committee for Curricular Reform, said, “Technology has provided the means of recording and retrieving information at will. It is stupid for us to want students to do that. We must make exams in such a way that it does not bank on memory but emphasises thinking capability and understanding.” That depends a lot on the individual learning style of the student apart from aptitude.

Bill Gates puts it very profoundly in his book, Business at the speed of thought: “Technology makes it easier to scale classes to age and ability and individualise learning. About fifty major theories attempt to characterise individual learning styles. All people have different levels of aptitude and different personalities and life experiences that may motivate or demotivate them to learn. PCs can help change the learning experience from the traditional approach, a teacher instructing in front of the class room to a more hands-on approach that takes advantage of the natural curiosity of all ages.” Though Gates is talking more in the context of how the PC and the internet can be used to enhance learning , his emphasis on a more hands on approach or an approach that makes learning easier and interesting for different types of children is clearly evident.

Our education system seems to stick to traditional methods of teaching and assessing, which is perhaps in their own interest. George Bernard Shaw said: “Those who can, teach, else they do”. Steve Nordby improved upon that quote by saying: “Those who can do. Those who can’t teach. Those who can’t teach train teachers. Those who can’t train teachers write teacher training textbooks.” In some ways, it seems that teaching is more geared to fulfil the needs of the teacher to teach rather than customising what is taught to the learning style of the students.

Here, the role of kith and kin of the students also have a role to play. I had on one occasion discussed student suicides with one of Delhi’s top nuero-psychiatrists who had pamphlets in his reception on how to spot a potential suicide from a variety of reasons. Where students are concerned, he said, “The problem in India is that everybody considers themselves an expert on all sorts of issues. When the person concerned himself has a lot of problem determining his own potential, where is the need for everyone to give an opinion?” People have tendencies to make comparisons with others and offer judgments like ‘excuses’ or ‘attitude problem’, which maybe far from the truth, which may have more to do with the individuality of the person concerned.

Recently, I completed a one week ‘Training the Trainer’ programme from the Indian society for training and development. While I was contemplating joining the programme, I asked the programme director, Major General Dhir, the difference between the one-week programme and an eighteen-month diploma on the same subject. He promptly replied, “In the diploma, the focus is more on the subject and the knowledge. In the one week course, the focus is more on the individual and skills.” In other words, the workshop was more application oriented. I could not help wondering whether or not what Major General Dhir said was the bane of the education system. We are required to answer a questionnaire referring to notes and outside books, write a dissertation followed by a video recording of six hours of training. This may not suit all subjects but is a far more practical method of assessment. Testing memory puts unnecessary stress on the students and does not really test their potential. Therefore, it is a loss both ways. Training is clearly a more hands-on approach than teaching and probably suits a lot of students.

I have myself come across several people, who, though not qualified MBAs have better functional talent. Here is an example of one such hands-on learner, Suvir Behl, a shares trader and investor who did very well in practical life despite not doing that well academically. In his own words: “After completing my graduation in 1998, I completed a course at National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi in the year 2000, after which I tried for a couple of jobs in the garments sector, but they did not appeal to me. Since my maternal grandfather had been a very good and successful investor, the stock markets had always been a fascination. I started in the stock markets in a small way in 2001, by investing small sums of money both for me and my immediate family. Initially, there were times when I lost money but they were more in the nature of teething troubles and learning experiences. In my view, the failures are as instrumental for consistent long term success as knowledge or intelligence. I started reading extensively about the markets and the various companies I invested in. I learnt a lot and consider myself reasonably successful today. From the seed capital with which I started , my portfolio has multiplied several times, and my clientele is improving quantitatively and qualitatively every year.”

He added: “Though never short of confidence, I was an average student throughout school and college. I feel that to be successful in life, deep interest and knowledge about one’s profession which comes by experience and basic practical in intelligence is more important than degrees. In my own case, though I never attended any formal course in the stock market, the broad reading fuelled by my natural interest queered the pitch for success.”

I must add here that following Suvir’s footsteps is not recommended. The stockmarket has also proved to be extremely dangerous for certain other youngsters. The broker confirmed that Suvir was a good investor and a success as a trader which is more an exception than the rule.. Trading psychology itself advocates that one should discover one’s niche and style instead of blindly acquiring knowledge. I found Suvir equally if not more resourceful than some of other well known and more qualified traders.

