Ethics in Management – Vedantic perspectives

I sometimes quote instances from the field of sports. In a cricket World Cup, praise was heaped on the Aussie player, Adam Gilchrist for “walking”. Some people say that it is the Umpire’s job to declare a batsman out or not out; it is within the fielding side’s rights to appeal and if the Umpire errs, that is just too bad!; in this electronic age, the Umpire has the assistance of video-replays; by ‘walking’, a player might jeopardize his team’s chances of winning, etc.

Sledging” (provocation by words or action to make a batsman lose his concentration) is another aspect that has generated a lot of debate.
Is there anything here that your elders have not told you?

I would also wonder why these simple things need to be taught again to adults. The class itself would respond that there is a continual degeneration or deterioration of values in the society and we need to re-learn! Then I would list out “Values” and also “Dis-values”.

Then I would tease the class, “Is there anything here that your elders have not told you?” Actually, dis-values are “impurities of the mind” and according to Buddhist philosophy, there are some more such impurities like covetousness, conceit, indolence, malevolence, malice and treachery. Personality is what a person does; character is what a person is.

As the Mahabharata says, a man’s acquisitions of knowledge, fame and riches would be purposeless if he was characterless. The lesson to be learnt from Krishna-avatar is that character alone distinguishes a person and that other considerations like birth in a higher caste are irrelevant.

The pursuit of spirituality: 

At about this juncture, I would sense the mood of the class and their unspoken question :- “It is all very well and easy for you to talk about cleansing the impurities of the mind. You are the Vice Principal and we have to listen to you! But how does one go about acquiring character or a solid base of Human Values?”

I would confess that while I may appear to be pontificating, I cannot claim to have fully cleansed the impurities of my own mind and so, the session is actually a joint-learning endeavor. I would then suggest that the answer to their unspoken question lies in spirituality. The pursuit of spirituality is not about God and religion. It is about man’s constant quest for inner harmony and the ability to unleash the power of one’s full potential.

Real motivation comes from within an individual. Spirituality helps people to understand the link between work and true happiness. A doyen of the banking industry, the late Shri R.K.Talwar has said, “I always remain fully convinced about the truth that spirituality supports managerial roles. Basic values come from there.”

In his book, “Ignited Minds”, our President, Dr.Kalam narrates his meeting with the Swamiji of the Swaminarayan Sanstha at Ahmedabad, when he asked the Swamiji – “We have identified five important areas to transform India…… but how do we create people with values to carry out such a big vision?” The Swamiji replied, “Along with these five, you needed a sixth one – faith in God and developing people through spirituality…. We need to first generate a moral and spiritual atmosphere……….”.

Archie, what did you pray for: 

While the Bhagavad Gita says, “Seek to perform your duty; but lay not claim on its fruits”, Gandhiji has said, “Every right accrues from a duty well done”. The accent in both statements is on DUTY. Archie Moore was the undisputed World boxing champion, in some weight category, for twelve consecutive years, in the late ’ forties and early ’fifties. He would pray before every bout.

One of his ardent fans, who was also his trainer’s son, once asked him, “Archie, what did you pray for?” Not being educated, Archie replied, “I pray it be good fight. I pray nobody gonna get hurt”. (He probably meant that neither of the boxers should sustain brain damage or other such debilitating injury). The boy was surprised and asked, “What? Didn’t you pray to win?”

Archie shook his head and said, “Nope”. The boy, almost in tears, asked pleadingly, “But, Archie, why?” Archie replied, “Because, the other boy, he pray to win too. Then what God gonna do?” It is unlikely that Archie Moore had even heard of the Gita. But he had decided that he will do his duty(job) and not approach even God for assistance to succeed.

What a lofty wisdom from an unlettered man! Gen. George Patton, nicknamed “Blood and Guts” for his toughness, has said, “If I do my full duty, the rest will take care of itself”. Incidentally, for all his outward profanity, he was a devout man who read the Bible, in his own words, “every goddamned day”(!)

