The LGBT Sandwich

Lettuce, grated cheese, bread, and turkey make a delicious sandwich. Unfortunately, Supreme Court of India has ordered LGBTs to cold turkey their sexual activities; else, they will face criminal prosecution. The poor souls are sandwiched between the Delhi High Court order that liberated them four years back and the Supreme Court latest order banishing them into dark ages. Maybe banning judges from issuing judgments on the last day of service that impact nearly 10% of the nation’s population would benefit. Can India in this day and age declare 12 million Indians as potential criminals because of sexual preferences?

The politicians have jumped at the opportunity to make their vote banks stronger for the coming national elections in May 2014. Sonia Gandhi said Parliament would pass a law to decriminalize homosexuality. Great, why wasn’t it passed earlier? BJP and some more parties have declared it is a sin. Since BJP professes to stand for Hindutva, have they read the Hindu scriptures on this topic. Politicians and judges are playing with the personal lives of 12 million Indians as if they are cattle.

1.  Is it a Sin?

If God created humans, then why did he create LGBTs if they are supposedly immoral? Do we say a person is evil because he has one blue eye and one black eye? Are differently abled people born criminals? In the worst-case scenario, one can say LGBTs are sexually differently abled. No, I am not propagating this viewpoint. There is nothing wrong with LGBTs physically, morally or intellectually. They are as normal as heterosexuals are. Heterosexuals’ intolerant attitude towards homosexuals is wrong.

Heterosexuals must stop blaming the victim under the guise of religion. In ancient India LGBTs were part of the mainstream population and respected. For instance, in Mahabharata, Arjun dresses up as a woman for one year to disguise himself. Amba, whom Bhishma refused to marry, is reborn as Shikhandini. She exchanged her sex with a Yaksha who wanted to be a female, to punish Bhishma for rejecting her in the previous birth. Lord Shiva’s one form is of Ardhanarishvara – meaning the lord who is half woman. In one story, Lord Vishnu becomes Mohini, has sexual relationship with Lord Shiva and has children from him.

The Ottoman Empire funded Islam propagation in Middle East from the 13th century. It decriminalized homosexuality during Tanzimat period (1839-76). In Persia, homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were accepted in public places. Male houses of prostitution were legally recognized and paid taxes. (1501-1723)

Hence, how can it be possible when the same religions are being followed from middle ages, previously homosexuality was an acceptable act, and now in 21st century it becomes a criminal act?

Section 377 was imposed by the British Raj in India in 1857 to stop the British homosexuals fleeing to India. Now the western world has accepted homosexuality and Indian politicians are propagating repressive policy to meet their political ambitions. As usual, they have got it backwards.

2.  It is torture?

In my teens, I turned rather precocious. When my father and I went out, I checked out guys on the road.

When dad noticed my behaviour, he was horrified. Here is the conversation that followed:

Dad: What are you doing Sonia?

Irrepressible me: My eyes turn sore from studying, I am checking out eye candies to relax them.

Aghast dad: Your sister would never do such a thing.

Brazen me: Yeah, isn’t she a duh. What a waste of good looks!

Horrified dad: Your mom….

Unfazed me: If I had mom’s looks, I could get into so much trouble.

After a few weeks, dad found a practical solution to my problem. Whenever we went out, I was driving and he sat in the front seat, looking around. When I asked him why, he responded – “Health issues, heart problem, doctors told me to reduce stress.” Meow!

Every heterosexual child has a similar story to tell. As the child becomes an adolescent, parents try to gear their emotions, desires, and social behaviour according to the cultural norms of the society. The heterosexual adolescent runs to his/her parents for solace when facing the first heartbreak and rejection.

In contrast, see the nightmare an adolescent faces when s/he realizes that they are attracted to the same sex and not the customary opposite sex. Erik Erikson, the world-renowned psychologist developed the eight stages of psychological identity development model. According to him, between the age of 13-19 years, adolescents address the questions – “Who am I? What can I be?” through social relationships. This is the stage of developing one’s own identity and if a person is unable to do so, they live with role confusion during adult age. Between 20-39 years, an adult addresses the question – “Can I love?” through romantic relationships. During this stage, a person forms intimate relationships or if s/he is unable to answer the question, lives an isolated life.

An LGBT teenager learns to attach shame and guilt for their sexual desires. The teenagers realize that if they confide in their parents, they might reject them. Their friends will socially isolate and ridicule them, their teachers will rusticate them from school, and outsiders will exploit them. The intolerant society gives them a gag order for life. The children have no adult or peer to talk to and have to live through this nightmare all alone.

As an adult, LGBTs realize that they are capable of becoming celebrated artists, musicians, philosophers, scientists, corporate leaders and sports person as long as they are willing to live a lie. With their capabilities and talent, they can earn power, fame, and money. However, they don’t have the right to hold hands of a person they love. The heterosexuals have taken their right to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Heterosexuals don’t need to put homosexuals behind bars as criminals. They have already chained them for life and prescribed them extreme psychological torture. In desperation, they join social groups, religious orders and change countries to get social acceptance and a well-defined identity. Some fervently pray to God for mercy, some turn atheists. Others in anger wish to punish heterosexuals in the same way. They want to hurt the opposite gender for making them feel inadequate. The ultimate revengeful desire would be to make heterosexuals face social rejection and isolation, to show them the torturous lives homosexuals have to live.

Unfortunately, humans are geared towards blaming the victim. In rape cases, the woman is blamed – why did she go out, why was she walking alone of the road, why was she wearing a revealing dress? Humans tend to blame others for their misfortunes, because they wish to live in a predictable world and protect themselves from feeling personally threatened. The idea behind is to tell ourselves that if we take care of ourselves, things will work out reasonably well and our world will be safe. Another woman can’t accept the fact that she escaped being a rape victim by sheer luck and she has no control on the external threat. Similarly, heterosexuals can’t accept that they are so because of sheer luck, and they could easily be homosexuals. There is still no concrete evidence that nature or nurture turns a person into a homosexual.