In my previous article, I mentioned about my friend AK, who got several double promotions and went on to establish businesses of his own. In my last meeting with him, he mentioned that in his engineering college, one of his friends, RG was the topper but in real life he invited AK to join his company as finance was not his cup of tea and AK had better all round practical intelligence. AK also mentioned that a few months back a relatively less qualified but street smart businessman could prove to be a tough competitor but qualifications can make a very good first impression. However, if degrees are not backed by performance, they can flatter to deceive. There is another friend of ours who is a chartered accountant by qualification but does not seem to be doing well either in that profession or the businesses that he has tried so far.

In recent times, two men who have done really well in real life without commensurate educational achievements are Sunil Mittal, the chairman of Bharti Telecom and Naresh Goyal, chairman of Jet Airways. Amitabh Bachchan and Kishore Kumar had no real formal training in their respective fields but both were outstanding successes in their chosen professions. In a recent book Dhirubhaiism, the author, AG Krishnamurthy states: “Dhirubhai could see skills in us we never knew we had.” The author further states that in following Dhirubhai’s philosophy, as chairman of Mudra advertising , he went to talented newcomers instead of tried and tested superstars and reaped rich dividends. It is ultimately functional and practical talent that matters more in the real world than anything else.

In a recent book Be Inspired, the author, a Sydney-based Indian, Amber Ahuja has given each of the above in detail in the form of worksheet skills and abilities assessment directions. Giving Indian examples, the same book also states at four give different places how critical it is to identify one’s career correctly early in life for long term success. That need not be necessarily reflected in one’s qualifications. Morgan and Banks have also stated that niche individuals or those who are good at few things should even be more particular about choosing the right career. What happens to those who are not able to do so?

I had written my first article on career misfits in life. Though I had titled it ‘The essence of true education’, the editor after finding the content too strong, changed it to “Don’t settle for less than a calling”. Thereafter, I have regularly come across 2-3 US-based websites every year, which talk of frustration in the wrong career even, if, in some cases it pays off well. One website I came across last week is UK centric and is called careershifters.org . Some of the terms used in this website like switch doctors, switch surgeries apart from giving ‘inspiring real life stories’ also reflect the magnitude of the problem. Several career coaches or switch doctors have written several articles on the subject. Some of them are drastic career switches from what they were earlier doing or qualified.

One of the links from this site leads to escape-club the objective of which reads something like this: “Are you a successful professional, but bored or unhappy with your work? Do you want to be more fulfilled and feel that your work actually has an impact? We believe that you can ‘escape’ to work that is meaningful, and want to help you a identify what is the work that would bring you more fulfilment and overall happiness, create an action plan to help you get the work.” It really reminds me of the movie The great escape. In one cover story of Fortune magazine, one executive was quoted as saying, “You get to the top of the ladder and find that maybe it’s leaning against the wrong building.”. This clearly shows that just being well qualified and reaching the top does not lead to the kind of personal fulfilment that should normally be the end result of by product of success. There is plenty of evidence to show that in the long run, people look more for meaningful work than mere monetary reward. Reminds one of the interesting saying “Work is what you do to make the money to do what you really want to do.”

One has to be able to identify one’s true calling as early as possible. IIM Lucknow professor, Debashish Chatterjee in his book Break free states that to identify one’s true talent, one has to go back to one’s school days and determine what activity they enjoyed the most during leisure, to find out whether one could carry out this activity for a long period of time and determine whether or not this activity made you truly happy. Professor Chatterjee’s views are in congruence with what many American psychologists have to say on the subject. The teacher’s role should be geared more towards this when a child is more in the seed form rather than blindly stuffing knowledge.

One wonders if the biblical parable of the sower and the seed can be applied to different kinds of individuals in terms of their learning styles and how a standard education system can be redundant. In the parable it is said that some seeds scattered by the farmer fell on the wayside and were devoured by the birds; some fell on stony places where they could not build sufficient root and withered when the sun shone; some fell among thorns, which grew up and choked them but some fell on good ground where they grew and bore fruit. A child is like a seed and this is what can happen to the seed if it falls in the wrong place in terms of a wrong career and of the wrong learning style that has been vividly described above. Once again, the words of Wipro chairman Azim Premji come to mind. Imagine a school, which sees children as seeds to be nurtured — here the teacher is a gardener who tries to bring out the potential already present in the child. This is very different from the current view, which sees the child as clay to be moulded where the teachers and parents are potters deciding what shape the clay should take.” Enforcing a standard education system on children to whom it does not apply is bound to have disastrous results. There is an old Chinese saying, “Give a seed to a potter and you shall have a bonsai.”

