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Superconscious Leadership (Part 1)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
56 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): How do we begin?

Questioner (Q) (Nitesh): Yes, we’re here again. I know we spoke in the past about different topics. But I decided to use your help, or use your insight, into leadership and management side of things of life, and so we arranged this for today. So just wanted to get your insight into how effectively, how I can best manage things from my end. So, I run accountancy practice in the UK. So, I have four staff in the UK and three now in India. And so, we provide accountancy and tax services to various clients, mostly in the UK. So, we interact with lot of clients with various needs. So, there’s a client management side, is one thing and then we also have staff who do the necessary work. So, we have staff as well to manage. Although it’s a small, four years into growth, but it’s growing, so, you know, hopefully, growth will continue. And so, we’ll probably end up with more staff and more clients in future. So how best to manage staff as well as clients and how we can provide service to both the clients and the staff basically?

Q2(Sumeet): I also have similar questions. With Nitesh’s help, I’m managing two people for Nitesh in India. I also want to understand how to manage them in the most efficient manner. What principles to utilize? Of course, there are contemporary principles, which I can implement and deploy. But you talk about different principles about success, about learning, about career. How practical are they? Does everyone understand? Will everyone accept those principles? I’m happy to accept, but the people who I’m going to use it with, will they be able to come on board?

AP: So, let’s take that as the opening question. You see, principles are a load to carry. In this moment you ask me something, and if I have to go back and figure out, dive into some repository of principles and see which one is applicable in this situation, and then see how to apply that, then the response will be very manufactured, late, and ill-suited. Principles really are a stop-gap arrangement. For those who do not yet quite understand the master, the skilled one does not really go by principles, there is a certain deftness. Certain people call it an intuitive clarity, but it’s not even intuition. To put it very purely, it’s just understanding. You see, you act. And the seeing and the actor spontaneous. One. Concurrent. Give me an example of a situation in which you feel the need to apply a principle.

Q2: So, let’s suppose, I’m training someone to be our tax consultant. I will offer him some progression in his career. I will offer him some remunerations, some perks, some benefits, which will keep him motivated. Those are all material things; those are all measurable on a scale. However, when we talk about life otherwise, and from the readings that I’ve just done, what I got that such things will not succeed. They will lead me towards failure. Now, I understand the concept, but the person who I’m making this offer, I’m paying him some money, I’m paying him some other benefits, he will not understand this. He’s more interested in money. Right? Why can’t everyone think on the same scale? Why do we all have to…?

AP: There would be no spice in life left then. If you and I start thinking alike, why would we meet? This entire world drama would cease to continuously unfold. So, yours is quite an innocent question. But that’s not how things are. That’s not how things ever will be. Man will be man. Women will be women. Plants will be plants. Lions will be lions. And rabbits will be rabbits. They all have their own personal characteristics. The personal characteristics, the three Gunas of Prakriti, they are the spice of life. Provided one knows how to use the spices. And if one does not know how to use the spices, then the food is unbearable. Even deadly. You need not wish that everyone thinks alike or thinks purely. There already are many of them, but they too are on a lookout. They too want to go to only to people who have a certain refinement of mind. As you evolve, as your consciousness loses its disturbed nature and becomes more silently deep, you’ll find that more and more such people are by themselves coming to you. Take a very small example. If you are recruiting, you must be putting out an advertisement or something. Now, a simple recruitment ad looks like a trivial thing. There are millions of them out there on the portals, in the newspapers, word of mouth, so many things. But there’s tremendous difference between word and word. The entire language will change. The entire flavor will change. That small document would no more be the same. And you cannot just do that artificially. That document really represents the prospective employer. That document represents who you are and, hence what you are inviting the other to get into. Now, if the other is really an evolved character, would he be attracted by a piece of text that is not so evolved? And then everything. He comes to you. The look on your face. The arrangement of the place. The very first words with which you greet him. How do you describe the money that you are going to give to him? Not that you have to increase the number or something. Do you talk of it as the basic motivator or do you talk of money as something else? Something a little secondary, a little peripheral. What are you asking him to get into? Are you asking him to be part of a mission? Are you asking him to get into a mercenary service? Are you asking him to trade his skill and time and earn some money in return? The same x amount that you are offering him can be described in ten very different ways. The description will depend on who you are. When you are right, you draw the right people towards you. It’s a strange thing. It just happens. You’ll not even know how the right ones, from not only your vicinity but actually from all over the world, just come over. It’s almost like, the aroma of the flower. The bees come to know. They just come to know. Or the smell of the sugar. Have you seen how ants appear from nowhere? Single sugar particle and ants. It’s such a mysterious thing. From where do they come? But they just come. Take them as prospective candidates. Ready to be hired. Even that is a dirty word, you know? Hiring. The whole outlook has to change. You see, Sumeet, right? Sumeet, you are young. 25?

Q2: 27.