As we say in case of women equality, that we need men to come forward and change the thinking of other men, women alone can’t fight for equality. We need to take a similar stance for LGBTs. Heterosexuals need to come forward and embrace the cause of LGBTs equality. All that LGBTs are looking for is social acceptance. Why not give it to them?

3.   Organizations role

A decade back, I was working in Intel. One day my boss asked me to check LGBT policies as she needed to find a solution to a small issue. Stunned, I asked – “Which policies?” I had never read an organization’s LGBT policies in my career. Amused at my cluelessness, she gave me the intranet site name.

I was impressed with the site. Intel as usual had dealt with a difficult topic humanely, sensitively, openly and constructively. The introduction of the site was written by one of the heads of chip design division, a lesbian lady. She narrated her story of coming out, the stigma and social rejection she faced in her life, and what heterosexuals need to do the make LGBTs feel part of the organization. There were other similar mind-blowing stories. Additionally, a lot of reading material, policies, and guidance notes were available on the site to educate the employees.

Think would a customer refuse to purchase an Intel laptop because a division headed by a lesbian developed the processing speed. Our response would be – “Who gives a f##k, we want fast machines”. Exactly, we shouldn’t be concerned!

Closing thoughts

Indian Government and politicians need to move out of the bedroom of consenting adults. The Indian police are unable to manage and solve rape cases, and now it wishes to deal with the whole LGBT population as criminals. Hitler and Stalin ordered the death of millions to cleanse the population. Is the stance of government to treat LGBTs as criminals any better? Intolerance and disrespect are the main reasons for anger, hatred, and violence in the world. Heterosexuals show intolerance and disrespect every day to LGBTs. Let us collectively weave them in the social fabric of our lives and culture.

2014 Business Predictions Based On Bollywood Movies

In the age of big data, data mining, social media, market studies and customer feedback, it may sound surreal to analyse business trends from Bollywood movies. Strange as it may seem, Bollywood movies provide a wealth of information on cultural change, latest fads, and customer tastes. Agree, the movies aren’t intellectually stimulating or sensible; most of them are over the top but let us not be scornful about the hyperbole and read the real picture. Tell me what you make out this analysis.

1.      Women Rule

The male bastion crumbled this year;  in most of the movies the actress portrayed a strong character, frequently superior than the actor. In Ramleela, the heroine was a gun wielding female don’s daughter capable of pulling the trigger on betrayal. In Yeh Jiwani Hai Diwani, the female character, a nerd, beat the male character in academics. In Ashiqui 2, the female protagonist, a singer outperforms the male protagonist. Leading ladies are taking centre stage, they are no longer willing to play second fiddle and be decorative while the hero steals the show.

Ramleela

In business parlance, do not ignore the female customer or the female employees. Indian women are making the buying decisions, therefore ensure that the advertising pitch appeals to them and the sales process is women centric.

Additionally, after the changes in sexual harassment act and the companies act, women are gearing for a stronger role in corporate world. The Companies Act requires at least one woman to be on the board, hence develop the top talent. The sexual harassment act has empowered women and cases are making headlines. Change the work culture to ensure equality, educate staff on sexual harassment, and form legal recourse systems. Insure senior staff from sexual harassment claims and do a background check to determine propensity for sexual harassment.

2.      Think Local

Top actors and actresses made a beeline for roles with stories in rural villages and small towns. A few years back they would have turned up their noses on a project that wasn’t with a foreign country backdrop. Most of the blockbuster’s set in small towns – Chennai Express, Ramleela, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, Ranjhana, Phata Poster Nikla Hero, etc. – had tremendous box office success.

The Indian directors’ cultural understanding of customers is excellent. The trend shows Indian customers awe for foreign brands and products is reducing. The customers want products Indianized to their taste. The burger and pizza sales give ample evidence. Over 50% of the revenues of multinational fast food chains are coming from vegetarian products. For instance, McDonald’s highest grosser, Aloo (Potato) Tikki Burger recipe was made in India.

Customize products to cater to small town customers rather than the metros to get higher turnovers. In local markets, value for money concept works and not fancy brand names.

Astoundingly, employees working in metros are moving to small towns for better work-life balance. The craze for big cities, fast life is disappearing due to high cost of living, traffic and infrastructure problems, and superficial social relationships.

3.      Complete India Story

Northern India and Southern India directors and stories intersected this year. Within India, state borders are reducing in meaning. For instance, in Chennai Express the hero is from Delhi, the heroine is from Chennai. In Gori Teri Pyaar Mein, the male protagonist is from Bangalore and female protagonist is from Delhi. Bollywood is no longer targeting just North Indian customers; they are making headway in South India. A few Hindi movies were remakes of South Indian movies . Astonishingly, South Indian directors are making Hindi movies.

In the last decade, Indians are crossing inter-state borders frequently. Caste, region, and religion differences are diminishing. Business needs to rethink the marketing strategy. Products made for North Indian customers may do well in South India and vis-a-versa. Tastes are changing and acceptability levels for different products are improving. For instance, previously consumer durable major market was in North India. However, the latest survey shows the top states are– Punjab, Kerala, Haryana, Karnataka and Tamil Naidu.

