Sanjeev Sabhlok's blog

Thoughts on economics and liberty

Leadership lessons from India’s independence movement

Here's something really nice – lessons in leadership from India's Independence (not Freedom!) struggle. I've copied across from Sonia Jaspal's excellent blog: I encourage you to visit her blog, a blog surely worth subscribing to! I came across it through Facebook today. I'll also let Sonia know that I've duplicated her post for my readers (currently without consent). I trust she'll agree to let this remain here as part of my leadership toolkit. If not you'll see this post modified in a day or two.

The following is particularly relevant to FTI members. I endorse each and everyone one of these principles.


8 Management Lessons from India’s Freedom Struggle

By Sonia Jaspal

We recently celebrated Indian Independence Day on 15 August. I cherish the freedom and celebrate India’s growth towards global recognition. Going back in history, Indian freedom struggle lasted nearly a century. The last 25 years of the struggle was lead by Mahatma Gandhi on the concept of non-violence. India is one of the unique countries which gained freedom without much bloodshed. I think there are lot of management lessons which corporate world is implementing presently which were prevalent in the freedom struggle.

In this post I am exploring Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership and management style, and linking it to the current management practices.

1. Walk the talk

Mahatma Gandhi preached the concept of simple living and high thinking, although he came from an affluent Indian family. He came up with various austere living standards and requested his followers to adopt them. His kept his life open to public scrutiny. People may debate regarding his personal choices but no one would raise questions on his ethics and integrity. Irrespective of the difficulty involved, he always was able to take the high moral ground and never compromised on his personal values. In the present corporate world we respect the leaders who are able to walk the talk, demonstrate ethical and principled behavior and lead by example.

2. Think out of the box

The strategy and tactics adopted during the Indian independence struggle were unlike any other country’s revolution. Some of the concepts were:

 • Non-violence – A war fought on the basis of principles without any bloodshed.

• Civil disobedience- Court arrest if the British officials are threatening imprisonment for demanding your rights.

 • Non-cooperation- The message given was maintain your jobs with the British Empire, however do not support it regarding its practices against Indian people. Managements today are advocating out of the box thinking and competing strategically. The organization which implements a unique strategy generally wins the market.

3. Brand building

Mahatma Gandhi’s personal brand has lasted 60 years after his death without any investment. He created a brand of a simple moral man living life on the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence). His home spun cotton clothes, wooden shaft, leather slippers, vegetarian meals and home at the ashram all embodied his personal brand. His character and communication depicted his core values to the masses. We must acknowledge that fact that very few leaders in history have as strong a brand image as Gandhi. The corporate world is spending huge sums on advertising to build the corporate brand. We hear Tom Peters and other management gurus talking about building the “Brand You”.

4. Competitor’s size doesn’t matter

The Indian freedom struggle gained ground by the idea of a few committed individuals who wished to bring about a change. They envisaged taking on the might of British Empire who had the resources, funds, weapons and management capability. The Indian leadership team acknowledged the strengths of the British Empire and devised a strategy which minimized those strengths. They built a strategy on the following:

• Non-violence which required no weapons;

• Asked masses to contribute for the independence and live frugally, hence survived on minimal resources;

• Developed local leadership across all regions under Congress banner. Using a similar strategy Barrack Obama won the American president elections when he had no funds and support. Also, one notices small IT companies (e.g. hotmail) which developed into big names just by pioneering a unique product and leveraging the market properly.

5. Build dream teams

Indian Congress Party besides Gandhi had a number of other accomplished leaders. Namely, C. Rajagopalachari, Jawaharlal Nehru,  Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and others. These leaders all had different personalities and ideologies, however worked for a common cause. Gandhi and Nehru complimented each other tremendously and mostly operated as two in a box. Senior leaders acted as mentors for the younger generation. The party had leaders at grass root level, and people were encouraged to develop leadership traits. Business world is focusing on building dream teams with leadership at all levels. The Human resource Departments are focused on concepts of two in a box, alternate leaders, chief mentors and succession planning.

