Ancient Wisdom for Transformational Leadership and Its Insights from the Bhagavad-Gita

Ancient Wisdom for Transformational Leadership and Its Insights from the Bhagavad-Gita

Biswajit Satpathy (Sambalpur University, India) and Balakrishnan Muniapan (Wawasan Open University, Malaysia)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9758-4.ch001
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During the past one decade we have witnessed an increase in number of literatures on ancient wisdom in leadership. Among the Indian (Asian) literatures, the Bhagavad-Gita is often cited by many scholars. Therefore, in this chapter, the authors attempt to draw a parallel between the transformational leadership and the Bhagavad-Gita. The significance of transformational leadership has received great attention and good amount of study has been done in this area. For this chapter, the authors have employed hermeneutics, which is a methodology used for the interpretation of ancient literatures. The Bhagavad-Gita advocates a consciousness and a spirit-centered approach to transformational leadership based on eternal values and moral principles. This chapter is likely to provide insights into Indian (Asian) leadership (and management) strategies for Western business leaders, enabling them to work more effectively with Indian business leaders in India, and in regions where there are significant Indian population.
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Leadership is one of the most researched subjects and an interesting topic of discussions around the world. Researchers have examined leadership skills from a variety of perspectives. Leadership research itself is a multidisciplinary field and has origins in the social sciences such as psychology, sociology, social psychology, anthropology, political science and economics. Besides it also has origins in humanities such as history, philosophy, religion and spirituality. Leadership is generally defined as the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts towards achieving certain goals. The word “influencing” can be substituted with other words such as transforming, empowering, driving, motivating and inspiring. In leadership the leader is the key in transforming the followers. The leader is the most important element in leadership. The personality, behavior and character of the leader are an important determinant for success of any organization, society and country.

In academia, leadership theories and concepts from the West have dominated the world for over two centuries. This dominance is due to colonization and the widespread use of English in many countries and the readily available leadership literatures in English language. However, a careful analysis reveals that many of the recently popularized Western leadership theories and concepts have been in practice in the East for centuries. These practices however were not in the context business organization but in the state or political governance. Sharma (2001) for example, argues that for a leadership system, to be effective, it has to be rooted in the cultural soil of the country, where it is practiced. Many communities and countries in the world are now trying to discover and explore their own indigenous system of leadership and management, which includes financial management, human resource management, customer relationship management, corporate social responsibility and also corporate governance.

In academic literatures, research on various dimensions of leadership has been written by several scholars. There are perhaps hundreds of research chapters written in the Indian context and there is also an increasing number of literature on the Indian philosophy and business leadership from authors such as Chakraborty (1993; 1995; 1999), Chakraborty and Chakraborty (2008), Sharma (1996; 1998; 1999; 2002; 2003), Krishnan (2001, 2003), Kejriwala and Krishnan (2004), Satpathy (2006; 2007), Muniapan (2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2009; 2010; 2014; 2015), Muniapan and Dass (2008; 2009), Muniapan and Shaikh (2007), Muniapan and Satpathy (2010), Muniapan and Rajendran (2011), Muniapan and Low (2011), Low and Muniapan (2011), Muniapan and Satpathy (2013), Muniapan and Jalarajan (2014), Satpathy and Muniapan (2008), Satpathy, Muniapan and Dass (2013), Parashar (2008) and others.

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