4.      Focus on Gen-Y

Sweet and nice, stereotypical and rehash doesn’t sell with Gen-Y. Unique, controversial, adventurous, and nonconformist sails through. In Ranjhana, the female protagonist organizes the death of a childhood admirer to avenge the death of her adult lover. In Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, the heroine is a social activist, older than the hero, working in a remote village. In Lunchbox, the male character is a 50-year-old man falling in love with a married woman he has never seen. In Krissh 3, super heroes and villains, half human-half animal battle it out. Sporting legends biopic (Bhaag Mikka Bhaag)  and historical political drama (Madras Café) entered the arena. The conventional isn’t making its mark.

krissh 3

Indian Gen Y have information of international products on the tips of their fingers. Secondly, their tastes are similar across country. Previously, there was a vast difference in tastes of the younger generation in metros and smaller towns due to limited information. Now Google Translate has removed those barriers.

Hence, business sector needs to invest in research and innovation, an area they haven’t focused on earlier. The products must be of international quality, fresh and new, at local prices. The business that has the courage to differentiate, leave traditional thinking behind will get massive returns. Businesses centering on adventure sports, exclusive hobbies, social entrepreneurship, video games, and technology apps are expected to do well.

Moreover, organizations to attract and retain Gen Y need to transform the bureaucratic and hierarchical culture. Build a culture on openness, transparency, creativity, risk taking, and empowerment.

 5.      Foray Globally

The top grosser of the year – Dhoom 3 did good business in the international market. Now the Indian movies have rap music with Hindi lyrics, use latest technology (Krissh 3), and have glitzy action. Indian award shows have built Bollywood brand abroad. A few Indian actors and directors have gained international repute.

According to a McKinsey report, 30% of the revenues of top 100 companies in India is coming from international business. Indian companies are either taking over foreign companies or establishing their own in other countries. Hence, time has come to venture abroad keeping in mind the international tastes. Don’t sell the Indian product in its standard form. Customize it according to the international tastes by using their knowledge and technology.

Closing Thoughts

Risk managers’ check out the business strategy and plans for 2014. If the products pipeline, advertisements, sales processes, customer interactions, research and development, and talent management, isn’t considering the above-mentioned aspects, there might be some risks. Lastly, be adventurous and try out new approaches.

Wishing all my readers a very happy and prosperous new year.

News Broadcasters Contribution to National Intelligence

Six unknown people are shrieking while discussing the latest news in your living room. To make matters worse, they are cutting others mid-sentence, and rebuking and rebuffing each other with absolute disregard for conversation proprietaries. The other invitees are unfazed with the shrill level and plunge straight into the debate. After a tough day in office, you have had enough. You finally pick up the remote and flick to an international news channel where there is a more civilized discussion going on.

Watch this sample of Indian Hindi  news channels discussion. The 1000 tonnes of gold dream of a sadhu was supposed to reduce the national deficit and change the destiny of India. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an English news channel video on this topic.

The news broadcasters sensationalize the most trivial news by making it debate issue. The motley crowd gathers for their 15-minute fame. That they are being screamed at and insulted on a national broadcast does not deter them. Research shows that monkeys never call simultaneously. Each waits at least for five seconds after the caller has finished before responding. News broadcasters by no leap of imagination can be called polite conversationalist. They turn each intellectual discourse into an arena for combat. The discerning audience switches channels. Hence, I felt the need to discuss a few points.

Can public sue news broadcasters for wasting time? For instance, the swami’s dream of 1000 tonnes gold story circulated for two weeks. It died a tragic death when archaeologists reported that after digging they found a little bit of iron and broken glass bangles. Was anyone expecting anything else? Now let us assume ten Indian news channels gave one-hour airtime to this story. Approximately, ten million viewers followed the update. Hence, ten million productive hours were wasted. It approximately comes to 3470 person-years of labor squandered. Imagine the national financial loss resulting due to nonsensical stories.

Can public be inoculated from imbibing stupidity? Words seduce and rape, inspire and degrade, unite and alienate; hence, their power is infinite. The ambiance of news broadcast grates on the nerves. The invited experts are clueless on the impression of their words on their audience. The most loud-mouthed and aggressive person’s ill-informed diatribe is heard.

Media’s role is to shape public opinion by educating and enlightening audiences. They can develop an exquisite and warm relationship with them. Media easily transcends racial, cultural, and geographical boundaries and has a central role in building the knowledge level of the country. With the present level of news broadcast, government should develop a measurement scale to determine the decrease in level of intelligence and knowledge of audiences by watching the news channels.

Can news channels dedicate a few hours to positive stories? The news channels extol the gory, grotesque, and inane to get TRP ratings. The nasty stories permeate audience thinking and they turn apathetic towards distress and pain of others. The problems appear all pervasive where a single individual’s effort will not make a difference.

Shouldn’t news channels deliver enchanting, inspiring, and empowering stories for two hours every day? Tell stories about courage, compassion, altruism, brilliance, and determination. Stories encapsulating the essence of humanity.

Closing Thoughts

It is not what you know; it is how you think that makes a difference in the world. As Gandhi ji said – “Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.” News channels influence our thinking. They form the values of the nation. The irrelevant and frivolous news affects the destiny of the nation. Hence, audiences need to hold media moguls accountable to broadcast a higher standard of news. Shouldn’t this come under corproate social responsibility of media houses?

Role of Cheering Crowd in Unethical Activities

crowd

A circus joker does crazy acts with the crowd laughing and cheering him on. When a person breaks the social norms on the streets, the public considers him crazy. If he is sane and rational he will get back to normal socially acceptable behavior in no time. The response of the crowd gives feedback on the appropriateness of the act.

Similarly, when a person behaves unethically or inappropriately, the encouragement and support he receives from the crowd determines how far he will go. The crowd’s reaction decides the extent of the crime, however, the crowd is never held responsible, and the individual is.

