Friday, April 07, 2006


Friends, The Avatar Way of Leadership builds an Indian model of Leadership by using insights of Jungian psychology, tales of the Avatars of Hindu Mythology and real examples of contemporary Indian leaders. It offers a unique perspective of leadership as a process comprising three successive stage: developing character, building relationships, and devising good strategies. Character attracts people. Relationships turn attraction into loyalty. Good strategies lead to victory and help sustain attraction and loyalty.

I recommend this superb book which propounds a new theory in Leadership for your reading.
Santosh Pandey

The following is an extract from The Avatar Way of Leadership by Harsh Verma, published by Rupa.

The Three Archetypes of Leadership

The discussion on the difference in character, relationships and strategies of Rama and Krishna should have made it clear that they are essentially different leadership types. The differences between the two leadership styles can be explored on the following criteria:

Origin and pattern of life

Rama was born in an aristocratic family and lived an orderly life that was more or less predictable until a severe crisis dislodged him from fairyland into the real world. This was followed by intense personal pain and suffering. The struggle in turn legitimised his leadership stature enabling him to emerge as an acclaimed leader. It was the hardship of exile and the battle with Ravana that made him an acclaimed Avatar.

On the other hand, Krishna's life was unpredictable from the very beginning. He realised very well that the rewards of life would not be handed to him and would entirely be due to his own efforts. Born as a cowherd he made his mark with his initiatives. He did learn about his royal lineage as an adolescent but there was a big risk.

He was expected to evolve a way to defeat and kill Kansa. And when Kansa was eliminated he was again expected to rescue Mathura from the repeated invasions of Jarasandha. Krishna knew that neither family nor fate would give him the desired results, and he behaved unconventionally in order to gain success.

Attitude towards people

Rama had a direct and frank nature. He confronted his opponents directly and stated his opinions frankly. Thus, in his encounter with Parshurama, Rama challenged the sage to prove his worth and made the sage accept his superiority. Further, when Bharat came to see him, Rama was urged to revoke his forest exile by other sages who argued that the death of Dashratha had released him from his vow. Rama was enraged by the reasoning and berated them for their logic. He would not engage in tact.

Krishna on the other hand treated people with tact and diplomacy. While the enemies of Dwarka were given a befitting response, Krishna used his persuasive powers to the utmost to influence people to do his bidding. Krishna rarely ever spoke directly and harshly unless confronted with an ultimatum.

Sense of self versus the organisation

Rama was able to separate himself from the organisation and recognise that he and the organisation were two separate entities with differing needs and requirements. Further, he recognised that organisational needs took preference over personal whims and desires. That is why he took the decision to go into exile in order to preserve the sanctity of the royal word.

Krishna conflated his sense of self with that of the organisation since he believed that he himself was solely responsible for the welfare of Dwarka and his absence would cripple the republic. For him the interests of the organisation as well as his own coincided totally.

Opportunities: Internal versus external

Rama's leadership was internal. It focused on his role as the son of the king and as the descendant of the Ishkva-kus and the duties that arose as a result of these roles. Rama did not focus on growing the kingdom through addition of territories or taking any radical innovations that would change the character of the kingdom.

On the other hand Krishna's leadership focused, on opportunities in the external context. The organisation, i.e. the Yadava polity was secondary to the opportunity and was changed in order to realise the opportunities. Thus Krishna changed the capital from Mathura to Dwarka to take advantage of Dwarka's geographical location and changed the basis of economy from agrarian to mercantile. This would have been unthinkable for Rama.

Attitude towards change

Rama was dedicated to incremental change. Thus he advocated the principle of one man having only one wife and did not hesitate to defy his elders on issues of importance. However, the change came as a result of his own thinking that were far removed from any considerations of gain and profit.

The focus was on reforming social abuses, not changing his norms and views. Nor did he easily change his attitude and strategy unless forced to do so by external pressure. It was only when he realised that he could not defeat Ravana directly that he began to innovate in his strategy.

The leadership of Krishna on the other hand involved creating something new. There was a fascination for exploring new avenues. Krishna seemed to value disruption because it led to change. Further, the changes were strategically determined with a view for gain. Thus, Krishna left Vrindavana and went to Mathura because it offered better opportunities. He fled to Dwarka due to the pressure of Jarasandha and did not return to Mathura even after the death of the latter because Mathura did not offer any advantages over Dwarka.

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