The Mahabharata is not about good and evil — instead, it teaches you that life is grey. Defining the grey is not easy because it is deeply rooted to the context. So, negotiate the grey.”
Spiritual discourse by a seer? No, words of wisdom for future global managers in an IIM-Bangalore classroom. What has the Mahabharata got to do with IIMs? Lots.
Pandavas with modern executives:
The great Indian epic can be used to compare each of the Pandavas to managers of today with their roles, strengths, weaknesses and consequences.
The popular elective course — Spirituality for Global Managers — has management students looking at Krishna as the CEO; Yudhishtir who binds together values; Bhima (outcomes); Arjun (learning); Karna (legitimacy); Nakul (process) and Shadev (purpose).
Says Ramnath Narayanaswamy, professor at IIM-B: “The Ramayana and Mahabharata are outstanding texts for all times and can be contemporised to any age. The Pandavas, Karna included, are each a great hero with a fatal flaw.”
What is interesting is the way in which each of the Pandavas has been made relevant in the management context. Explains Narayanaswamy: “Yudhishtir is the mentor whose strengths are his values and beliefs. He stands for propriety but he is blinded by his code of honour. Similarly, Bhima is an ‘executor’ manager. For him, the outcome is supremely important, the bottomline matters — his weakness is he can be blinded by rage.”
Nakul, points out the IIM-B professor, is the enabler — the service hero of today.
“He’s driven by process, but there’s no active leadership. Sahadeva is the visionary, but he is like the manager who stands for thought and no action. Karna’s strength is personal loyalty, it also brings about his doom. He’s like the manager of today who’d buy vegetables for his bosses,” says Narayanaswamy.
Arjun stands for flawless perfection. His strength is that he’s assailed by doubt, but he’s willing to learn.
But the best part is the course’s attempt to “isolate the insides of religious traditions and contemporaneous them” in a managerial situation. “Scholars from different religious traditions deliver lectures. These include Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sufism, Jainism, Judaism and other religions, though the focus is not on scriptures. The focus is on spirituality, not religion.”
Ramnath Narayanaswamy says: “There are three components in management — the analytical (head), the emotional (heart) and the spiritual (soul). But, management education completely ignores emotional intelligence (EI) and focuses only on analytical intelligence. However, our young future managers need feeling and imagination. It’s difficult to teach these as they are experience-driven. Life skills like creative thinking, listening, mentoring, working under pressure, empathy, team building — all these come from EI.”