From the suicide statistics, it almost seems that instead of a seed, a child is treated like a weed in our society. About 2,500 years ago, Socrates said that education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. According to Prof Chatterjee, the difference between a candle and a flame is the difference between a resource and a source. A resource reduces when shared and a source gets augmented when shared. A candle is a good source but is burnt out. On the other hand , a flame can alight a million other flames, which is what can happen in the long run when a seed is given the right kind of environment.

Lead India; don’t Bleed India

This article is published in the March’2008 issue of the magazine Management compass

What is an idea without execution?

RK Mishra’s readiness to get hands dirty made him Lead India winner

The lead India campaign launched by The Times of India to provide an alternative platform for those desirous of joining politics culminated on February 9, 2007 when RK Mishra from Bangalore was declared winner and Dewang Nanavati was declared the runner up. The manner in which the entire campaign was conducted and the kind of response it drew made it seem that the process itself was the biggest winner. No wonder former President Abdul Kalam declared, “Lead India is the best movement I have come across in the recent past.”

Victory apart, Mr Mishra has an interesting profile and is quite a role model for young people. Born in 1965, he is an ME graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Having been a successful entrepreneur, he left the lucrative corporate world in 2005 to bring about large-scale social change. Mishra specialises in policy planning and investments and works with the governments of Karnataka and Rajasthan among others. He is obsessed with making a difference in infrastructure and rural education, as reflected in his blog http://rajendramisra.blogspot.com.

What clinched the victory was a plan that he outlined to set up a co-operative dairy farm to transform the life in the village where he was born. He presented a well thought- out plan with time-bound targets and actionable goals, which impressed both the audience and the jury. The Times of India further reports, “The combination of Mishra’s story — rags to riches to social service — and his successful track record both as serial entrepreneur and activist proved to be unbeatable. His ability to think big, coupled with his willingness to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty, made a big impact in the one sided 6-1 verdict.”

He reminds you of Shah Rukh Khan’s role in Swades, where he plays an NRI who becomes determined to help bring prosperity to his village. Around the time the movie was released, India Today, in one of its issues, highlighted how some other NRIs in reality were actually doing the same thing. It is not everyday that real life follows reel life in such matters and it should form a complete virtuous circle when they are again highlighted on reel — on television. Shah Rukh had said in one of his interviews, “It takes a show off to be a show on.” Who would have known about Mishra if Lead India and TV had not highlighted him. Such committed people can do a world of good to politics.

Both the winner and the runner-up complimented each other’s strengths. Nanavati conceded that “RK is a doer, not a talker” which probably gave him the edge. Mishra acknowledged Nanavati’s skills “Dewang argues his case well. I must learn from him.” Their comments reminds one of the Japanese proverb “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” Articulating one’s vision effectively and implementing the same are equally important. Even venture capitalists say that they fund teams and execution, not ideas. Our entrepreneurs are now being respected in boardrooms and markets all over the world for their ability to combine vision and ambition with execution. There is no reason why it should be different in politics; the hand is the cutting edge of the mind.

Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh made an interesting remark
“Lead India is a very good concept. But it deals with the classes. Only when these finalists have their share of blending with the masses, will a real leader emerge.” Being proved competent is one thing but that need not always translate into votes. Former Pakistani captain Imran Khan is a case in point. Being a national icon because of being a very good all rounder and a great cricket captain, who won them the world cup in 1992, he also took the initiative of having a cancer hospital constructed, which also won him a lot of appreciation. But when he joined active politics, he could not translate his achievements into votes. Even accounting for the fact that Pakistan is not really a successful democracy, one cannot take the voters or a mass base for granted.