Notice the current trend. Pop divas dance nude in videos. It is naked dance of vulgarity and obscenity, passed off as art. Obviously, singers don’t sound melodious with their clothes on! Audiences react in three ways. Some relish it and indulge their baser instincts. Most have become desensitized to it and stopped questioning it. Lastly, a few consider it vulgar and avoid it. If the last category diminishes, soon only the so-called unsophisticated will sing and dance clothed. So how does one affix responsibility of the crowd?

Let us consider another example. A man is standing on the top of a cliff, planning to jump into a river flowing 100 feet below. There is a group spurring him on, saying – “Bravo man, do it.” Two of his friends hold on two his sleeve and say – “Man, don’t do it, not worth the risk.” The man thinks his two friends were spoil sports, while others were actually his friends. He never thought that there might be people in the supporting group, wishing him dead or laughing at him. The man in the heightened state of excitement, with adrenaline flowing high leaps into the river and dies. Now will the legal system define this as murder?

It applies in the business scenario too. CEOs get top billings for churning out high growth numbers. The media praises them sky-high without delving deeply into the methods used to achieve the numbers. The employees, investors and public drive the CEOs to take bigger and bigger risks, bend more rules, be more inhuman. The CEOs see the crowds rooting for another and want the same accolade. Cheating, breaking the law, doing unethical activities seem a small price to pay to get public honour and acknowledgement. . No one stops him, tells him that he is doing something wrong; he only sees ardent admiration. Then the bubble bursts, the CEO is caught and the public vanishes overnight. The employees, media, public, and investors escape with no responsibility for motivating a person to behave unethically. The CEO spends time in prison. Should the legal system prosecute the crowd?

The power of the crowd is incredible. The support of the crowd decides the course of history, good and bad, be it Indian independence struggle or the holocaust.  The decision of the crowd is based on culture and values of the society or organization. The crowd without good cultural and ethical values will probably support wrong things. As Confucius says: –

“Guide them with policies and align them with punishments and the people will evade them and have no shame. Guide them with virtue (de) and align them with culture and the people will have a sense of shame and fulfill their roles.”

From industrial age, organizations focus on the western concept of putting processes and procedures in place. The mechanism for compliance is reward and punishment systems. Just a few organizations have invested in building a good organization culture on ethical values. It holds true for families. Parents manipulate a child’s behavior through reward and punishment, without teaching core values. Without the education to build the moral compass within the organization and in the society, people cannot be expected to support the right causes and actions. Hence, one can opine that the crowd is blameless because they know no better.

This argument can be further propagated by the current state of social values. Every person is striving to be recognized, by whatever means possible. Paris Hilton gets more coverage in media than all sages in India. The problem is that people cannot recognize true merit in others and are obsessed about others acknowledging their merit. It is a situation of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ in human thoughts. Hence, education becomes the key to change the voice of the crowd.

Closing Thoughts

Replace obedience as a virtue with critical thinking in raising children, establishing cultural values in society and organizations. Obedience hampers the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. It develops traits to go along with the crowd rather than stand apart and hold ground. Critical thinking must become a mandatory course in schools, colleges, and organizations. Focus on it, and the crowd will start making better decisions in all aspects of life.

Propagating The Case For Moral Education In India

Image Source: www.wallibs.com

Getting education for good conduct is rare these days. In ancient times, the Indian gurus  taught Ramayana, a story of victory of good over evil. Confucius Analects and Socrates discussions are mostly about good behavior, moral conduct, and principles.

Even the Indian festivals focused on building the right culture. For example, the on-going festival Navratri is for worshipping Goddess Durga, representing feminine power.  Devotees dance in the dandiya night, conduct various pujas and fasts, or understand the deep philosophy behind the concept. The three approaches differ on the same principle as reading pulp-fiction for fun, cramming up a textbook, or reading and reflecting on literature. It is just the third aspect that builds character and critical thinking; the other two are vain efforts without lasting effort.

However, 90% of the crowd focuses on the first two. The challenge lies in shifting the attention of the crowd from superficial and superfluous to serious. Unless solemnity supersedes frivolity, no one will venture for intellectual or philosophical thinking. For instance, previously people labelled geeks as weird, now they have a cool quotient. The tipping point reached when a core mass made a huge social impact through technology.  Somehow, education on moral conduct and principles needs to go viral.

In ancient times, the teachers taught moral conduct in one-to-one or a small group setting. It was the responsibility of the teacher to impart knowledge. They could assess each student’s character – strengths and weaknesses. Now with classroom and web-based training, it is the responsibility of the student to learn. Training moral conduct becomes difficult in such a setting, as the student does not receive any personal feedback on behavior.

Parents focus has changed also. A child spends most of the time in studying technical subjects, playing sports or participating in activities. The assumption is moral awareness and conduct will automatically develop without any specific attention.  Another opinion is that all humans know parenting when they have a child. The rate of depression, abuse, and crime among children clearly show that parenting skills do not come automatically. Therefore, do not assume that all parents will be able to impart moral education to their children.

The plants that are regularly watered in a garden grow; the others die. For moral behavior to flourish there has to be dedicated training.

The right time of moral training is to start at a young age; children mold easily. However, this doesn’t mean older people cannot be trained. When educated adults can be influenced to conduct a crime, join terrorist organizations, then adults can also be educated to behave morally. With the right kind of influencing and training, hardened criminals can also change. Quality of water gushing from a fountain depends on the underground supply of water. Similarly, the quality of human conduct depends on the unconscious emotions and thoughts of a person. Education and cultural osmosis changes the unconscious motivations.

Therefore, the challenge is to refocus thinking and approach to life. In the darkness of night, we realize the importance of light. However, when our life is filled with darkness, some humans move further into darkness, some struggle to bring light back into life. The ones who have had strong moral education are less likely to move into the dark life of revenge, vendetta, and bitterness. They are more likely to get their balance back in their life.