AP: 27. You’ll be spending this life mostly working. And when I look at you, I see a diligent person. A fellow who is serious. Who does not want to just blow things away, right? So much time you’ll be investing at the workplace. Take away the hours in which you would be sleeping. The rest of the life is mostly work. You’ve mentioned a little bit about that in your write-up that I got. Do you really want to work as someone who has been hired? Is that what life is meant for, to act as a hired worker? Doesn’t sound quite dignified, right? It’s not about an hour or two. Work is man’s natural, physical state. These arms are meant to work. The brain will think and work. The eyes will see. The tongue will speak. And if they don’t do that, it’s not as if they’ll relax. They’ll actually just degrade. Arms that don’t work. You know what happens to them. A little later they become incapable of working.

So, rest is one’s inner nature and work is one’s physical nature, outer nature. Inside, one demands peace and stillness, and outside the body says that everything in the universe is moving. There is the flow of energy everywhere. There are cars moving. The sun is rising. Stuff is just happening all the time. So, movement. Energy, right? One is going to work and, hence work has to be looked at in the most earnest way possible. It must have the glory, the sincerity, the love that one attaches to worship. Now, when you sit in this realization and you talk to a prospective candidate, then the whole ambiance changes. You are not hiring him now. You are inviting him into your sacred place. You are saying, “I live here. Would you join me?” That’s a different, totally different dimension of inviting your doors and asking someone to enter. But that dimension is possible to you only when you first look at your own status as a worker with different eyes. If you look at yourself as someone who works to get paid, then when you would hire others, you’d hire them as one purchases potatoes. You say, “I have money so I deserve the best and the biggest ones.” That’s not how it works.

One cannot just work. One must find meaning in work. One must know the bigger picture. The fact is only then work is financially successful as well. The best of workers aren’t just hard workers. They’re the ones who have insight. They would penetrate into the minds of their clients, customers, colleagues. They would know what the world and the other one is actually looking for. They don’t even rely so much on market surveys, and questionnaires, and such things. They just know what the mind is looking for and, hence they are able to give solutions that the other is so happy to lap up. When the other is happy to lap up your solutions, of course, he is also willing to put a decent sum on the table. He says, “Son, I love the solution that you have proposed. It goes beyond what I’d asked for. In fact, I didn’t even know that this is the solution that I wanted. You have surpassed my expectations. Let me just cut you a decent check.” Now, the check comes right at the end. The check is not what you begin with. Are you getting it? The check comes right at the end. The check is something that you had not thought of and the check is also something that the client had not thought of. The check comes as a fruit because the entire tree has been healthy. So finally, when the fruit comes, it is so juicy and colorful, luscious. You take the check and you wonder, “Well, you know, I hadn’t thought of it, but it’s good. It’s fat.” One pockets it. It’s fine. And one wouldn’t have been disappointed had the check not been as fat, because the check is not something that one had really worked for. One works for fulfillment. One works for a certain meaning in life. Even with money what else do you do? Suppose, you earn a lot of money. What do you do with that money? One doesn’t eat money. One uses money to feel fulfilled. So that fulfillment is the central thing.

Q: Yes, so such rewards rather than just gross money aspect of it. But you said about, instead of hiring, you effectively inviting others to join actually your place. Suppose that many people want to join you or your place, how do you then go about selecting?

AP: Discretion is the question.

Q: Yeah.

AP: Okay. Do you know what the Scriptures say about this? Don’t mind. I’ll be very old-fashioned at times. They say that the Goddess of Yajna simply does not allow misfits to come near her. The context is that when the Yajna ceremony is being performed—You know what a Yajna ceremony is right? — When the Yajna ceremony is being performed, only the right ones get together. Only the right ones get to come there. The ones who should not be there are somehow just kept away. And to explain how the wrong ones just don’t get to reach there, the Scriptures say that the Yajna Goddess herself keeps the undeserving ones away. They won’t come. They just won’t come. So, you won’t need to filter them out. But for them to not come, your place, the very personality of your place, must be an expression of your essence. As they say, ghosts don’t enter temples. Now, God pervades the entire universe. It’s all very clichéd but we are trying to relook. God permeates the entire universe. But why do ghosts fear temples and not the rest of the universe? If God is everywhere, then ghosts should be nowhere. But it is said that it is only the temples that the ghosts are scared of. At other places, they just roam about freely. These things are symbolic. There are actually no ghosts. I hope you can read the symbols. So why is it only the temple that the ghosts avoid? Because in the temple, godliness is finding expression. So, if in your workplace also, your inherent godliness is finding expression, then the wrong candidates won’t need to be shown the door. They just won’t enter through the door. They might just come till the door, but there would be something about your place that would make them turn back. We all sense it. Ah, this place is not my type. These lights, no that’s not me. The expression on the face of the receptionist, no no no, that’s not me. The very opening line of the conversation, no, that’s not me. I would feel suffocated here. They say evil spirits feel suffocated at the Yajna ceremony. The presence of the interviewer must be such that the candidate comes to know that, “This is not my cup of tea. I’d better run away.” And that happens. The best shortlisting process is the one in which you don’t have to shortlist. The wrong candidates simply vanish on their own. So, you didn’t need to apply any judgment, any criteria, any filters. You’re saved all the trouble. The wrong ones sensed on their own that, “We would be misfits here, we would be suffocated,” and so they vanished. And that happens. This is not just principles or theory. This actually happens. And even if they do get hired, there are hiring mistakes obviously. Even if they do get hired, within a week or two, they realize that it’s not going to work out. So, they come, tender an apology, or sometimes they just… yeah, disappeared. Which is good for both.

