A Women’s Day Special – Play with Colors of Life

“How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?”   ― Anaïs Nin

Women are smart. They demand equality and have a special day for women. Men claim superiority and have no men’s day. One can say the rest of the days are of them, but are they? The male gender suffers; poor chaps can’t even protest as it isn’t a masculine trait to show weakness. Women can complain, shed tears, howl their heart out and it reflects feminine traits. Mothers teach sons – boys don’t cry. Wives complain – Husbands are unemotional. Haven’t women successfully shackled men in a stereotypical image from birth?

Shouldn’t women be fighting for the male cause to bring in some emotional gender equality? Shall we start by being a bit more honest ? Lets discuss some of the things that women should do for themselves and the male gender on this women’s day.

1. Miss Goody Two Shoes

Men are convinced women are more principled, honest and virtuous than them. Women have done a wonderful job of personal brand building. Most haven’t got their hands dirty publicly. However, surveys say women participate equally in sexual harassment in offices and are showing increasing propensity to commit white collar crime as their ratios improve in the workforce. Moreover, they backbite, rumor monger, tattletale and indirectly bully more than men in offices. Women are more likely to use sex to get a promotion. Yes, some strategically decide to sleep with the boss to boost their careers.

Women play an equal role in making destructive management practices flourish in an organization and do not hesitate to use them for personal gain. Let us stop playing the blame game and take ownership to improve the work climate within our organizations.

2. Women’s Worst Enemies

Women undercut women. They make loud claims that male gender does not support them. However, women make bad bosses to junior women. Women ruin careers of aspiring young women to remove competition. They feel insecure if men give attention to a younger woman, hence damage the youngsters chances of succeeding. If a senior male wishes to harass a young female, he uses her female colleagues to do so to avoid sexual harassment charges.

While women target the men’s club for all the negative events happening to them, they fail to collaborate to form a women’s club. With 20-50% female workforce in offices, female leaders need to push for reforms in their offices that benefit the gender. Laying the blame on male CXOs door doesn’t absolve women leaders of their responsibilities.

3. The Sacrificing Souls

Women undersell themselves by portraying the picture of sacrificing souls. At every opportunity they lament about the difficulties of being a mother and a career women. Yes, they have to make sacrifices but so do men, specially single dads. It is difficult but stop crying about it all the time. As Gloria Steimen said– “I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.” 

Being successful is about managing different priorities effectively. Have you seen successful men or women incessantly talking about the same universal issue? Husband, kids and career are a woman’s personal choice, hence its an individual decision. No man or woman is going to get all three handed on a silver platter for all times. There is no point in attempting to win the corporate battle using these tactics.

Closing Thoughts

Fight the battle of equality on ethical and principled grounds, without playing the victim. Successful women don’t enact the damsel in distress routines while pointing fingers at others. Quit complaining and enjoy the colors of life. Be fair, be just and give both genders an equal chance of succeeding on merit and talent.

I know, women will be mad at me for writing this post.  But what to do, 90% of my readers are men :).

Wishing all my readers a special women’s day and a happy Holi.

Management Lessons From India’s Freedom Struggle


On the eve of India’s Independence Day on 15 August, I cherish the freedom and celebrate India’s growth towards global recognition. Going back in history, Indian freedom struggle lasted nearly a century. The last 25 years of the struggle was lead by Mahatma Gandhi on the concept of non-violence. India is one of the unique countries which gained freedom without much bloodshed.

I think there are lot of management lessons which corporate world is implementing presently which were prevalent in the freedom struggle. In this post I am exploring Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership and management style, and linking it to the current management practices.

1. Walk the talk

Mahatma Gandhi preached the concept of simple living and high thinking, although he came from an affluent Indian family. He came up with various austere living standards and requested his followers to adopt them. His kept his life open to public scrutiny. People may debate regarding his personal choices but no one would raise questions on his ethics and integrity. Irrespective of the difficulty involved, he always was able to take the high moral ground and never compromised on his personal values.

In the present corporate world we respect the leaders who are able to walk the talk, demonstrate ethical and principled behavior, and lead by example.

2. Think out of the box

The strategy and tactics adopted during the Indian independence struggle were unlike any other country’s revolution. Some of the concepts were:

  • Non-violence – A war fought on the basis of principles without any bloodshed.
  • Civil disobedience- Court arrest if the British officials are threatening imprisonment for demanding your rights.
  • Non-cooperation- The message given was maintain your jobs with the British empire, however do not support it regarding its practices against Indian people.

