Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Steve Jobs in his Stanford Graduation Speech, Spring 2005
Leading an organization of the 21st century requires more than just a fire-fighter’s skill of putting out fires as and when they reach alarming proportions. A fire fighter is trained to fight and deal with urgency. However, a leader of the future will not only have to negotiate the urgent but also the emergent - that which is not obvious like a raging fire but will emerge in the future. A leader of a major organization remarked that sometimes he does not have the luxury of choosing his battles; he has to fight each battle as it emerges from the environment and presents itself. The unpredictability of the battle for market share and mindshare, the volatility of the environment and the rapid fire changes that are happening in the business and political landscape have all the trappings of a full scale war. A mere fire fighter cannot pretend to be a warrior. The ability to deal with the emergent conditions of the war demands much more than functional skills - it requires a rare leadership virtue called awareness. The journey of awareness starts with self awareness. Krishna leads Arjuna on this journey.
The leader at work is a fighter who wants to be a warrior. To qualify as a warrior the fighter first needs attend to his unfinished business: the fight within himself. The archer has to first arrest his own mind before he can aim for the bull’s eye. A leader of an organization who wants to achieve a target has to first focus on his inner resolve to do so. The fighter Arjuna’s battle-ground is his own self. There are million mutinies going on inside the self: the fight between reason and emotion; between the head and the heart; between what he is and what he can be. In contrast, Krishna the warrior has finished the fight with himself. The true warrior does not deplete his energy in emotional drama that binds him to self defeating patterns of fear and guilt. He pierces through his self-created enemies with the sword of self-awareness the shield of sharp discrimination.
Arjuna is the quest of the warrior in all of us. A quest that seeks answer to life’s most persistent riddles: Who am I ? Why am I doing battle with this life? A quest can start with no more than a question. Arjuna is the question. His mentor Krishna is the answer. Arjuna is still a fighter. Krishna is the consummate warrior. He holds sway as the lord of his own mind. It is very crucial for an organizational leader to achieve mastery over his own mind before he can influence the minds of others.
Krishna is timeless wisdom in the human form, he is wholeness embodied. He is the unity of life in diversity of forms. He integrates the divisive aspects of our warn torn self into one whole understanding of who we really are. In this understanding our separate and conflicting ego-edges dissolve. We find connection even with our sworn enemies in the unity of purpose: our collective sacred identity - the dharma of our soul. Krishna teaches Arjuna how to lead in the battle of life with his undying and imperishable soul Self. He teaches us the secret of invincibility.
Excerpts from my recent book Timeless Leadership: 18 Sutras from the Bhagavad Gita (Wiley)