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Spirituality in management education
G. Venkatesh Bookmark and Share

Some management institutions in India have already started introducing courses in spirituality as part of the MBA course curriculum. If you consider the

Syllabus of Bangalore University, we have topics like - Code of Conduct, Business Ethics and Corporate Governance, Emotional Intelligence in some of the subjects. Introducing a course in spirituality can be considered as an extension of the same. If yoga can be taught in schools, why not expose future managers to the lessons to be learnt from our rich cultural heritage, of which spirituality has played a pivotal role?

I had written a blog on "Ramayana, Mahabharata & Project Management" and this blog received good reviews from professionals and students. This is surely an encouraging sign, isn't it? Look at the definition of Ethics - it is actually knowing the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. A spiritual bent of mind helps you develop the incisive capability to deal with the challenges in the professional world. If the management book on Chanakya by Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai (published by Jaico publishers) is a best-seller, it is not without reason. Chanakya's foresight, strategic vision and empathy have as much meaning and relevance today as they had several decades ago.

How can spirituality actually help? Spiritual thinking can help in channelising one's energies in the right direction and managing stress effectively. Spiritual thinking helps one become emotionally intelligent and take the right decisions at the right time. All our religious scriptures and texts (irrespective of religion) talk only about the victory of good against evil. They talk about integral values like honesty, dedication, sincerity, commitment and truthfulness. Are these values not relevant for the business world today? As a result of globalisation, we are witnessing frequent bouts of economic recession across the globe. There is a greater need to show fortitude and resilience in these challenging times.

Empathy is an important virtue not only in our personal lives but also in the business world. This empathy is the basis of a successful CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or a SRM(Supplier Relationship Management) program. This empathy is one of the elements in the legendary SERV QUAL model which tries to address the parameters for service quality. Empathy and compassion are closely related. Spirituality is about compassion, isn't it?

There is a need for businesses to think beyond profits. What goes around comes around. So, if businesses do not think about society today, they will be forced to think about it tomorrow. Sustainability of business can never be at the cost of society. Spirituality in management education helps a management student to better appreciate the relevance of corporate social responsibility. The day is not far when "success at any cost" will be replaced by " success without hurting others".

Prayers are an important part of an Indian's life in his spiritual journey. Be it a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or a Parsi, prayer transcends all religious barriers. Prayer, it is often said, can move mountains. Have you not noticed the unity in spiritual diversity too? Flowers form an important part of all religious rituals. If Hindus light a lamp, Christians light a candle. The intent is the same. "Thamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya" - Oh, Lord, move us from darkness to light. Every religion talks about the need for a sense of sacrifice and the need for doing good deeds.

I happened to do research for writing a conceptual research paper - "How amenable are Level 5 leaders to Reverse Mentoring?". Legendary management guru Jim Collins, while talking about Level 5 leaders, says that towards the end of their professional careers, these leaders developed a spiritual bent of mind. Many of them had life threatening experiences and they believed that only spirituality could show them the right direction.

By introducing spiritual courses in management education, institutions in general and the University in particular will be sending a strong message both to the corporate as well as academic community that Indian values will continue to play an important role in business. It will enable students to appreciate our rich cultural legacy. The critical success factors that define a successful future leader - loyalty, coaching, foresight and vision, dedication, commitment, diligence, decision making power, process orientation - are very well encapsulated in Indian mythology. A leader has to develop a sense of sacrifice placing the interest of the business above self-interest. What better way than introduce a spiritual course to develop the thinking of the future leaders in the right direction? 

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