Managements today are advocating out of the box thinking and competing strategically. The organization which implements a unique strategy generally wins the market.

3. Brand building

Mahatma Gandhi’s personal brand has lasted 60 years after his death without any investment. He created a brand of a simple moral man living life on the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence). His home spun cotton clothes, wooden shaft, leather slippers, vegetarian meals and home at the ashram all embodied his personal brand. His character and communication depicted his core values to the masses. We must acknowledge that fact that very few leaders in history have as strong a brand image as Gandhi.

The corporate world is spending huge sums on advertising to build the corporate brand. We hear Tom Peters and other management gurus talking about building the “Brand You”. The focus now is on developing a personal brand.

4. Competitor’s size doesn’t matter

The Indian freedom struggle gained ground with the idea of a few committed individuals who wished to bring about a change. They envisaged taking on the might of British Empire which had the resources, funds, weapons and management capability. The Indian leadership team acknowledged the strengths of the British Empire and devised a strategy which minimized those strengths. They built a strategy on the following:

  • Non-violence which required no weapons;
  • Asked masses to contribute for the independence and live frugally, hence survived on minimal resources;
  • Developed local leadership across all regions under Congress banner.

Using a similar strategy, Barrack Obama won the American presidential elections when he had no funds and support. Recently corporate world has witnessed small IT companies (e.g. hotmail)  developing into big names just by pioneering a unique product and leveraging the market properly.


5. Build dream teams

Indian Congress Party besides Gandhi had a number of other accomplished leaders. Namely,
C. Rajagopalachari, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and others. These leaders all had different personalities and ideologies, however worked for a common cause. Gandhi and Nehru complimented each other tremendously and mostly operated as two in a box. Senior leaders acted as mentors for the younger generation. The party had leaders at grass root level, and people were encouraged to develop leadership traits.

Business world is focusing on building dream teams with leadership at all levels. The Human Resource Departments are focused on concepts of two in a box, alternate leaders, chief mentors and succession planning.

6. Engage and empower people

Mahatma Gandhi in his speech on the eve of Dandi March said -“Wherever there are local leaders, their orders should be obeyed by the people. Where there are no leaders and only a handful of men have faith in the programme, they may do what they can, if they have enough self-confidence”. He encouraged common man to show leadership and commitment under the overall umbrella of Congress. He united the people by specifying the mission, vision and code of conduct of Congress. The masses were committed to the cause and in all his symbolic protests he involved people participation.

The corporate world’s biggest challenge is of disengaged employees due to actual or perceived lack of empowerment. It is becoming apparent that success or failure of the organization is increasingly dependent on a healthy organization culture which encourages employee participation.

7. Accept and encourage diversity

The British are generally blamed for implementing “divide and rule policy” in India. On the contrary, India already was already divided into various regions, religions and castes before the British rule.
Mahatma Gandhi in his struggle for independence attempted to unify the country. He encouraged the princely states to join hands, brought Hindus and Muslims on the same platform and removed caste barriers for joining the freedom moment. He supported gender equality and encouraged women to actively participate in the movement. His wife, Kasturba Gandhi played a pivotal role in getting women’s participation.

With less than 10% women in senior management positions in the corporate world, the mantra today is to bring more women on board. With globalization the concept of accepting and encouraging diversity has taken hold.

8. Don’t make it personal

In the Quit India speech in 1942, Mahatma Gandhi stated- “Then, there is the question of your attitude towards the British. I have noticed that there is hatred towards the British among the people. The people say they are disgusted with their behavior. The people make no distinction between British imperialism and the British people”.

Deal with the issue and not the person; this is the corporate mandate today. Mahatma Gandhi pioneered this thought process. In all his communication and dealings he stood up against British Imperialism. He however, had friendly relationships with Britishers and never made a personal attack in his speeches. On the other hand, he continuously advocated decent and humane behavior even towards ones enemy. His thought process was- address the issue at hand and keep a positive attitude towards a person from the competing camp.

In nut shell, there is a lot to learn from the Indian freedom struggle for the corporate world. It had unique dimensions which are gaining hold now as corporate best practices. History is the best teacher, if we are willing to learn from other people’s successes and failures. Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Wishing you all a very happy Independence Day.

The Business Enterprise Magazine published this article in its August 2011 issue.