6. Engage and empower people

Mahatma Gandhi in his speech on the eve of Dandi March said -“Wherever there are local leaders, their orders should be obeyed by the people. Where there are no leaders and only a handful of men have faith in the programme, they may do what they can, if they have enough self-confidence”. He encouraged common man to show leadership and commitment under the overall umbrella of Congress. He united the people by specifying the mission, vision and code of conduct of Congress. The masses were committed to the cause and in all his symbolic protests he involved people participation. The corporate world’s biggest challenge is of disengaged employees due to actual or perceived lack of empowerment. It is becoming apparent that success or failure of the organization is increasingly dependent on a healthy organization culture which encourages employee participation.

7. Accept and encourage diversity

The British are generally blamed for implementing “divide and rule policy” in India. On the contrary, India already was already divided into various regions, religions and castes before the British rule. Mahatma Gandhi in his struggle for independence attempted to unify the country. He encouraged the princely states to join hands, brought Hindus and Muslims on the same platform and removed caste barriers for joining the freedom moment. He supported gender equality and encouraged women to actively participate in the movement. His wife, Kasturba Gandhi played a pivotal role in getting women’s participation. With less than 10% women in senior management positions in the corporate world, the mantra today is to bring more women on board. With globalization the concept of accepting and encouraging diversity has taken hold.

8. Don’t make it personal

In the Quit India speech in 1942, Mahatma Gandhi stated- “Then, there is the question of your attitude towards the British. I have noticed that there is hatred towards the British among the people. The people say they are disgusted with their behavior. The people make no distinction between British imperialism and the British people”. Deal with the issue and not the person; this is the corporate mandate today. Mahatma Gandhi pioneered this thought process. In all his communication and dealings he stood up against British Imperialism. He however, had friendly relationships with Britishers and never made a personal attack in his speeches. On the other hand, he continuously advocated decent and humane behavior even towards ones enemy. His thought process was- address the issue at hand and keep a positive attitude towards a person from the competing camp. In nut shell, there is a lot to learn from the Indian freedom struggle for the corporate world. It had unique dimensions which are gaining hold now as corporate best practices. History is the best teacher, if we are willing to learn from other people’s successes and failures.

Sonia can be reached at: soniajaspal[at]sify[dot]com

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Remembering my teachers

Today is Teachers Day in India, a day to remember and commemorate our teachers, whether they were our teachers in school, college, university or elsewhere.

My memory for names is fading but I clearly see the faces of my hundreds of teachers from various schools and colleges (listed below), and the painstaking efforts they put in to teach me whatever little I know. Some of them particularly come to mind, not that others didn't contribute equally or more:

  • Jagdish Hasija who taught me drawing and oil painting which set me off on a 'career' of art which unfortunately I never could complete, but will, one day. 
  • Mrs. Milan in Timpany School who taught me English perhaps remains etched in my mind as the most painstaking teacher of the English language.
  • My fantastic teacher of biology in KV Picket (I forget her real name which is such a shame, I just have her 'pet name' in mind today which I won't put out on this blog!) who made me passionate about botany. 
  • Mr Wadhwa who taught Mathematics in KV Jalandhar – he drove away all fear of maths from my mind (I shouldn't forget Charu here, my school friend, for spending hours with me teaching me trigonometry in Secunderabad).
  • Prof. Setya in DAV Jalandhar who spent his precious time at home drilling me in maths so I could always top the university. 
  • Prof. Magill at USC who drove the lessons of the price system into my head in the most elegant and beautiful manner through his hyperplane dance, and introduced me to Hayek. 
  • And then those who taught only through books, never a face to face interaction (including some like J.S. Mill who died well before I was born).

And there are so many more who come to mind. Hundreds of wonderful teachers. Including my mother and father. Hats off to teachers across the world, in particular to the teachers of India. Theirs is a profession often poorly paid but upon the shoulders of which each generation builds its foundations and goes on to achieve more than its ancestors did.

List of places where I studied:

University of Melbourne – Melbourne Business School (Mt. Eliza)

University of Southern California

Curtin University of Technology, Perth

All India Management Association (Correspondence)

Panjab University (Correspondence)

Guru Nanak Dev University (DAV College, Jullundur)

Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jullundur Cantonement

Kendriya Vidyalaya, Picket, Secunderabad

Kendriya Vidyalaya, Southern Command, Poona

Timpany School, Vishakhapatnam

Salwan Public School, New Delhi

St. Auxilium, Shillong

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Political science, the “science” behind IPCC

IPCC has "assigned high confidence to statements for which there is very little evidence, has failed to enforce its own guidelines, has been guilty of too little transparency, has ignored critical review comments and has had no policies on conflict of interest". (See this report).

