They Don’t Have to Think Like You

Business, Indian Mythology 13 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier ET, October 01, 2010

In the Ramayana, Hanuman, the monkey-god, is known as the greatest devotee of Ram. It was he who had located Ram’s wife, Sita, in Lanka, after she had been abducted by the Rakshasa-king, Ravan.

The story goes that, after the discovery of Sita’s whereabouts, Hanuman had, of his own volition, set aflame the city of Lanka. This had displeased Ram as he had no desire to hurt the residents of Lanka for the crime of their king. Not want to displease Ram ever again, Hanuman swore never to take any decision without consulting with Ram.

This absolute obedience became so intense that it alarmed Jambuvan, the wise bear, who also served in the army of animals raised by Ram to defeat Ravan and liberate Sita. When Hanuman was being given instructions of where he would find the Sanjivani herb that could save Ram’s brother, Laxman, from certain death after being injured in battle, Jambuvan told Ram, “Make sure to clearly tell him to come back with the herb after he finds it. Otherwise, he will find the herb and simply wait by the mountain, in complete compliance.” This was not good, Ram realized. The situation had to be rectified.

And so it came to pass, as retold in the Adbhut Ramayana, during the course of the war, Ravan’s cousin, Mahiravan, a sorcerer, managed to abduct both Ram and Laxman, and take them to Patala, his subterranean kingdom. Only Hanuman had the intellectual and physical prowess to rescue them. He had to rely on his own wits; there was no Ram around to instruct him. He was on his own. Jambuvan realized this situation was of Ram’s own making; Hanuman was being forced to rise up to the challenge.

At one point of the rescue mission, Hanuman had to simultaneously blow out five lamps located in five corners of Patala. He solved this problem by sprouting four extra heads: that of a boar, an eagle, a lion and a horse. With five heads he could blow out five lamps located in five directions easily. Eventually, Hanuman succeeded in rescuing Ram. He had transformed from an obedient servant to an astute independent decision-maker. He had transformed from Ram-bhakt to Maha-vir, from god (in lower case) to God (in upper case), worthy of veneration in his own right. Ram had thus created a leader.

A time comes in every leader’s life when he has to create leaders around him. This involves making people around him competent enough to take independent decisions. But this is not easy. Every decision has consequences, not all of them acceptable to a leader. It demands tremendous restraint and maturity on a leader’s part not to intervene and change the decision made by a junior.

Hanuman’s decision of burning Lanka displeased Ram. And so after that, Hanuman stopped taking decisions. To rectify the damage done, Ram had to remove himself from the scene so that Hanuman could rediscover his decision-making abilities. A leader need not agree with a junior’s decision. They are two different people and so may not see the same situation in the same way. But to imagine that the junior will think just like them, is many a leader’s folly. Sanjeev is one such leader.

Sanjeev’s brilliant decision making abilities have resulted in his becoming a partner in a consulting firm at a very early age. Now he has to nurture his managers and nudge them to take more responsibilities. One manager, Sebastian, on his own decided to follow up on the status of a business proposal with a client. “Why did you do that?” shouted Sanjeev, “It can put them off.” Another time, Sebastian gave a half day off to a management trainee who was feeling unwell. “Why did you do that?” screamed Sanjeev, “There is so much work to do.” After this, not wanting to upset his boss further, Sebastian stopped taking any decisions. He just did what Sanjeev told him to do. During appraisals, Sanjeev said, “You need to be more proactive,” to Sebastian’s astonishment, and great irritation.

Sanjeev wants Sebastian to be proactive but any signs of proactive behaviour is immediately reprimanded. As a result, Sanjeev is surrounded by obedient followers and no leaders. Sanjeev does not trust his managers unless they think exactly like him, which is impossible. Potential leaders, unable to handle Sanjeev’s demand for proactive behaviour followed by reprimand of all independent decisions, have left the organization. Sebastian is planning to leave too. And he will, until Sanjeev realizes that to groom leaders he has to allow them to take decisions and stand by them, no matter what. This indicates trust. Only in trust does growth happen.

