Quite a few CEOs, when they wake up the day after having secured a crucial business deal, experience a sense of calm happiness within. The flowers are in full bloom, the sun shines with due benevolence, the birds and the bees hop around doing what Mother Nature has ordained them to do, God is in heaven and all appears to be fine with the world.
If they happen to be at a resort with a fresh water lake nearby, they prefer to splash about a bit and invigorate themselves. While taking a leisurely swim, they even start exercising their vocal chords, belting out a favourite song of theirs, generating in the process an off-tune gruesome sound which is calculated to startle the stoutest. Two bees, buzzing among the roses, stop as one bee and look at each other with raised eyebrows. Snails withdraw into their shells. A squirrel practicing for her athletic performance in the upcoming Olympics on a nearby tree nearly falls off its branch. A deer roaming around in the bushes nearby, its reverie disrupted, decides to scoot off to a quieter location. But such CEOs, blissfully unaware of the confusion being caused in the animal kingdom by virtue of their expression of inner bliss, persevere in their endeavours. Bhagavad Gita speaks of three kinds of happiness – the Sattvic (Pure) kind, the Rajasic (Passionate) kind, and the Tamasic (Dull) kind.
Sattvic: The unalloyed bliss of happiness
The happiness that a CEO experiences when she has executed a business plan successfully, or has convinced the board of directors of the merits of an acquisition proposal, would be that of the pure kind. A path-breaking approach has been taken. Her vision, courage and conviction are easily visible. Much hard work and effort has gone into the work accomplished. Details have been examined with a fine tooth comb. While working on such plans, the proverbial midnight oil has been burnt. Some personal sacrifices have been made. Initial pain and difficulties have been suffered and overcome. A combination of the hard work put in, the self-control exercised in the process, and the resultant sense of self-perfection leads to this kind of happiness. When we use the term Peace, this is indeed the kind of happiness we refer to.
That which seems like poison at first, but tastes like nectar in the end, is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness. It is generated by the pure intellect that is situated in self-knowledge.
For those of you who have come across the movie Invictus, the visionary leadership of Nelson Mandela comes across very clearly. He blunts the edge of apartheid by using the game of rugby to unite his populace, when they cheer Springboks, the team of the South African Rugby Union, to a victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The title of the movie could be translated from Latin to mean ‘unconquered’. Here is the poem bearing the same title:
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. (William Ernest Henley)
One can well imagine the kind of unalloyed happiness experienced by those at the helm of affairs in a challenging situation of that kind.
Many CEOs keep fighting the battle of the abdominal bulge. When they take their doctor’s advice seriously and start either jogging or brisk walking, the initial pain and resistance from within act as a deterrent. However, once a habit gets formed, they enjoy better health and happiness.
Rajasic: The mundane shade of happiness
The passionate kind of happiness gets experienced when her ambition of a C-suite gets fulfilled. Or, when she gets a reserved parking slot earmarked for her vehicle. Or, even when the security guard and the liftman salute her upon entry to her fiefdom. Power, pelf and prestige present a package which gives rise to a fleeting sense of happiness in her bosom. But beneath the happiness is a layer of anxiety, because none of these can be taken for granted. In fact, the risk of her developing a queen-size ego and believing that she is omnipotent is pretty high. A major setback in career could just be around the corner, sneaking up and striking her with the stuffed eel-skin of business life.
Happiness is said to be in the mode of passion when it is derived from the contact of the senses with their objects. Such happiness is like nectar at first but poison at the end.
Indira Nooyi, ex-President of PepsiCo, says:
‘Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.’
Tamasic: Happiness which leads to a fall from grace
The dull kind is one which is based entirely on the gratification of senses. Lord Krishna points out three specific causes which result in a happiness of this kind:
When emotional and mental sleep leads to one not being able to understand the reality, or one trudges through life without a clear goal in life;
A state of inertia of the intellect when one decides to let others govern one’s life, or allows one’s instincts and impulses to govern her decisions and approach to problem solving.
Ignoring the ‘inner voice’, one perfects the art of heedlessness and often gets into an adventurous mode, indulging in sensory gratification, eventually leading to a spectacular downfall.
यदग्रे चानुबन्धे च सुखं मोहनमात्मन: |
निद्रालस्यप्रमादोत्थं तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् || 39||
That happiness which covers the nature of the self from beginning to end, and which is derived from sleep, indolence, and negligence, is said to be in the mode of ignorance.
AskMartin Winterkorn, the former chairman of the board of directors of Volkswagen AG, who put in his papers during September 2015, several days after the infamous emissions cheating scandal came up. He also resigned as chairman of Audi on 11 November 2015, after further information associated with the scandal was revealed in regard to VW’s gasoline-powered engines. He was criminally indicted over the emissions cheating scandal in the USA on May 3, 2018 on charges of fraud and conspiracy. In April 2019, he was criminally indicted on charges of fraud in Germany. His is a clear case for the kind of transient happiness CEOs should not aim for.
A wise CEO who happens to be aware of different hues of happiness would manage the wild horses of her desires, her egoistic tendencies and her anger and resentments in such a manner as to truly aim for the Sattvic variety of happiness. In other words, do a great job and experience the inner glow of contentment. Peter Drucker is also of the opinion that happiness is irrelevant in the management context: ‘Never mind your happiness; do your duty.’
Ashok 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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