Do not try to emulate the market, please. We started off talking of principles. Don’t apply principles. All principles are borrowed. All principles are one size fits all. You say, one principle applies to so many situations. Life doesn’t work that way. Don’t emulate the market. Let there not be any specific hiring method. If there is a specific hiring method, chances are that you have copied it from the so-called experts, or from convention, or from market.

Q2: But those foolproof, they’ve been tried, tested.

AP: You look at how things are going and how the corporations are faring with their employees, you really feel that those principles are foolproof? Maybe there is just 5 or 10% attrition at someplace, but what is the proportion of people who are looking to change? Isn’t that always one by three, one by four, sometimes even one by two? Let me put it this way. Given an opportunity lucrative enough, how many people would refuse to change? And if nobody would refuse to change, if the opportunity is lucrative enough, then that means that de facto everyone is looking for a change. Have those principles succeeded then? If everyone in a firm is looking for change, some are grossly active in seeking change, some are mildly looking out, and some are just passively wishing that if they get a more juicy opportunity they would jump over. And all in all, no one really has any belonging. No one really is anchored in the organization. You really feel the hiring policies have succeeded? They have succeeded in the sense that they have managed a certain situation. At no point does the situation become overly explosive, but at no point, the situation has any stability either. And that is why the managers are always worried. That is why you always have to keep doling out all kinds of carrots and motivational speeches. And that is why the entire HR department is always figuring out what to do to raise employee morale. And then you need all kinds of nonsense, such as weekend get-togethers, you know, and…

Q: Team building.

AP: Yes, and yearly getaways, and every six months liquor has to flow freely, and people must feel that they are staff of honor so they must be given certificates and medals once in a while. When is all that needed? All that is needed when the heart is not where you are. Then you have to keep using the carrot. Otherwise, what’s the need of the carrot? Be very bold. Don’t go by what the market says or does. You know your work, right? Nobody else does. You know your life. Nobody else does. You know why you are working, and if you are honest, you also know that you aren’t in your work to cheat anybody. If you are honest, you also know that if you are in your work, your work, either directly or indirectly, is helping the world become most peaceful. I hope it is doing that. That’s an assumption I’m holding, that your work is not inherently violent or disruptive. It does not involve greed; it is not founded on the desire of personal consumption or self-furtherance. That the existence of your business is actually something that would calm down an ailing situation somewhere. That’s my assumption. I hope my assumption is not misplaced.

Q: No, that’s right.

AP: And if you know that this is what you are doing, then why must you look to emulate someone else? Why don’t you boldly come forward and say, “I’m doing a good job. Join me. I’m proud of what I’m doing, and if you want to lead a life in which you would be propped up by your own self-worth, your every breath would have a certain dignity, then you can join me.” Why can’t you talk straight? Why do you need to go by the HR handbooks? You see, the difference between the personal and the professional has to be greatly reduced, please. You are meeting someone with the view to possibly include him in your team and you are dating a girl. Actually, these two situations are just one. But we behave very differently in the two situations because one is considered personal and the other is labeled as professional. If you are one if you are not split, then why should your responses in these two situations be greatly different? Of course, there would be minor differences. Here, you are talking to a woman, and the ambiance is different, and there you are talking to a man or a woman in a different context. But fundamentally you are going to relate to both of them. In some sense, both are going to become a part of your life. Aren’t they? Any hard-working professional spends as much time with his team as he spends with his wife. Is that not so? In fact, many of them spend more time with their team than they do with their parents, or wife, or kids. Then shouldn’t you be choosing your team with as much care and as much heart and as much honesty as you need to have when you choose a wife? And when you are on a date, do you follow policies? Do you have a set opening statement? Oh, many do have, but we very well know how their dates go. How would the girl feel if you just go there and dole out a rehearsed statement? “You look stunningly great and gorgeous.” And she knows that you have been repeating it and repeating it, and you have already said it to 20 other girls. The candidate too feels the same when you dish out your customary welcomes and briefs, and job description, and company profile. How does he feel? I’m sure you have been through many interviews, have you? A few at least. How do you feel? Doesn’t something churn inside? Doesn’t one feel a little nauseatic? I’m surprised more people don’t just throw up in front of the HR person.

Be as honest, as forthright as yourself, and as charming as you are in front of your date. Why even call it an interview? Call it a date. I’m serious about it. Can you smell how the email would be when you invite the candidate for a date? Maybe you need not say a date with Sumeet.’ You may say a date with my firm.’ But still a date, not an interview. What’s the difference between a date and an interview? A date smells of love. An interview smells of transaction. Nobody wants to become an object of transaction. Do you want to? Why would the other want then? First of all, be very confident of what you are doing. Very confident. You must not be doing something that you must not be doing. Your work must be something that you can honestly and clearly talk of with your kids. You must not be doing things that you cannot tell of to your kids. The kids must be proud of what papa or mama is doing. And if they don’t understand your business, they must at least be able to say, “They are bringing peace to the world.” They deal with firms, of course, they deal with matters of tax, they keep accounts, they are experts in such and such consulting, but all said and done they are in the business of bringing peace to the world through tax consulting. They are not merely paper pushers. They are not merely people who keep the books. All that is just the methodology. The end result is that their work brings peace. “So, I’m proud of what papa does. Through tax consulting he brings peace.”