This is not news to me. It  confirms the low esteem in which I hold IPCC. I believe it is engaged in political science, or voodoo science (as Rajendra Pachauri labelled those who questioned him), not science as we know it. This is science from a political perspective, science with a vested interest, science with a view to one's personal bank balance. It is dangerous for its potential to harm the world's economies and in particular, the poor.

IPCC falsehoods and exaggerations have been, unfortunately, accepted at face value by many economists like Stern who ought to have known better. But unfortunately, 95% of economists are not trained as critical thinkers. They follow anyone in authority. They serve their leaders, they do not think independently. (Of course there are a few economists like Steven Landsburg and Steven Levitt who do know how to think!). That means you need to be a critical thinker to investigate all authorities.  NEVER accept authority figure claims at face value. Investigate. Question. If you accept anyone's statements without question you are finished.  

I'd be very concerned if I could clearly see that increased CO2 is likely to be dangerous for mankind. I'd be the first to jump out of my seat and claim that we ought to do something about. But I'm very relaxed about it. My views on climate change are clear, being informed by science, not voodoo science:

a) The greenhouse gas effect is real. But it is very small (being logarithmic), and it can't ever become life-threatening.

b) Increased CO2 is good for the world. It will increase crop (and animal) yields and increase the human population (The IPCC severely plays down the positive impacts of CO2)

c) The harm caused by increased CO2 is small or non-existent.


What's wrong with IPCC's 'science'?

There's so much material out there that shows what is wrong with IPCC science that I can't possibly do it justice. In brief:

  • IPCC relies heavily on non-peer reviewed material. “Dr Rajendra Pachauri, was to claim that everything in its report was “peer-reviewed”, having been confirmed by independent experts. But a new study put this claim to the test. A team of 40 researchers from 12 countries, led by a Canadian analyst Donna Laframboise, checked out every one of the 18,531 scientific sources cited in the mammoth 2007 report. Astonishingly, they found that nearly a third of them – 5,587 – were not peer-reviewed at all, but came from newspaper articles, student theses, even propaganda leaflets and press releases put out by green activists and lobby groups.”
  • It is prone to massively exaggerating the current changes in climate, as something exceptional. It is not. They are pretty much consistent with what has happened in the past. The medieval and Roman warming events are conclusively proven. By real scientists. Not voodoo scientists. The first IPCC report (1990) had a clear mention of medieval warming:
  • The IPCC is prone to grossly exaggerate sea level projections (see Don't forget that sea levels have been going up and going down for millions of years and will continue doing so. IPCC has spread the myth has been spread that malaria would increase with increases in global warming. This is highly exaggerated (see  IPCC has spread the myth that corals would be dramatically impacted by acidification. This is false. Corals love heat. They are flourishing. And the oceans are not going to become acidic.   

Some articles to read if you are interested

(I'll keep adding to this list as time permits. There is TONS of material out there to educate yourself should you want to think on your own)

The United Nations' IPCC reports have been regularly discredited over various exaggerations and unproven claims, most recently that Himalayan glaciers were melting, a claim that even the UN had to admit was false. (From The Detroit News:

CSIRO predictions that don't come true:

Lamb's graph:

Important :

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Baba Shiv

Thanks to Vivek Iyer I spent about two hours today discovering about, watching (Youtube), and hearing (on radio) Baba Shiv, Professor of Marketing at Stanford. Recall my review of Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer? And citations of neuroeconomics books? Well, Baba Shiv is one more author in that line, a genius at work unpacking our brain and showing us for what we actually are.

The key point he makes is that emotions are critical to decision making. That's doesn't mean that rushing to judgement (Blink!) is a good thing.

He also shows how our expectations of value are determined by our emotions which are very impressionable and influenced by the price sticker! Stick a higher price on a bottle of wine and people not just report but EXPERIENCE more pleasure!

Further, pleasure is more in the anticipation of an event than in the event itself. Finally, our willpower is very weak and easily comes under pressure. Solution: just do one thing at a time: keep one resolution. Only one. Focus. Don't be harebrained.

Here are some useful links:

a) Article on willpower

b) Article on wine

c) And now a Youtube video lecture. Enjoy!

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