The age-old art of storytelling and Socrates methods can be applied on a mass scale using technology. The initial followers and change makers selection is critical. An artisan can’t carve rotten wood. As a sculptor makes the base ready before sculpting, the moral base of the change makers requires preparation. Then only they can act as effective influencers.

However, one size fits all approach shouldn’t be taken. Trees grow to different heights and bloom in different seasons. Human beings capacity of moral reasoning differs and requires different level of effort to understand the concepts. Hence, training should be provided after assessing the caliber of the person.

Closing Thoughts

Moral education makes a big difference in pursuit of happiness in life. Simply put, if we are moral, we harm less people, don’t participate in unethical activities, and are geared to act in a fair and just manner. This behavior itself ensures that a person makes few enemies, and has good relationships with most people. Sound relationships lay the foundation of a happy life. It is not money, but quality of relationships that leave a deep impact on peace and happiness of an individual. For a lush green lawn, a gardener waters and tends the whole garden regularly. For a fruitful life, don’t ignore moral education.

Wishing all my readers a Very Happy Dussshera.

Humility – The Gandhian Way

gandhi king

Gone are the days of Gandhian simplicity and unpretentiousness. The rush for materialism and economic progress has robbed Indians of their humility. Arrogance and egoism has taken centre stage.

Now, household help count is a status symbol while Gandhi preached self-service. He weaved the clothes he wore, and currently wearing high-end fashion brands is a social necessity. Whether in personal life, interviews, or jobs, we present a flawless image as drilled by the personal branding consultants. Admitting to weaknesses is a no-no. Our leaders are picture perfect till their names become media headlines for some scandal. Where are we heading with this behavior?

Mahatama Gandhi’s two autobiographies “The Story of My Experiments with Truth” and “Satyagraha in South Africa” reveal the humility of the great man.

1.  Humility in Personal Life

“The Story of My Experiments with Truth” sounds more of a confession of wrong doings and mistakes from childhood to adult life. Gandhi ji admitted to smoking cigarettes, eating meat, acting like a sex-starved teenager with his wife and visiting brothels a couple of times. He basically did what all youngsters do in the name of adventure, rebellion and growing up. However, very few leaders take the trouble of writing them down to share it with their followers,  to enable the followers to learn from the leaders mistakes.

Nowadays, doing so at the peak of the political career is considered suicidal. Our society needs a reality check. It needs to accept that failures are a part of life, no one is perfect, not even our greatest leader. Alas, others look akin to a clown, a circus joker, a pathetic beggar, a disreputable character, a corrupt greedy man, a ruthless psychopath, a loose woman, a calculating witch, but prey why do we miss seeing all these in self.

2.  Obsession With Titles

A title is the ultimate hallmark of supremacy, be it Lord, King, CEO, President. If you have an exalted designation on your visiting card, all character flaws, deficiencies and short comings are wiped clean. People must bow down in front of you and you get the right to treat them inhumanely with disrespect. Contrast this with Gandhi ji’s attitude towards the title of Mahatma bestowed on him. He mocked and ridiculed it. In the introduction of the book  “The Story of My Experiments with Truth” he wrote -

“My experiments in the political field are now known, not only in India, but to a certain extent to the ‘civilized’ world. For me, they have not much value; and the title of Mahatma that they have won for me has, therefore, even less. Often the title has deeply pained me; and there is not a moment I can recall when it may be said to have tickled me.”

About his second visit to Kashi Vishanath Temple he indulged in some good-natured self-depreciating humor –

“Since then I have twice been to Kashi Vishvanath, but that has been after I had already been afflicted with the title of Mahatma, and experiences such as I have detailed above had become impossible. People eager to have my darshan would not permit me to have a darshan of the temple. The woes of Mahatmas are known to Mahatmas alone. Otherwise the dirt and the noise were the same as before.”

Ask the question “Who am I?” If the response is a designation or a degree, then there is confusion in identity.

3.  Grandiosity of Leaders

Everyone desires to be a leader as it makes them look grand in eyes of others. Aspiring leaders avoid contemplating whether they actually inspire their followers, work on improving the world and add value to the society. The aim is to get the perks and privileges of leaders without the responsibilities. Even the spiritual leaders, swamis and yogis, the embodiment of austerity and simple living, are sitting on golden thrones. During investigations or after death, shocked followers see the display of hoarded cash and jewellery.

The servant-leadership followed by Gandhi ji showed his true leadership mettle. In the book – Satyagraha in South Africa – he described himself as servant of the public. He wrote -

“A public meeting of the Indians was called in Durban. Some friends had warned me beforehand that I would be attacked at this meeting and that I should therefore not attend it at all or at least take steps for defending myself. But neither of the two courses was open to me. If a servant when called by his master fails to respond through fear, he forfeits his title to the name of servant. Nor does he deserve the name if he is afraid of the master’s punishment. Service of the public for service’s sake is like walking on the sword’s edge. If a servant is ready enough for praise he may not flee in the face of blame. I therefore presented myself at the meeting at the appointed time.”

Further on, he expounded servant leadership in the following words -

It has been my constant experience that much can be done if the servant actually serves and does not dictate to the people. If the servant puts in body-labour himself, others will follow in his wake. And such was my experience on the present occasion. My co-workers and I never hesitated to do sweeping, scavenging and similar work, with the result that others also took it up enthusiastically. In the absence of such sensible procedure it is no good issuing orders to others. All would assume leadership and dictate to others and there would be nothing done in the end. But where the leader himself becomes a servant, there are no rival claimants for leadership.”