Talking of Pakistan in this context brings to mind Fatima Bhutto, the daughter of Murtaza and grand daughter of former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. An established newspaper columnist in her own right, this is what Fatima had to say about dynastic politics after the recent death of her aunt, Benazir, “The idea that it has to be a Bhutto, I think, is a dangerous one. It doesn’t benefit Pakistan. It doesn’t benefit a party that’s supposed to be run on democratic lines and it doesn’t benefit us as citizens if we think only about personalities and not about platforms.” She also rejected her own claim to the Bhutto legacy. The Times initiative has created a kind of alternative platform of sorts in India at least and it is only a matter of time before other personalities emerge.

In India’s context, a prominent former US secretary of state had once said, “The most powerful job in the world is that of the president of the United states but the most difficult job in the world is that of the prime minister of India.” He probably said that because of the different kinds of diversities that we have in India which can make a politician’s job tougher and implies the need for really talented people. Whether somebody should come from a political family or not, he should be and seen to be competent. Ability should be supported by visibility and the Lead India has shown how TV can be used effectively for this to fructify.

One of the best performing politicians in recent times has been Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Being a Delhi based Gujarati, one cannot know the ground reality in Gujarat but whenever I go to Ahmedabad, I am amazed at the kind of popular support he enjoys. The people there not only keep reiterating that he knows how to run the government but also speak about his clean image. Having won the election for the third time in succession, he has proved that the anti-incumbency syndrome can be an exception, not the rule. The February 18 latest issue of India Today has reported that voters across the country voted him as the best chief minister. Though 77 per cent of the voters in Gujarat rated him the best chief minister ever, he got a nationwide approval rating of 19 per cent and polled double the number of votes than his nearest rival, UP chief minister Mayawati. This shows that for people, development and not emotive issues is the prime agenda. Maybe television could also be used to highlight the good points of Modi’s governance for everybody’s benefit, just as young MBAs used to go to Karasanbhai Patel’s Nirma once upon a time to learn about how it took on Hindustan lever.

Unfortunately, unlike the two major forces that unite India, Bollywood and cricket, politics is not transparent enough for the wrong kind of people to be weeded out. Unlike the corporate world, where in addition to short and long term goals, job description, competencies and role analysis are identified and followed up by performance management, nothing like that takes place in politics, which is strange because the scale of operations and implications are far greater in a country than a company. One gets to read several newspaper reports that the public in the US is not only disenchanted with President Bush but also dissatisfied with the kind of leadership options that they have in the current Presidential elections. When people like Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj singh can be criticised strongly for non-performance, there should be no scope for poor performance in politics even in the short term and there should be a mechanism for removing non performers instead of waiting for five years. Such mechanisms should also prevent them from taking grossly unpopular moves like the Iraq war for instance.

At the same time, one should have realistic expectations from politicians. The book Mind of a Manager, Soul of a Leader says that charismatic leaders get organisations started and then pass on the baton to the bureaucrats, professionals or scientific managers who can run them. In the BJP, while Vajpayee is credited with brilliant oratory and charisma, it is Advani who is perceived as the capable organisation man. Thought leadership and executive leadership does not necessarily have to emanate from the same person. There should be a proper follow —through to ensure that they are performing to their potential.

Modi had said in one of his interviews that development without security does not have much meaning. In a similar vein, talent without transparency does not have much meaning. In the past 15 years, business has increasingly discovered the virtues of good governance, not necessarily because of a sudden stab of conscience, but because of the premium that foreign investors place on transparency Why should voters not do the same? In the age of mass communication, if the media does not make latent political talent transparent, who will? Lead India is an effective rebuttal to those who say that the media only focuses on negative events. The rest of the media should follow the lead of The Times of India, which in turn should also try to highlight non —performers — Lead India; don’t Bleed India.


In my original submission to the editor, I had mentioned in the context of different thought and executive leaderhship that the current ruling party team of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh also reperesent different leaderships. While Mrs Gandhi can sway the masses with the background of her political legacy of the Gandhi family, Mr Manmohan singh is the head of the government on merit. The orator/charmer/rabble rouser does not have to be a part of the govt and vice versa. One can only hope for the day, when like our cricket and filmstars, politicians too acquire a mass base on good governance instead of parochial emotive issues or diversities fuelled by the illiteracy of our masses.

For those interested I had also covered Talent Management in Politics in my earlier article Pahle Aandhi Phir Gandhi published in the same magazine in October’2007.