Even you are so confident of yourself, then you must confidently express yourself to the world. And then you will get the right people, because, you see, everybody is searching for meaning. We just talked of how much time we spend working. Work is life de facto. No one wants to spoil his life. Nobody. We all want work that brings richness to life. We all want work that can keep us light and joyful. Free of all heaviness. We don’t want work that makes us layered and artificial. Do we? We want work that has a certain cheerfulness, playfulness. We would love to be at a workplace where we can share and smile, and even weep together. We don’t want to be a place where one has to shed tears in loneliness. We don’t want to be a place where you have to wear masks, and behind the mask is a desolate face. The mask is all smiles. Is that not how most workplaces can be described? Fancy, smiling masks hiding desolate even depressed faces. Build a beautiful workplace and then throw it open to the world. “Come, join us.” Yes? And pay the price. Building a beautiful workplace involves paying a certain price. If you’re building a beautiful workplace, you couldn’t be involved in hanky-panky business. You’ll have to quit a few clients, especially in the area of tax accounting and such things. There are many looking for easy money, ill-gotten money, tax evasion, and so many other things. You’ll have to pay the price. You’ll have to let go of such people. Or you’ll have to educate them, which may not always be possible. One in five would understand. The other four would have to be… (waving goodbye). But having paid that price, you will enjoy. It’s not only that you’ll have a beautiful workplace, you’ll have a beautiful home as well. The man, who is happy at his workplace also has very beautiful relationships at the home. The man, who is annoyed at the workplace will come back home irritated, frustrated, take it out on everybody. We know that, don’t we?

We are quite fortunate people if we have an already existing business. If it’s a going firm, a thriving concern, then we are relieved of the pressure of making two ends meet. One can be a little choosy then. One can then demand the finer things of life because one is not compelled to think of the next meal all the time. You know the next meal is coming. Now you can securely go into the more delicate, the more subtle things of life. I suppose yours is such a concern. You don’t have to think about the immediate future or short-term financial viability. If you are blessed in that way, then you must pay more and more attention to that which is subtler, finer. And you should also have a healthy contempt for how the world functions. You’re a small team, and there are very large teams as well. There are gigantic corporations. You must not rush into accepting them as a success. Things are not usually how they appear from the outside. A firm doing just a million might be tremendously more successful than a firm doing hundred billion. Success is not so numerical. So just don’t rush into accepting the big names as role models. Most of the times, they are just grown-up boys stuck in their own inner turmoils, propped up by the throw of dice, sheer chance, and struggling to maintain a smiling face in front of all the cameras and flashes.

You must have a very individual definition of success. Copying the successful ones is the sure-shot route to failure. If you want to fail, then copy the ones who succeeded or appear to be succeeding. Just copy them and keep failing.

Q: And I guess failure is part of life, right? So, you do certain things sometimes it’s successful or seems to be successful and other times it seems to be failure. So that can be in your eyes… Sometimes you see it as a failure; whereas other people may see it as a success, and like vice versa. How do you deal with that sort of thing?

AP: You, see failure is a very queer thing. When you do what you know in your best intentions to be right, there are times when you will succeed and there are times when you will fail, right? Fail in the sense that the tangible objective that you sought was not achieved. So technically you have failed. But even in this failure, you have done the right thing. To that extent you are successful. In doing the right thing, you have been open, vigilant, aware, careful, unbiased, so this failure, which is not even a total failure, will lead to success, eventual success in terms of attainments of the tangible objectives. What’s more, this failure will not hurt, because when you are doing the right thing, the doing itself has a certain sureness about it. The doing itself has a certain conviction, which is joy, which is freedom from fear. You are doing something with conviction, and when you are doing it, you are not trembling. You are sure of yourself. That itself is a great success.