These are fabulous examples of role,  accountability, and responsibility of leaders. Just a handful of leaders can be so humble and fill these shoes. Autobiographies of great leaders show that leadership is a long hazardous journey requiring great deal of personal sacrifice, hard work, and vision. It is incorrect to assume business titles automatically bestow leadership traits. Queen Marie Antoinette’s immature and inconsiderate statement – “If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake” – didn’t get her dedicated followers, it is Napoleon who is respected for leadership qualities. . Earn the honor of being a leader. Ask yourself – Why should others follow you?

Closing thoughts

Wishing all my readers, a very Happy Gandhi Jayanti.  As it is a holiday in India, let me end this on a humorous note.

A donkey twisted his leg, so the owner put him in a red Ferrari to take him to the vet. On the way, the owner stopped at a car wash. The car cleaners said – “Wow, what a body, such a dazzling color.” The donkey joyously brayed. The cleaners remarked – “Sounds fabulous”. After returning to the  farm, while walking on the mud path, the donkey was extremely disappointed and thought – “Why is no one appreciating me, as the car cleaners did?”

Impact of Power Styles on Organization Risks

Power, we all want it. If we don’t have it, we associate with the powerful in the hope some of it rubs down to us. Being in the upper echelons of corporate world or the political corridors of the country’s parliamentary houses ensures that you are exempt from the rules applicable to the common person.

However, the way a person gets power and uses it reflects the person’s character, and its influence on others. In the corporate world, the power styles used by senior managers directly influence the risk levels of the organization. Unsurprisingly,  power and politics are undiscussable topics in the corporate world; hence, when risk managers do risk assessments, they ignore the two.

I personally recommend risk managers to understand the individual power styles of the senior managers and overall organization power style. To appreciate the connection between power and risk, let us first look at the power styles and their impact on the organization.

Power Sttyles

Depending on the situation, a leader needs to use various power styles. However, if a leader uses coercive style even when it is not required, then something is wrong. Leaders frequently use power styles of reward and punishment for fulfilling illegitimate requirements. Hence, the probability of followers being involved in unethical activities requiring compromise of personal values is higher. On the other hand, the expert style ensures that followers make informed judgments as the leader attempts to enhance their ethical values and knowledge level. The reward is not in the form of a bribe and is implicit; the leader is dedicated to improving the organization.

Another aspect that requires understanding is the need for creating perception of power. When a leader is undertaking illegitimate activities (watch any Hindi movie to see the underworld Don) he needs to create a strong perception of power by using threat and punishment. Else, his coercive tactics will be ineffective, as people will not cooperate. Therefore, he makes some sacrificial goats to demonstrate that he is above the law and normal rules don’t apply to him. Another tactic is to break the social norms, and not behave rationally and predictably. Both these methods focus on creating fear to ensure compliance. Without the perception of power and fear, the leader becomes vulnerable to revolt from the common person. The only way for him to retain his power is by increasing the number of sacrificial goats, threats, and punishments.

1.   Impact on Legal and Reputation Risks

A coercive leader is usually riding a tiger. The organization risks continue multiplying as more and more people become aware of the unethical practices. An elastic can be stretched up to a limit. Eventually, the concocted environment cocoon will burst and all hell will break loose. The leader cannot trust anyone after a point. Hence, his fear increases in direct proportion to his vulnerability. The leader takes more and more risks to protect his personal fiefdom. The organizations reputation risks and legal risks increase proportionately.

2.   Impact on Human Resource Risks

Overtime, the leader’s charisma wears off. As the layers peel off, disillusion sets in. Employees realize that the leader doesn’t behave with integrity and honesty. Even the loyalists recognize that whenever it suits the leader’s personal agenda, they can face the bullet without any fault of their own. This creates disquiet among employees, and employee disengagement increases. The human resource risks increase manifold with disengaged employees.

3.   Impact on Operational and Financial Risks

The disengagement starts effecting productivity and performance as everyone grasps that meritocracy has no links with rewards. This in turn impacts the bottom line as leader fails to deliver on targets. Failure to show profitability and results makes the leader’s position precarious. The leader starts feeling pressure from the top. As he is unable to improve productivity, he attempts to manipulate results and financial statements. In nutshell, leader’s power style influences operational risks and financial risks of the organization.

Closing Thoughts

No one can deny that success in life depends quite significantly on a person’s power and influence. The general opinion is that means to the end do not matter when we strive for power. On the contrary, how we get power and maintain power, is crucial for longevity in the powerful position. For a coercive leader, the end is tragic, as the hunter becomes the hunted. Moreover, if a leader gets power by paying bribes or giving rewards, his power ends when he stops doing so. His loyalists disappear with speed. Abusing power is no longer safe in the present world, as it increases the personal risks of the leader and the organization risks. Therefore, risk managers need to ensure for continued prosperity of the organization, that leaders get power by the rights means and use it for the right purposes.

Cultural Complexities and Conflicts

Two weeks back I had given my laptop for repair. The computer guy first said that he would repair it in a day for Rs 1500. Then he called up and said it will take two days. Then he called up and said it will take Rs 2500. I asked him to return the laptop without repairing and ended up paying Rs 350 as service charges as he had identified the problem. Last week I asked a person to recharge my TV subscription and I am still waiting for the same. Why am I ranting on the blog?

Reason is these things happen in India. Based on these experiences the foreigners visiting India formulate an opinion on India. Secondly, the foreigners either formulate opinions on Indians from media reports or base it on their experiences of Indians living abroad. Media thrives on negative information and hardly report on positive aspects. Indians living abroad are just a small slice of the country and they do not completely represent the culture at home.

