Ten Management Lessons CEOs can learn from Mahatma Gandhi

By Ashok Bhatia (2015)



Mahatma Gandhi, revered the world over as an apostle of peace and non-violence, led India’s freedom movement. His birth anniversary gets celebrated on the 2nd of October.
Are his teachings relevant to the world of commerce and business? Can CEOs of today learn a thing or two from his aphorisms?
Here are few of his thoughts which business owners, CEOs and managers might find of some interest.
The future depends on what you do today.
Managements who care for their brands re-engineer their business processes and ensure sustainable operations. They respect the environment and the aspirations of the local communities. They ensure compliance with local laws. Ethics and values are strictly adhered to.
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.
Smart CEOs already know this, thanks in part perhaps to Philip Kotler and others who have proclaimed that ‘Customer is King.’ A small time retailer practices this axiom even without having come across it. Managements of organized retail chains try to drill this message into their front-line staff, hoping to make shopping a pleasurable experience.
Marketing honchos these days are twiddling their thumbs trying to solemnize a holy matrimony between e-commerce outfits and brick-and-mortar stores.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
CEOs spend a lot of their time trying to reform others. But the trick perhaps lies in understanding oneself internally – one’s own motivations, value systems, strengths and weaknesses.
To be a true leader also means to lead by example. A business leader who cries hoarse over corruption but is seen as dishing out lucrative business deals to a family member would never get taken seriously. A company which projects a clean image but does not deliver good value for customer’s money, or sets aside funds for speedier navigating through the politico-bureaucratic maze of a country it operates in, succeeds only in the short run.
Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
CEOs in the King Lion mode make good mentors when they take the mistakes of their cubs in their stride, coach them appropriately and do not indulge in demolishing their sense of self-worth.
It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.
Great leaders are often humble. They learn from their failures as well as from their successes. CEOs and marketing heads of FMCG companies who are getting out of their silos and venturing into rural markets are learning this rather quickly.
Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.
Gravitating towards an external profile which is a reflection of what one happens to be internally is one of the ingredients of success. This harmony leads to better degree of mental peace and equanimity, which in turn brings about better decision-making.
If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.
A clear sense of purpose and a strong self-belief alone are necessary but not sufficient for go-getter CEOs to realize their aims. A conscious effort to acquire the knowledge and the skills necessary to achieve one’s aim is a pre-requisite of success.
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
A strong will power and a sense of conviction help CEOs in achieving their goals. Followers look up to them for strategic inputs and end up assisting them in execution.
Will it with all your heart, and see your vision taking a tangible shape.
A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
Smart CEOs know when and how to say a ‘No’. They also understand the perils of being a ‘Yes’-person. Registering dissent is an art which they often learn the hard way.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Living in the present is an art which successful CEOs practice in a state of blissful ignorance. Ensuring that all customer queries get responded to on the very day these are raised is a matter of habit for them.
Going back to school is an option which many senior managers exercise these days. Organizations which encourage such endeavours keep topping the charts of the most-favourite-employers year after year.
Mahatma Gandhi was not a management consultant. What he said was not in the context of business management. But some of the principles he has left behind for us to munch upon are practical, hard-nosed and shrewd.
Business owners, CEOs and managers of all hues are sure to find that many of his ideas are worth emulating. Mere brooding over these gems of business could transform our attitudes and produce gratifying results. Bringing them in practice could help businesses burnish their brands and build a formidable competitive edge.
(Caricature by late Sh. R K Laxman)

Ashok Kumar Bhatia is an occasional author, a speaker, a regular blogger and content creator on such topics as Management, P G Wodehouse, Bollywood and life in general. Based on his 35 years+ experience in the corporate world, he is acutely aware and conscious of the need for high values and ethics in business. Almost all his articles and books have an underlying current highlighting this very theme. In him, one finds a fierce critic of any kind of compromises on this front. He believes that business ships which are built on a keel of sound values end up not only having a better brand equity but also yield better returns to their stakeholders. When businesses are broad minded and give back to the society at large, they serve a higher purpose. His blog posts can be accessed at ashokbhatia.wordpress.com.

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