So, one does not bother too much about the tangible objectives. One does not bother about the results that are going to accrue in the future. Which means that failure loses a lot of the meaning that is usually attached to it. It also means that success too loses a lot of the meaning that is attached to it. One has done it beautifully. Both success and failures are results, events in the future, and one is not bothering too much about them. That is one thing. And then there is another kind of failure, which we more commonly see. Let me describe it. One has been told that to get out, one must open the door. But one is so lost and deluded, drunk that every time one wants to go out, one ends up banging his head on the door. One sees that, experiences that, curses himself, and pledges to not to do the same thing the next time. But the next morning he does the same thing again. And then the next morning again, and then again, and then again. This is the kind of failure that has no glory in it. The first kind of failure is very acceptable and has no sting in it. It doesn’t hurt you. This kind of failure must hurt, where you are just repeating your old mistakes, your old patterns. And this is the more prevalent kind of failure. One cannot be forgiven if one is failing this way. If you have to fail, fail because you work being truthful to yourself. In being truthful, it was a matter of chance that you could not meet the tangible objectives. But then tangible objectives aren’t greatly important when you are being truthful. They are important but they aren’t everything. So that kind of failure is acceptable. It is so close to success; you need not even call it a stepping stone to success. It is just neighboring success. And the second kind of failure is a very despicable failure. Where you know that you’ll be committing a mistake and you again commit a mistake. Think of the man who gets out of his house every morning to go to his office. He knows that a banana peel would be lying on the road at a certain place. He knows that if he steps on the banana peel, he would slip. And he knows that if he slips it would hurt just as it has hurt him every day. And yet every morning, he still steps on the banana peel and still slips. This is horror. Most of us fail this way. We don’t have any new failures. We just keep repeating our old failures. New failures are so welcome. Old failures, they just show that you are a very egoistic person who is not willing to change, so you are just repeating your patterns. As a manager, you must have great patience with young people who are making mistakes. Even if their mistakes cost you something, you must take that as an investment. You’ve invested in the growth of your young colleague. But you must have no patience with the repeated mistakes of veterans. They are not committing a mistake. They are boldly declaring that they will not change. You must be at war with them. They are not just mistaken. What they are doing is deliberate. It is a deliberate offense. It is not a casual mistake in ignorance. This is the kind of mistake that one must not tolerate. You knew that you’d slip and still you stepped on the banana peel. You know where you are wrong and you still do that. You know what is right and you still avoid that. This kind of mistake deserves punishment. Punishment is a help, you know? It helps crack the ego. But you must never punish someone who is truly experimenting, please. Even if he seems to fail, gladly bear the cost. In fact, encourage him. “Try once again.” Sooner than later, he will succeed. You must take him as already successful.

Q: Yes, few times mistakes happen.

AP: There are some mistakes that happen and there are some mistakes that are made to happen.

Q: Yeah.

AP: Think of the fellow who sets an alarm every day for 6 AM. And every day he dismisses the alarm and wakes up late. This mistake has been made to happen. This is not a mistake. It’s a deliberate offense. It deserves punishment, and life punishes. Life punishes.

Q: Earlier you mentioned about one gets to find solution, innate, it just comes about, the solution. Is there any way of cultivating solutions as such? Not sure I’m phrasing it properly.

AP: The right lifestyle. The right lifestyle. That’s the way. What’s the way to cultivate good fruits? How do you get good fruits? You must give the tree proper nourishment, good upbringing, a decent environment, all the care and affection it deserves. If you’re leading the right life, right life itself supports you with solutions to the challenges that come your way. You must live rightly. You must be very careful of all the small things that you do through the day. If you’re doing them rightly, then when even the bigger challenges arrive, you’ll be able to meet them. If you are losing big battles, then you must focus on all the small mistakes you are making. And there are a great number of small mistakes that one makes in everything one does. In the way, one eats, walks, sleeps, greets, earns, spends. If you are particular about these things, the bigger matters of life will take care of themselves. Be particular about the small. The big will be fixed.

Q2: In the readings talk about career, and learning, management, the difference was you say, or let’s not say principles. The issues that you talk about, you say they can be done in an alternative method. How relevant are they in practical life?

AP: Which one in particular?

Q2: So, let’s say you talked about power or influence. That people who try to influence others are shallow or they lack something. How practical is that? Is that actually what’s happening or is it just a way to make sure that the target is met? Is that not a motive of influencing someone to make sure that everyone works as a team and they deliver to the target?

AP: You see, let’s understand this. There is me, there is you, there is you, and then there is her (pointing at the participants one by one). We’re all together working for a common purpose, and we are grown-up human beings. Why must the other be influenced to work? Does the other lack in something? That is the first question. The second question is how are you really influencing him? The common methods of influence are just fear and greed. You may couch them in more genteel language, you may give them more acceptable and sophisticated names, but fundamentally the only two tools that are used to influence are fear and greed. Next time when you want to influence him, you’ll have to use more fear and greed. The situation keeps on deteriorating. This time you offered him a 1000 and that pepped him up. Next time you’ll have to offer him 2000. That’s not the way to work, right? People and their labor are not commodities to be bought. The source of energy, the source of action, the source of labor must be something else, somewhere else. If influence is to be talked of as the effect of one’s presence on the other, then one’s presence can have a very liberating effect as well on the other. I’ve nothing against that kind of an influence. But that kind of an influence is greatly unseen. Mostly we influence the others so that the others can be coerced or tempted into meeting my personal objectives. And that is why people are so lifeless at work because they really have no intimate relationship with what they’re doing. Their targets are not their targets. They are somebody else’s targets. The man sitting at the top wants to earn a 1000. And in the process, the team members will too make a few dollars. Somebody would make 20, somebody 50, somebody 100, somebody 125. Even if they are making some money, it is so that the man at the top is able to meet his personal desires. In fact, that’s the textbook definition as well. A company exists to maximize shareholder value. Now, that’s quite embarrassing and scary. That means that all the 20,000 employees of the company are working so that the value of the shares of the four people at the top is maximized. I’m assuming it is not publicly listed. They are just four shareholders. And what are these 20,000 guys working for? Four people. It’s so brazen, it is so much in your face. You are working so that the value of my shares is maximized. You are working so that my profit is maximized. What else is slavery then? If this is not, what else is slavery? Now, you’ll need to influence. Now, you’ll need to go to them and say, “You know guy, well, if I’m making a thousand, I think I can give you a little more than 20. And I tell you, if I make a 1050, you get a dollar more.” That’s the old, beaten, and dusted model on which even the most modern of corporations are functioning.

