“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”- great Einstein spoke thus about Mahatma Gandhi who changed the course of world history and polity through satyagraha and ahimsa. He truly held a beacon to the global community and its leadership to show the path of peace, driven by conscience and compassion. Mahatma has been inspiring generations and will continue to do so for generations to come.
While Mahatma Gandhi brought together committed political leaders to guide the millions in India for a far higher goal of freedom, he also endeavored to involve the business leaders. Mahatma sought right conduct and contribution from the businesses and in the process expressed his thoughts which are relevant even today for Business Leadership and Management. Harvard School of Business honored themselves by crowning Mahatma Gandhi as Management Guru of 20th century.
More than a year back, on 2nd October’19, a grateful world celebrated Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, let us, from the corporate community, pay tribute to him by recalling his guiding and inspiring thoughts.
MAHATMA ON BUSINESS
Gandhi ji looked at businesses as a means of social welfare. He propagated the Socio-economic philosophy of Trusteeship, saying, “All business firms must work like a trust”. The assets of the firms are held and managed by the owners and the management, generating wealth, a part of which should be retained by the owners while the rest is utilized towards the welfare of the society. He believed, businesses must exist first for the social good. He extolled towards a higher purpose and a lofty vision.
Mahatma talked about 7 deadly sins- “Wealth without Work; Pleasure without Conscience; Science without Humanity; Knowledge without Character; Politics without Principles; Commerce without Morality; Worship without Sacrifice”. He guided the businesses and the organizations towards making Ethics, Values, Compassion and Care at the very foundation of the enterprise. He also said, “It is difficult, but not impossible, to conduct strictly honest business”. There is nothing more strategic than operating with the highest levels of values because that is the surest way to a sustainable business.
MAHATMA ON LEADERSHIP
Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership philosophy can be best summed up by one of his quotes- “There goes my people, I must follow them, for I am their leader”. His entire life has been a lesson in Servant Leadership which inspired and guided even the greats like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. He truly served to lead. He said, “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men”. Come to think of it, an impossibly vast geography, with multitude of culturally and linguistically diverse population and no modern communication, he could earn the trust and unite them together by genuinely serving them. Mahatma said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” and that should be the template for leadership development.
Gandhi ji said, “Be the change, you want to see in the world”. The starting point, for his journey to lead people, was Self Leadership. He brought about all the changes in his lifestyle, clothes, food, transportation… to become like the people, he needed to lead. Mahatma’s thinking and writings were always reflecting the high moral character and a positive way of resistance that he wanted to inculcate in the freedom struggle. He said, “Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny”.
MAHATMA ON PEOPLE
Gandhi ji created momentum by encouraging people to be true to their duties. He said, “Consciously or, unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make, not for own happiness, but that of the world at large”. Mahatma inculcated the spirit of courage, endurance, willing sacrifice and responsibilities over rights. He said, “All business depends upon men fulfilling their responsibilities”. He was also a big advocate of processes and said, “If one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself”. Despite leading a freedom struggle of such scale, Gandhi ji tried creating laughter and fun around, he said, “If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago would have committed suicide”. He emphasized the importance of positive energy and enthusiasm which makes people love to do the things which needs to be done by them.
We discuss the need for customer centricity today, Mahatma talked about the same, way back in 1890. He said, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business, he is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so”. I am not sure, anyone else has put forward the essence of customer centricity in such a comprehensive and appropriate way. Yet again, we see him espousing the spirit of service before self which not only delights the customer, it elevates the one who serves.
Mahatma Gandhi not just showed the world, a new path of Socio-Political Leadership based on Satyagraha and Ahimsa, he also gave the right template of leadership to Corporate Management where Businesses are a force of Social Good; Leadership is a Tool of Service and Customers are the sole purpose of Enterprise.
Each one of us, let us pledge today to be a Gandhi in our own spheres, in true letter and spirit and that, will be the real tribute to The Mahatma.
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Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.