Winning is not about being the strongest or the fastest but of persistence and a fanaticism for excellence :

On seeing this slide, invariably the class would pounce on me : “Without a ‘killer instinct’, how can we compete?” I point out that to be competitive, one does not have to “kill”. We are not gladiators! Our survival or even winning will depend on the quality of our service, which includes the way we treat our customers. As Azim Premji has said, “Winning is not about being the strongest or the fastest but of persistence and a fanaticism for excellence”. Confucius has said, “He who exercises government by means of his virtue, may be compared to the north polar star which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it”.

Thirukkural, the Tamil Classic written by Thiruvalluvar 2000 years ago, is all about Ethics and Values only. So much so that Dr.Albert Schweitzer was moved to comment, “With sure strokes, the Kural draws the ideal of simple ethical humanity. There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find so much lofty wisdom”.

Gandhiji has said, “The maxims of Valluvar have touched my soul”. Business pundits now talk about ‘leadership’, instead of ‘management’ and ‘mentoring’. (Perhaps I should re-name my sessions as ‘Business Leadership by Human Values’ !) It is submitted that these two have been combined in the Wisdom Leadership (‘Rajarshi’) concept found in our scriptures. (The emphasis is on ‘wisdom’ rather than ‘knowledge’).

The supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably, integrity:

As Dwight Eisenhower has said, “The supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably, integrity”. The index of a man’s eminence, irrespective of his position, scholastic attainments and wealth is his integrity. Iacocca has written that McNamara’s high standards of integrity used to drive subordinates crazy. Every move of the leader is watched by the people below him. That is why Buck Rodgers urges, “Be cognisant of the effect that you (as leader) have on the environment”.

To put it simply, would any accountant dare to fudge balance sheets, inflate sales or assets figures or do any such skulduggery without the overt or covert concurrence of the leader? By the same token, a mentor is expected to guide the neophytes, not only through the maze of business intricacies but also in building their character. I am convinced that the mentoring concept in business has been drawn from the concept of preceptors (acharya; guru) found in some religions. So it goes without saying that the mentor should not only be wise but also possess character.

Sage Ramanuja had thrown open the doors of the Srirangam temple to the lower castes; Periyar EVR Naicker succeeded similarly at Vaikom (Kerala); Ram Mohan Roy’s crusade led to the abolition of ‘Sati’; centuries before the French revolution, Basaveshwara preached liberty, equality and fraternity. He fought against untouchability and the hierarchial caste system.

Am I willing to stand by my values, even if it means paying a price?

Mahatma Phule, Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and many unsung heroes have stuck to their Values. However, not all of such people have succeeded; some have had to pay a heavy price. (The three ladies nick named ‘Whistle blowers’, who were chosen by Time magazine as Persons of the Year, are without jobs now). Thus, actually, the question is, “Am I willing to stand by my values, even if it means paying a price?” Only the concerned individual can answer this question. Indeed many have, by their actions, answered positively.

Another aspect is that of ‘Compromise’. Sir Adrian Cadbury (of the Cadbury Committee fame) narrates that his grand father, who was opposed to the Boer War, had received an order from Queen Victoria for tins of chocolates to be sent to the British soldiers. “He resolved (his ethical) dilemma by carrying it out at cost.

He, therefore, made no profit out of what he saw as an unjust war, his employees benefited from the additional work, the soldiers received their royal present…..” If only all ethical dilemmas could be solved in such a simple manner! All of us endeavour to achieve Managerial or Leadership Effectiveness or Excellence.

Please note that Values come first!)  

This is a blend of two components, viz., Human Values and Skills. (Please note that Values come first!) A surfeit of skills will never compensate for a deficit in values. “Perverted use of sharp intellect” is the problem of today’s society. As Lee Iacocca has said, “All the talent in the world does not excuse deliberate rudeness”. Skills are the external side of the work and Values are the internal side of the worker himself.

One can be strong or weak in these two components, which gives rise to four types of people/managers. The title? Oops, sorry, I didn’t explain earlier. It’s been flicked from a quotation:- “Values. A terrible business. You can at best stammer when you talk about them” – Wittgenstein, (1889 – 1951), Austrian – born British philosopher. ‘Terrible’ or not, it is an important business.

1. Ethics in Management – Vedantic perspectives
2. Values and Ethics for Organisations(Both by Dr.S.K.Chakraborty)
3. “Business World” magazine

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