Of course, the thing has been polished and painted and renamed, and packaged, and decorated, and sold in different forms, but essentially it is the same thing, is it not? Tempt them and if they can’t be tempted, then beat them up.

Influence them. Influence them surely to help them beat their limitations. Your presence must have a, I repeat, a liberating influence. Your very presence must invoke a desire in them to grow a little, to be a little better. Your words, your body, your actions, your intentions must tell them that something beyond the mundane is possible, and you personify that. That’s the kind of influence that is most welcome. Once you have helped people drop their chains, beat their limits, do you know what kind of a force you have unleashed? How much can you extract from a person through coercion, tell me? How much can you draw out from a person through temptation, tell me? And how much is that person capable of giving when his inner energies are unshackled? And he does that all on his own. And then there is a dignity in the doing. He is not doing it for you, mind you. What I would be now saying would sound a little inverted, but pay attention. The ordinary employees work for the organization. The real employee works for himself.

Conventionally, you put it just the other way, right? You say, we must have teamwork and we must be dedicated to the organizational vision, and such things, no? You must have people who are working for themselves. They no more say that “We are working towards the organizational goal.” They must be saying that “It is not a matter of the organizational goal. I’m leading a life here, and it’s my individual life.” If they are working towards the organizational goal, mind you, they are just working to enhance the shareholder value. And nobody can be really thrilled doing that. Your people must be saying that “I’m doing it for myself.” And when they are doing it for themselves, then you are absolved of the crime of forcibly dominating someone. Now they aren’t doing it for you under any kind of compulsion. They are doing it for themselves. So now you can sleep with a light head. Even if they are putting excessive and extra hours at work, they aren’t doing it for you. They’re doing it because they love doing it, because it gives them a certain inner thrill.

The shareholder is no more the owner. Everybody who is working has now taken ownership. Can’t you have such a workplace where even the junior-most says, “This is my place.” My place in the sense that I own it. And if I own something, then I don’t have to be motivated to improve it, to run it. All the motivational gurus and all the strategy books are simply penny-wise and pound foolish. They keep teaching managers how to extract the pennies from their people. But the great force, that hearty motivation is, is missed. The great opportunity is lost. It’s like you have two wallets. One containing small coins and the other containing big notes. And you are obsessed with drawing the maximum from the small wallet, and you are totally missing out on the big one. Pennywise pound foolish. You are so happy if you can make your employee spend an extra 30 minutes by giving him a 2% wage hike. That’s the kind of negotiation that is there, right? Spend an extra 30 minutes and take this much home. Spend one hour more and take this much home. And you do not know that the same person, don’t call him an employee please, that the same individual, if a human being capable of love, in love, he will willingly give six hours more and ask for nothing. And you won’t need to have CCTV cameras then. You don’t need to keep monitoring. “Is it a CD box that the guy is pinching?” There are so many organizations, you know, they face this challenge. Even senior employees are pinching stationery items. An assistant vice-president is stealing A4 sheets, erasers, pens, letterheads. These things happen, of course, you know that, right? These are sure shot proofs that the employees take the workplace as an adversary. They feel that they are there to snatch and cheat and forcibly extract and do all of that quickly before they get the next tempting offer. I repeat. Remove this artificial distinction between the personal and the professional. You will never succeed in your work if you are taking it as separate from personal life. Every bit of work is strictly personal. Never say that here ends the personal sphere, and now I’m stepping into the professional. It’s all your personal matter.

Q: We earlier said about people are motivated when they know it’s effectively their place rather than you’re working for somebody else or some other, you know, four people. The way you conduct your work is as if it’s your own place. Is that any way to instill, or not instill, it’s not the right word, but to get that message across to say that they can treat it as their own place provided that they take good care of the work or the workplace as much as they take care of themselves, for example.

AP: They must not be working for you.

Q: Yeah.

AP: They must be working for a certain cause. If they are working for a person, then it is just one person riding on top of the other. They must know that all the people in the workplace are working towards a common goal, and the goal is not the betterment of one particular person. The employees must know that they are not working to fatten the wife of the owner. The employees must know that they are not working so that the kids of the owner can have a great next international holiday. Are you getting it? They must know that just like them, the so-called owner or shareholder is also working for the cause. And the cause is bigger than any person. The cause is bigger than the shareholder. The cause is bigger than the man at the top. Then you are glad, then you know whom you are really serving. Are you getting it? Serving a man, you can never give too much of yourselves. It is impossible. But serving a truthful cause, you can give more of yourself than you know. That is why the first step is that the organization must figure out what it stands for. What are we really doing in this universe? Why do we exist at all? That is something that the organization must figure out. And then you open your doors. You say, “This is what we are doing, if it appeals to you, come over.” And then the people who are coming over are not coming to inflate the bank balance of the owner. They are coming to…?

