Welcome to India the land of permanent potential.
In June, Art Shirk had written a wonderful piece quoting William Murray’s expedition to Mount Everest where he talks about buying his ticket to Bombay – committing himself and reaching a point of no return. Well that is literally what we did- Bob and I as we launched the first ever certification program in Bombay (I still find it difficult to refer to it as Mumbai) in August this year.
One of the first things that Bob mentioned when we met in India was that the term ‘consciousness’ was not exactly one that resonated as well in the West. India is the home of consciousness, and all its philosophy whether originating from the Vedas, or its Sufi traditions or Buddhist teachings talk about the oneness of the universe as represented by the various manifestations of ‘mandalas’ or ‘enneagrams’ or ‘ navagrahas’. Carl Jung referred to it as “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.” “A synthesis of distinctive elements in a unified scheme representing the basic nature of existence.” All the circles represent wholeness and symbolizes the cycle of life – an integrated structure organized around a unifying center that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the mind and body, the inner and outer worlds.
So in that sense Bob was coming home. To the land of the eternal circle, the inventors of the decimal system, the zero, the value of pi, chess, and the first ever recorded book on strategy and management (Kautilya’s Arthashastra).
The Indian Tourism Board in an ad had once asked ‘how many Taj Mahals do we need to build before we get you to see the rest of our country?’ A country that adds one Australia to its population every year, a country which is the only one in the world that is home to both the lion and the tiger. A country of so many paradoxes, that talking about it has become a cliché in itself. You may have noticed my cynicism when I referred to the country as the land of permanent potential. India defies logic. It has so much to offer, yet it tells a story of so much unfulfilled potential – two steps forward and one back. A country that is so diverse so fractured by its different cultures, steeped in tradition, burdened by a democratic (the world’s largest democracy) and bureaucratic process and obviously facing a crisis of leadership that lends itself so wonderfully to our mission statement.
If I start listing the paradoxes, they will never end. India’s Film Industry now referred to as Bollywood, started in 1899 – 11 years before Hollywood and produces 900 films a year (more than Hollywood). But 150 million people cannot watch the movies because they are blind! We have over 500 million youth (under 25) which means for the next 40 years we are assured of a dynamic and productive workforce when the rest of the world including China is ageing. But we also have 60 million child labour, and a literacy rate that is only 74%. It is a country of remarkable high technology, world class multinational companies, and a leader in business process offshoring. But it is also a country with a corrupt and incompetent government, with 80% of its population living on less than $2 a day. Since the time I started finalizing the legal agreement with Bob the Indian Rupee has devalued by 20%!!
Tata with its over 100 operating companies in communications and information technology, engineering, materials, services, energy, consumer products and chemicals had the nerve to buy Corus, Jaguar and LandRover. Arcelor Mittal is the world’s largest steel producing company. Reliance is the largest polyester yarn and fiber producer in the world and among the top five to ten producers of major petrochemical products. Infosys is a Bangalore-based global IT consulting giant. Ranbaxy is India’s largest pharmaceutical company, and is now in the global top 10 generics companies with exports to 150 countries. Biocon is Asia’s largest biotechnology company, the world’s largest biotech employer, with a presence in 75 countries. Suzlon is the world’s third largest supplier of wind turbines, spread across 21 countries. The list could go on.
The Indian Psyche is changing. Money is becoming as important as education. Pleasure comes from family and consumption. The future is not a given, but individuals can control their destinies. Indians are not looking for a new way of life, but for modernity to expand tradition, the current way of life. Relevance in the Indian context is critical to connect with clients. It is important to appeal to the emotions – the heart always wins over the mind.
As I write this piece, India celebrates the birthday of Lord Krishna the supreme coach, whose dialogues with Arjuna is what constitutes the Bhagvad Gita which has a huge impact on the belief systems of the average Indian. Indian spirituality creates a sense of inevitability of things based on the theory of Karma that is both frustrating and compelling. Atithi Devo Bhava is the core essence of Indian hospitality that translates ‘treat the guest like God’. The employees of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel (we launched The Leadership Circle there with the first certification for 22 participants) demonstrated this when during the terrorist attack on November 26, 2008 they bravely stood in the line of fire to protect their guests. Not a single employee left the hotel till the last guest had been evacuated.
“The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.”
― Aldous Huxley
“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.”
― Henry David Thoreau
The way we positioned The Leadership Circle in this ancient country with modern aspirations is through a value proposition that promises “The ultimate competitive advantage: Leadership Effectiveness”. We are planning to take a consulting route to market using the The Leadership Circle process as a way of helping clients achieve their business performance goals. We are also embarking on a CSR initiative where a fixed sum from each assessment done in India will be used to fund the assessment of the CEOs of India’s top 200 NGOs. Our PR campaign got going with press/magazine coverage for both Bob and I. In fact we were also interviewed by CNBC which was well received by clients.
Our vision is very clear. We will make a difference to the corporate landscape in India by proving a simple fact that effective leadership out performs ineffective leadership. We will penetrate the consciousness of Indian leaders embedding a strong belief that they are part of a growing fraternity of global leaders whose lives are being transformed by The Leadership Circle so they can do good and do well. I have always believed that we are a global business and that we are all infused by the spirit of abundance to share in each other’s success. We are all bound by the excellence of the teacher, the message, and the audience or the viewer of the circle without whom there is no consciousness. In the words of Longchenpa “where there is no you, there is no mandala”. Namaste (I bow to you).
About the Author
Pratap Nambiar, Director of The Leadership Circle India, is the founder and Chairman of Thought Perfect Pte Ltd, a Singapore based firm providing coaching and mentoring services to CEOs. Earlier he was with Heidrick & Struggles as a Partner in their Leadership Consulting Practice in Asia Pacific. Pratap has almost 40 years of international work experience across all continents. A qualified professional coach certified by the International Coach Federation, The Leadership Circle, and Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centric Coaching, he is widely known as a passionate catalyst for change in the lives of the people he works with.