  • Subhasis Pujapanda

    Hi Dev

    A story glowing aligned again. Great resemblance of Hanuman to Mahavir. This empowerment lesson has to be really understood by leaders to groom leaders below else followers will only be around.
    I really salute your tale connectivity.


  • Naveen

    Excellent piece !!! and so true …

  • Rahul Ghadge

    Hi Dev,
    Such a great understanding of the epic figures and the correlation of the characters

  • Rohit Srimal

    Hello Dev sir,
    In my field of work,i would explain concepts to my subordinates by giving them analogies, like you.The challenge is to choose an analogy known to everyone and easy to relate with. I have been following your articles and videos, just love them. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
    And this article in specific addresses the dilemma every leader goes through. Thank you again.

  • Akshay

    Excellent article. One of the very common situations beautifully explained


  • Prashant Patil

    Hi Sir,

    The comparison is mind blowing. Love the way you relate sir. You are bringing in all the hidden secrets about management from mythology. Hats off!!

  • for developing leadership qualities, mutual trust is an essential pre-requisite.

  • It requires the heart of an Avatar like Lord Ram to recognize the necessity, develop decision-making abilities in his colleagues, delegate and thus groom the leadership. It is a normal human trait to keep all controls in one’s own hands. Leave alone delegation of authority, one would not like to even share the information with colleagues for fear of losing one’s indispensability and importance. Since information and knowledge is power, one would not like to share his knowledge for fear of losing power and authority. This attitude serves some purpose in a sole-proprietary concern, where a single person is the owner, and he would have full control on his organisation. But as the organisation grows, it does not any longer remain a one-man show. A single person cannot do justice to all depts. of his organization, because “Ek pyaala kis kis ki pyaas bujhaayay.” The law of diminishing returns starts operating in the organisation. At this stage delegation becomes a necessity, no more a choice or an option. Wise people realize the need and start grooming leadership, and delegate to the people, in whom they have trust. The lesser wise would not allow further growth, and restrict business to keep the organisation within their control. The unwise would allow business to grow because of their greed, but would not delegate, not to lose control, and also out of their selfishness, and lack of trust and confidence in others. This business will finally collapse.
    Sanjeev has neither trained nor delegated any authority to Sebastian. Sebatian is an overzealous employee, who wants to step into the shoes of his boss as early as possible, and develop his lobby by showering favours on his subordinates, by granting leaves etc to them, without knowledge of his boss. But when his boss actually intended delegating authority, he got irritated. For any employee to learn and grow, he has to develop patience, understanding (Hanuman did not misunderstand his Lord, when he was admonished for burning the Lanka) and obedience. After all, Sebastian is no Hanuman to understand his boss and show patience, understanding and obedience. That’s why he failed. Trust is a two way channel – Boss to have trust in the employee, and the employee in the boss. And it requires time, patience, understanding, obedience, hard work and perseverance on either side.

    • Firstly, hats off to Mr.Dev Dutt for his ‘correlation’ of leadership skills with Hanuman’s….no no Mahavir’s rescuing the life of Lakshman.

      Your comment on the article is eloborative, apt and exhaustive. Sufficient dose of decentralization is absolutely necessary to inculcate accountability / responsibility.

      I am glad to be introduced to this BLOG !

  • This is very good article… Being at leader position it gave me such a inside…
    Thanks a lot

  • Firstly, hats off to Mr.Dev Dutt for his ‘correlation’ of leadership skills with Hanuman’s….no no Mahavir’s rescuing the life of Lakshman.

    Your comment on the article is eloborative, apt and exhaustive. Sufficient dose of decentralization is absolutely necessary to inculcate accountability / responsibility.

    I am glad to be introduced to this BLOG !

  • Seshagiri Rao Devaguptapu

    Fantastic article. i always believed in Trusting a person and and sincerely worked towards it. In all my 42 years of working life I followed it. it gave me rich dividends. My subordinates always loved me and gave me a standing ovation when i left the job for better opportunities. Now this article reinforces what I did was right and I feel nice. Thank you.

  • P.R.Kaushik

    Nice Article Sir. The last para says it all.