Q3 (Anu): (Inaudible)

AP: No, they are coming to serve the cause. It is now incidental that in serving the cause, one man is leading the show. Think of a battlefield and draw two lessons from there. The general is there, and the foot soldier is also there. Aren’t both of them taking blows on their body? That’s how the entire team must feel. Well, yes, that fellow is a general because he has a certain experience, because he is probably more skilled because some of his qualities are more advanced, more evolved, so he deserves to be the general, and I’m just a beginner. But both of us are fighting for the same goal. And both of us are facing the same adversary. You can’t have a general who hides behind the ranks and orders from there. You must have a general who is leading from the front. If the soldiers are taking blows, the general must also be bleeding. That is one thing. Second thing, the second lesson to be drawn is, the soldiers are all professionals, yes or no? But when it’s bleeding from here (pointing at own shoulder), is the blood personal or professional? Come on. The soldiers are professionals but war is personal. That must be the relationship that you have with your work. Are you getting it? Yes, we are a professionally trained army, but every bit of it is personal. When a bullet hits me, it’s the person that suffers. The personal and the professional have become one in the battlefield. And because we are onto it, a related third point as well emerges. The soldier doesn’t say, “It’s 6 PM, and I’m going home,” or does he? Because all war is personal. Now, it’s his own matter. “How can I turn my back? I’m in the middle of a war.” Even if the general says, “Go and relax,” the soldier says, “Sir, wait. I’m not really in need of relaxation. Something more important is upon us.” That’s the kind of shared and real motivation that the team must have.

Q: So, I understand what you’re saying about motivation. Real motivation comes from not the money or the title, or even particular task being done, but more from the purpose of your work and how it fits in overall to the cause or the purpose of the organization. But should that purpose be defined in a particular way, so that it’s articulated to…?

AP: Your life must articulate that.

Q: Yeah.

AP: The life of the leader must articulate the purpose of the organization. The leader must be an epitome, a personification of the organizational purpose. You need not go to the books to read what this organization stands for. Just observe the top man, and you’ll know what this organization is all about. Your life is the testimony, the vindication. And if there is a disconnect between the professed values and the lives of the leadership team, then the employees say, “I know the tricks that you, old guys, are playing, and if you can play those tricks, we too can.” And then the workplace is just a filthy stage showing a boring and pretty pointless drama.

Don’t give them a job, give them a life. And if you can do that, then you don’t need to worry. People aren’t looking for jobs, are they? People are looking to improve their lives. Don’t be a job provider. Be a life-giver. Let there be a touch of God. There are just too many who are providing jobs, who cares about them, you know? Before the ink dries on the offer letter, you are sitting in the exit interview. And even in the exit interview, you are as fake as you were in the joining interview. Even at the time of your exit, you are faking.

I was recently being told of a person who was fired from a modern IT organization. And because the narrator is known and reliable, so I can quote. He says the fellow was fired, but he was given a hugely emotional farewell, and in that farewell, everybody was told that he is moving on to a better place. And sweet photographs were clicked. And lot of his colleagues, obviously they were kept in the dark, nobody was told that he is being fired, lot of his colleagues narrated stories about the fellow’s diligence and honesty and of his utmost importance to the organization. The icing on the cake was, after one hour of the farewell function, the fellow himself started believing that he’s being given an honorable exit. He became sentimental. He started crying and hugging people. So much so he even hugged the HR manager who had fired him. Even as all this was being done, papers were being prepared to prevent him from filing a lawsuit. A part of his pending salary was being withheld to be used as a bait in any kind of possible future negotiations. And here is the great, pink, and wet farewell party. You want to spend your life at such a workplace? That’s how all workplaces are. You’ll have to be really lucky to find an exception.

Q: So, leading by example rather than… What you described rightly about somebody being fired. Effectively, he was told a story, and if you tell a story enough time, it becomes a…

AP: Yeah, yeah. It is not that he was told a story. He knew that he was being fired, and he was under compulsion to behave properly in the farewell function. Because that’s the company norm. So, you know that you have been fired but you must wear a smile as if you are so glad that you spent these years here. As if you are so full of admiration and love for the company. The fellow is cursing the company at least till the first hour ends. Later on, he too gets swept away.

Q: Well, ‘story’ wasn’t the right word. ‘Script’, effectively. He was provided with the script.

AP: He was provided with a script.

Q: And initially he knew was a script, but then eventually it was no script anymore. It became part of…

AP: There were balloons. There were balloons, sweets, and chocolates, and memoirs. And all the pretty ladies were coming and talking of things that he never did. Somebody was so eager, he said once a great snow leopard entered the office and he was about to pounce on that pretty damsel. And our fellow leaped forward like a knight in shining armor and saved the life and honor of the lady. Now, who will not get sentimental hearing such effusive praise? That’s the script. One fellow even showed the photo of that snow leopard. And there was another one who said that he can even bring the snow leopard to the function given a couple of hours more.

Man lives in fantasies. All fantasies are about pleasure, and all fantasies arise from pain. I assure you; you can be convinced that you saved a pretty lady in Delhi from the attack of a snow leopard. That’s exactly the stuff fantasies are made of.

Q2: So, is it important that all the people working for the cause, they have to be self-aware as well of who they are, who they want to be?

AP: Not in the bookish spiritual sense.