Some westerners visit India to understand it better as it is a growing economic power. However, whenever I have read their views, I feel they have a superficial picture and do not really understand the cultural complexities of India. They attempt to dissect each part independently and try to fix the jigsaw puzzle. However, Indian culture is akin to a seven-layered cake. The multitudes of flavours need to be tasted as a whole.

In India, there is a saying. To understand the water flowing in Ganga check the origin from Gangotri. To understand the culture of the country and the behaviour of the people, one needs to see the history of at least 100 years. I know in this age we believe world is changing so fast that people change quickly. However, I was reading Gandhi ji’s autobiographies and was surprised that most of the causes of conflict and misunderstandings between western people and Indians remain the same. For example, I understand what is being said by a westerner but sometimes I don’t get the logic behind the behaviour. From an Indian context, it just doesn’t make sense.

1)     The Western Civilization

The difference lies in the approach to life. The western civilization conquered the world in past centuries with the primary motive of getting richer. Though they entered as traders in countries, they soon became rulers. Establishing supremacy by war, brute force, aggression and breaking the spirit of locals were considered good tactics. The morality of their decisions and the suffering caused to human race wasn’t an aspect that got importance. The enemy had to be destroyed by whatever means possible.

So even today, the western corporates mostly have an aggressive organization culture with profit motive. Money is still the primary driver for most activities. The star performers are aggressive men who achieve their positions by cutthroat completion in the dog eat dog world. Ethical competition was until the last few decades an alien concept. Deception, cunning, and breaking the rules are valued traits for winning the game. There are few women at the top, as feminine traits were never respected. They are considered too soft.

2)     The Indian Civilization

In contrast, the Indian civilization since ancient times valued simplicity and the focus was on progress of the soul. In young age, a person was required to set up family, have a career and earn sufficient amount to keep the family in comfort. In old age, an Indian gave up all attachments and desires to focus on purifying the soul. Hence, during their lifetime Indians were required to develop virtues of truthfulness, simplicity, humility, patience, perseverance, frugality, and  other worldliness.

Cunning, aggression and deception were looked down. As Gandhi said – “a thing secured by a particular weapon can be retained only by that weapon” hence enemies weren’t destroyed but converted to friends wherever possible. That is why Indians used non-violence in the struggle for independence. Even when wars were fought, rules were to be followed and the person breaking the rules was considered unprincipled and cowardly. Breaching trust was shameful, contrary to the western opinion where the person whose trust is broken is considered a fool for trusting.

In respect of leadership also, since centuries India has propagated servant leadership and not that of arrogance and supremacy.

3)     The Global Organization

With globalization, one can see these two divergent approaches to life in close quarters interacting daily. I have heard many of my western colleagues comment about a mild-mannered Indian – “X is not aggressive enough, will he get the job done?” Whereas the Indian colleagues say – “What is wrong with this person, why do we need to fight? We can cooperate and get the work done peacefully.”  Team workers are always more valued than star performers. Cooperation is encouraged than competitive behaviour.

Each group doesn’t get the motives and thought process behind the other group’s behaviour. Westerners can’t figure out how Indians succeed in business with all these traits and attributes. They predict failure, and see success in the long run. Quite a few Indians considered unemployable by western standards (unassertive, weak, too humble, or polite) have successful careers in India.

While both groups now attempt to understand the behaviour of other, it is quite impossible to change it in a short time. A person brings to an organization the culture s/he has been raised in. The personal values and attributes can’t disappear on joining and neither can they be left at home during office hours. Respecting the person’s culture and giving space is the best approach.

Closing thoughts

The oriental nations – India and China – are the biggest emerging markets. The western world can’t ignore it and neither can they change it. Hence, they have to understand it and learn to survive in the oriental culture. It is among the biggest opportunities today to bring peace and prosperity in the world. In my view, to reduce the cultural risks and related conflicts more Indians should educate the western population about their historical and social culture. This will give deeper understanding and remove prejudices. The 21st century is bringing change; it is up to us on how we manage it.

Power With The Powerless

Might is Right?

Might is Right?

Durga Shakti Nagpal honoured the goddess she is named after. The 29-year-old IAS officer is in eye of the storm as she took on the sand mafia in Utter Pradesh. It was said the political party got benefits from the sand mafia. The Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav suspended her on the grounds that she ordered demolition of a mosque wall. Her actions could have created riots.

The Muslim community hasn’t taken kindly for being used as an excuse. They have denied any such action and stood by Durga, stating that she is a great officer. Punjab State Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal has invited her to join back her own state. He said that Punjab state appreciates honest officers and the government will stand behind them.

So why has Akilesh Yadav’s carefully planned manoeuvre to show his political might fallen flat. It is because he still has old school ideas of power. He literally inherited power from his father, and though young is still using old tactics based on incorrect assumptions.

1.      Witch Hunting is Not an Acceptable Game

The ancient tactic of using a woman as a sacrificial goat to quiet everyone by creating fear and terror is no longer working. The number of Indian women crusading against corruption and crime is increasing manifold. Women are clearly saying they don’t get weak kneed by power and money. They hold ground and fight back from a higher moral standing. They show the powerful in their true character. The public nowadays doesn’t support witch-hunts and stands by strong women. The educated public is capable of identifying the true heroes and leaders.

2.      Attempts to Divide & Rule on Race & Religion Backfire

Using religion and race to divide people and rule isn’t an effective strategy anymore. With a black half-Christian-half-Muslim man as American President, and a white Italian Catholic woman as party president of Indian congress, the message is clear. Race, gender, age, and colour don’t matter in leadership positions. People follow the leader with the best ideas and capability. Belonging to a certain community may not get any followers now from the educated masses.

