Ethos of Management

Ethos of Management

The general concept of management is basically managing men for a particular given purpose. Every individual is different and has his own personal motivation. In the case of most persons, it is their own welfare and the welfare of their families.

Kalyan Ray, I.A.S. (Retd.)

The general concept of management is basically managing men for a particular given purpose. Every individual is different and has his own personal motivation. In the case of most persons, it is their own welfare and the welfare of their families. A good manager has to ensure that a person’s concept of his own betterment is channelized towards the development of the organization. Most companies do this by trying to offer competitive salaries and various perquisites like paid holiday excursion, medical benefits and so on. There are also incentives like promotions to higher grades and posts to cater to personal ambitions. Even then, most organisations do not have the benefit of a satisfied work force.

This is primary due to the failure to realize that men do not live by bread alone. There are things beyond commerce, which are equally important to men and are equally important for their well being. Most important is that an individual must be made to feel a vital part of the organization. Employees’ cohesiveness is vital for the organizational health. Many organisations try to do this by organising various social gatherings and sports meet. But, these have limited utility in a hierarchical organisation. Many Corporate Houses are organising Yoga sessions and Spiritual discourses to address the physical and mental well-being of their employees. All these attempts have limited utility.

The major problem in today’s world is commoditisation of the individual. In the modern commercial world, man is being treated as a marketable commodity. A person’s worth is being determined by his market value. This is an unprecedented situation in the history of the world, when human beings are treated as an object, with some persons earning astronomical amounts and others languishing at the bottom of the ladder. It is inconceivable that the merit of one individual is so great that he earns several thousand times more than the others. It is obviously an artificial situation created in the modern business world. Such disparities of income create a situation, where persons at the bottom of the ladder would suffer from a lack of self-esteem and severe inferiority complex. This is certainly not conducive for good team work. In sectors like information technology and financial management, where work is more individual oriented, betterment of a few individuals at the cost of the group, may give limited results in the short term. Even then, the high manpower turnover and job-hopping in these sectors clearly show that the corporate bodies have not been able to gain full loyalties of employees as in olden times. Institutional loyalty has become a thing of the past. Now, we are dealing only with professionals, who barter their talent to the highest bidder, much like lawyers and professional footballers. In such cases, the role of the manager in coordinating the talent and effort of different individuals for organisational goal is of great importance.

A good manager has to be a leader of men and leadership is built on gaining the trust and confidence of the people one is in charge. What distinguishes a Leader from a mere Manager? There can be no better guide to leadership than the Chetwode adage, immortalised in the Indian Army. The three principles enunciated by Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode, Commander-in-Chief on 10th December 1932 to young Indian officers were:-
First, the safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.
Second, the honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Third, your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.
These were the principles on which the great Indian Army was built and even today echoes in every military establishment of India and beckons the officers to their duty. These are words of sacrifice and duty. They do not promise any great riches or benefit. But these are the words, which would electrify anybody and make him think beyond himself. A selfish individual can never be a good leader. These principles are pillars on which leaders are made.

These principles are applicable not only to those who aspire for leadership in the army, but also applicable for anybody who wants to graduate from a mere manager or supervisor to be a leader of man. These principles are the same as those, enunciated by Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi for the youth of the country. These words of the Field Marshall reflect the spirit of Bhagabat Gita, which is the call to duty. In fact Bhagabat Gita continues to be a great spiritual and practical guide for management, both in war and peace.

Let me now cite a contemporary case of a model manager. We may recollect that some time back K. Sridharan, a Railway Engineer had gained national prominence by completing number of Metro railway projects in the face of number of obstacles like labour troubles, bureaucratic hurdles and misinformed press criticism. When asked in an interview, what inspired him to go beyond his call of duty to deliver results by motivating his men. He categorically mentioned that he drew his inspiration from his daily Bhagabat Gita. He motivated his staff by distributing copies of the Gita amongst his staff and encouraging them to read the book regularly.

Freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and many others were inspired by the Gita. British officers also drew their inspiration from Gita. Before the First World, soldiers were inspired by words from the Gita. ‘I know of no more inspiring advice than that given by Krishna to Arjuna ages ago, when the latter trembled before the awful responsibility of launching his Army against the Kauravs.’ (Col. F.N.Maude in the Introduction to Clausewitz On War, Pelican Classics)
Gita continues to be a great spiritual exercise, which allows man to clear various doubts, which beset the human mind. It is a manual of self-discipline, which allows man to conquer himself, before he can think of controlling others. Above all, it is a clarion call for duty, which beckons every individual to his duty.

Every individual has the divine spark within. It should be our mission to ensure that this divine light is allowed to develop for the benefit of the society and the individual. Role of a manager is one of harnessing the talents of individuals under his charge for a common objective. Success of a Manager lies in elevating himself from a mere Supervisor to a Leader of men. This can be done only by personal example and following the three principles enunciated earlier. Machines have been invented for supervision of work. But a machine can never be a leader and that job will always remain open for aspiring individuals.

Present day Management theories have evolved mostly out of American experience and values. Such theories have not generally proved very useful in the Indian context. This is evident from the large number of labour disputes, land disputes and environmental problems. Japan, which achieved miraculous development within a short period of time, in spite of being completely devastated and lacking in natural resources, did not blindly follow the Western practices in management. They integrated the foreign management theories with their own value system and developed their own practices. ‘Hire and fire’ theory, which is essential to ensure efficiency, according to the modern theory of management, does not find a place in the Japanese practice of management. Their practice is lifelong association of the employee with the organisation. They have been able to ensure complete employee loyalty and efficiency through this practice.

In the Indian context, it is necessary to integrate our value system with the management theories to evolve a harmonious system of development for the organisation and the society at large. Any organisation is an integral part of the society and cannot prosper, if the society languishes. Our ideology has been ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakom’ (Brotherhood of Mankind). This requires management theories based on cooperation and not simply competition.


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