Q2: Yeah, no. What I was trying to say is, will that not create a lot of different prospective leaders in the future? Just like artificial intelligence. It could be a threat if computers know who they are, then anything can happen. Is the simile applicable or do you think this is something we should be, or anyone should be worried about? That people working for the organization, everyone is becoming self-aware?

AP: How is that a threat?

Q2: So, if everyone wants to be a leader, what happens next?

AP: Oh, you probably have the hackneyed leadership model in your mind. The Pied Piper leading all the rats. Human rats. One person in leadership position, and all the blind men following him. One person to be venerated and the others are just little worshippers. It doesn’t work like that. That’s the dualistic model of leadership. They say for one fellow to be a leader, there must be 50 who must not be leaders. They must merely be followers.

There is also a more real, more joyful, non-dual model of leadership, where to be a leader you don’t need followers. To understand that you must know what leading really means. Who is it that leads? To lead means to be in the front. To be the first. What does the first mean? The first means that before which there is nobody else, nothing else, right? That is the first. Whenever you do something, there is something before what you are doing. The leader is the one who does something in front of which there is nothing else. The thing that you have in front of you is called the cause or the reason. The reason comes first, then comes the action. The cause comes first, and then comes the effect. To be a leader, you have to be first, so you have to be with the cause, with the reason, which means that in front of you there is only cause lessness. In front of you, there is only reasonlessness. You do not really know why you are doing something. It’s a thing of the heart. It’s mystical.

Whenever there is something in front of you, whenever you are driven by a cause or a reason, you’d only be working for self-centered profit. Even if your actions seem to benefit the world, yet there would be some hidden, personal profit involved. If not financial, then emotional. Matters of fame and prestige and felicitation. Matters of ego. There is always a reason. The leader is the one who is not working on the reasons prescribed by the mind. His topmost motivation, his central motivation, comes from a very reasonless point. For other daily actions, there obviously are reasons. If he’s going somewhere, and you ask him, “Why are you going there?” He’ll probably tell you, “I’m going there for a meeting.” So, there is a reason. But his central motivation is intrinsically reasonless. Such is the leader. His motivation is not that there must be 20 people behind him, respecting him, adoring him, and such things. The leader is the person who is now with the first. The leader is the reason who doesn’t have anybody ahead of him. Not even himself. We have our mind ahead of us. Our mind leads us. The leader is the person who refuses to be led by his mind. The conditioned mind, that is. We are talking of the usual conditioned mind. The leader is the fellow who refuses to be led. The leader, therefore, is an innovator in the real sense. The leader is, therefore, the pathbreaker in the real sense. Are you getting it? And for that, he doesn’t need a trail behind him, an army behind him. He doesn’t need a crowd in front of him. He doesn’t need people to salute him. Leadership is something very very internal. Yes, later on, there might be people who may like you, adore you, raise your statues, call you a great man, even a prophet, but that’s not what you are after. Is that a little too complex?

So, it is not a threat if people are self-aware. The leadership that you mostly talk of is not leadership at all. It is just hunger. It is an inner hollow that wants to be filled by the number of followers.

Q2: Someone who is running a factory where he has 200 such working for them, is it difficult to turn around that person or is it better to just spend your beginning when you’re starting that factory, setting up that factory where you have 200 people working for you at that point, you set your aim?

AP: You must first talk of the first things. Why does one set up a factory at all? What is that factory for? What is the factory making? The first things are the most important. One doesn’t just build a factory from nowhere and for nothing. The world was alright even before your factory came. Why was this factory needed at all? And if it was needed, explain to your people why it was needed. If they see that the factory is indeed important and useful, then their movements will have a different ease, a different swiftness.

There are lot of factories that need to close down. And they are being forcibly made to keep existing. This is one mistake that the so-called leaders so often make. They never bother to communicate to the general worker, to the average employee, why does the work, why does the concern exist at all. They keep people limited in their small roles. So, what is your role? Your role is to punch holes in paper. Now, the fellow does not even know what’s written on that paper, what would be the effect of that paper, to whom is the paper going. What does he know? That my role is to punch holes in the paper. And you there. Your role is to deliver goods to that man. Now, what’s contained in the package? The delivery boy, the driver of the vehicle never knows. All he knows is that the consignment has to be shipped. If you ask him, “What are you shipping, and what would be the effect of this shipment?” He would draw a blank.

Q: Certain people though are able to understand the purpose quite innately, whereas others it’s not obvious. And if you try to put it in words, then you limit the whole purpose of... So how do you communicate to those people that need to know the real purpose?

AP: You see, first of all, it has to be ensured that the fundamentals are in place. That the right work has been done from the side of the person who is seeking to explain. That there are not many lacunae left. If still, the fellow does not understand intuitively, then words have to be used. And if words too fail, then, for the meanwhile, the fellow must be distanced from the organization. You cannot have people in the organization who just have no resonance with the vibes there. But before you bid them goodbye, all effort must be made to help them understand. But sometimes you have to just wait, sometimes you just have to say that this fellow’s time has not yet come. Then you have to patiently tell him that, “We will wait. We will wait for the right situations to emerge and then we can start working together again.” Doing this will involve a certain degree of pain, I understand, but purging without pain is often impossible. It’s our one life. It’s worth the pain, is it not?

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