3.      Absolutely Impossible to Curb Public Opinion

Technology and globalization has put everyone on an equal footing. Previously a few could control public opinion as they had the contacts and money to influence media. However, social media has given a voice to the public. The general population forms its own opinion. It has also made the old media houses more honest as they lose circulation with carefully planted stories and politically motivated views. With social media, anything can go viral; there are no safe zones to hide dirty deeds. The transparency makes corrupt powerless.

4.      Autocracies are Dead

The changing perceptions of power have made old strategies useless. Earlier leaders could say my way or highway. Some said my way and my way, they wouldn’t even allow a person to take the highway. However, autocracy is no longer a popular leadership style. In the last decade, the number of countries with autocratic regimes has decreased and democratic governments have increased. Business and political leaders need to show democratic and consensus building styles. Surveys show that autocratic leaders – business and political – are losing their jobs at a higher rate than democratic leaders. Hence, a display of muscle power in public domain shows the leader in poor light. Using dictatorship styles will get the dictators in soup rather than the targets.

Closing Thoughts

Power has shifted to the powerless. With the changing society, technology, and economic order, one is likely to see new forms of political power structures in governments and organizations. We are at the threshold of a new era of power dynamics. From a risk management perspective, any risk mitigation policies developed based on old power structures are likely to fail. Hence, risk managers need to look at leadership strategies and related risks from a different lens.

Here is to new beginnings with power in the hands of the people. We can hope the 21st century will bring glory to the masses. Finally, each person can say that wish to live their life on their own terms. I am dedicating to my readers one of my favorite songs – My Way by Frank Sinatra. It beautifully conveys the message.

The Money Worshipers

money worshiper

The Global Index of Religion and Atheism Report 2012 results indicate that just 59 percent of world population was religious last year. Even India, the land of prayers and spirituality is showing a declining trend in belief in God. In 2005, 87% Indians believed in religion. While in 2012, 81% Indians declared themselves religious.

In Indian society,  the focus has shifted on earning money in the last decade. Money has become the new God.

The belief is that money makes one happy, though psychological studies show it is an open question. Some studies show that money does contribute to happiness; some show that beyond a point, money doesn’t add anything to happiness quotient. On the other hand, the law of diminishing returns applies to money as well. Nassim Taleb analysed that after a certain point, the pleasure in earning more money is less than the fear of losing it.

I don’t have the answer to whether money makes a person happier. Yes, it does provide a whole lot of comforts. But beyond that, there are others aspects of life that contribute to happiness. So the question is why we see more people willing to compromise their morals for the sake of money. One hears often this explanation from a person who is compromising morals for money – “You know the world has changed. What to do?” Basically, they are saying – “I have changed and I want to blame my greed on the society rather than take individual responsibility”. We want to avoid analyzing our thoughts and motives deeply, because we will get very unpleasant answers about ourselves.

A joke really sums up these thoughts – A man bought a new Mercedes and parked it in front his house for neighbors to see. While he was getting out of the car, a truck drove close by, and disjointed the door of the car. The man called the police, who came immediately. The man said – “This truck driver damaged my car,  see my car door”. The police officer said – “Sir, do you realize that your arm is also detached”. The man replied – “Oh shit, my Rolex is damaged”. It might sound far-fetched that a person doesn’t realize physical damage to self, but most of us do ignore the internal damage pursuit of money causes us.

Quite a few of our prayers to God revolve around money. God, get me this deal (subconsciously – I will earn a lot of money). God, give me a good spouse (subconsciously – a rich spouse so that I can live in luxury). We are not above bribing God too. We promise to do x,y, z if we get what we want. However, if we face difficult times our faith disappears. We are unhappy and miserable. We don’t think that God may have gifted us the sword to cut our greed. We ourselves can remove the chains tying us to the greed.

Rabindranath Tagore in Gitanjali displays his profound understanding of the same. The English translation of the incredible verse is below:

He whom I enclose with my name is weeping in this dungeon. I am ever busy building this wall all around; and as this wall goes up into the sky day by day I lose sight of my true being in its dark shadow.

 I take pride in this great wall, and I plaster it with dust and sand lest a least hole should be left in this name; and for all the care I take I lose sight of my true being.

 I came out alone on my way to my tryst. But who is this that follows me in the silent dark? I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not.

 He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger; he adds his loud voice to every word that I utter. He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame; but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company.

 ‘Prisoner, tell me, who was it that bound you?’

 ‘It was my master,’ said the prisoner. ‘I thought I could outdo everybody in the world in wealth and power, and I amassed in my own treasure-house the money due to my king.

 When sleep overcame me I lay upon the bed that was for my lord, and on waking up I found I was a prisoner in my own treasure-house.’

 ‘Prisoner, tell me, who was it that wrought this unbreakable chain?”

 ‘It was I,’ said the prisoner, ‘who forged this chain very carefully. I thought my invincible power would hold the world captive leaving me in a freedom undisturbed.

 Thus night and day I worked at the chain with huge fires and cruel hard strokes. When at last the work was done and the links were complete and unbreakable, I found that it held me in its grip’.”

For all our human insight and wisdom, we have tied ourselves in chains. We don’t want to break them, as it will require a lot of strength, so we continue to complain about them. We forget, a rose blooms on a stem of thorns.

Closing thoughts

 When we think about happy times, most of us have some memories of childhood. It was the age of innocence where we couldn’t even count money. All that mattered was the love of our family and the mischief we could get into with our friends. We walk such a long distance in our adult life to pursue things, than be blissful internally. It is out of fashion to discuss it, as the cynics will call us utter fools out of touch with reality. So let me open the question to you.

References:

  1. Global Index of Religion and Atheism Report: Number of Atheists Increased on Global Level
  2. Gitanjai – by Rabindranath Tagore