Archive for the ‘Spiritual’ Category

Book review on Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership: Selected writings by Peter Pruzan

Journal of Human Values
Volume 15, Issue 2
October 2009 issue, pp 199–201
Title of the book reviewed: Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership: Selected Writings
Author of the book: Peter Pruzan
Peter Lang AG, 2009, 322 pages, price: US$ 65.05, £ 38.00

Ethical and spiritual paradigms in organizational set-ups are becoming important considerations for academicians and business leaders today. Faith and fortune are now no longer envisaged to be mutually exclusive, and the role of spiritual quotient (SQ) in complementing IQ and EQ at the workplace is being increasingly acknowledged.

“Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership,” volume 7 of the Frontiers of Business Ethics series, is an anthology in which Pruzan showcases his writings over the last 20 years. The book is aimed at “reflective practitioners and theoreticians in the field of leadership philosophy.” The author explains this is not a ‘how to do it’ book nor a traditional textbook, but rather aims to provide reflective leaders with an insight into the significance of leadership-philosophical concepts, predominantly the concept that successful leadership is not restricted only to wealth generation, but also consists of contributing to the fulfillment of all those whom one serves as a leader. As the book unfolds, there is a discernible evolution in the author’s mindset from rational to ethical to spiritual perspectives on leadership.

Pruzan is the co-author of “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” an engaging book replete with case studies of 31 business leaders from 15 countries, bound by the common thread of being high achievers in their respective fields while operating from a spiritual basis. The introduction of this book is one example of Pruzan’s selected writings.

Although the book description on the back cover erroneously divides the book into seven interrelated themes, the book is in fact organized into six themes, as detailed by Pruzan in the preface, and as also reflected in the Table of Contents:-
1. Morals and ethics
2. Ethical accounting
3. Values and Leadership
4. Identity
5. Responsibility
6. Spiritual-based leadership

Each section begins with a short write-up in which the author explains the raison d’etre of the theme in relation to the evolution of his thoughts over the years, followed by an introductory essay to whet the reader’s appetite. As a second generation, middle class Jew born into a family in New York that put an overt emphasis on logic, Pruzan was drawn to metaphysical conjecture. He began delving into rationality, then morality, followed by ethics. In practical terms this spurred him on to begin various initiatives such courses in Maths and Business Economics and also in Philosophy and Business Economics at the Copenhagen Business School.
Pruzan’s visit to India in 1989 was a defining moment of personal spiritual awakening, and led him from “A path from myself to mySelf, a path from becoming to being, a path that ends where it begins, at the wellspring of rationality, morality and spirituality.”
In section one on Moral and Ethics questions raised include “What is ethics?” “Is it for the individual good or collective good? Pruzan concludes by saying that ethics is relative and that each subculture maintains its own set of values. He also writes about ethics as a tool for promoting consensus in organizations.
Pruzan questions the belief that ethics cannot coexist with free market competition. In fact he concludes just the opposite: that only if enterprises develop ethics can private initiatives survive in the long run.
In the context of business ethics in Denmark, Pruzan was instrumental in establishing the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at the Copenhagen Business School in 1995. He writes, “Establishing a department with ‘philosophy’ was quite a revolutionary step for a business school.”
In part two, Ethical Accounting is described as being a symbiosis between theory and practice and is said to be based on values shared by an enterprise and its stakeholders, be they employees, shareholders or clients.
Part three is on Values and Leadership. In the first essay “When values are not money” Pruzan writes of how in our rush to achieve material wealth we forget existential wonder. He lucidly expresses this as, “It is paradoxical that it is liberation to feel duty bound; freedom is no longer the ability to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want; but intuitively to know what I should do and to have the courage to act accordingly.”
In this section it is acknowledged that socialization as a process is not just confined to the formative years of our childhood, but is also shaped at the workplace. Three perspectives of values are elucidated, namely internal focus (business ethics and human resource management), external focus (corporate branding and marketing) and a long-term business focus (corporate social responsibility and strategy). This section concludes that values-based management pays off, for example in retaining loyal employees, and that the language of money is too narrow.
The fourth section on Identity questions “Who am I?” with regard to the individual and the organization. It also focuses on questions such as does an organization have a consciousness? What is the conflict between economics and ecology and how can this be resolved?
The fifth section on Responsibility asks what is responsibility, can an organization be responsible and why be responsible in the first place? The answers presented include that responsibility should expand from controlling others to serving them. In this context wealth creation is purported not to be the goal, but the means for spiritual fulfillment and service to society.
Pruzan presents differences in life perspectives as: “… if life were a pie, spirituality would be one slice of the pie. From the spiritual-based perspective, however, spirituality is the pie itself. Work, family, leisure and health are all the ‘slices’ of spirituality, they are all contexts for growing spirituality.” True responsibility, he says, is not learned but is directly related to deep-rooted motivation from within.
In the sixth section on spiritual-based leadership, there is a discernible shift in Pruzan’s thoughts from an academician to a believer in a higher guiding principle. In this concluding part he challenges traditional managerial perspectives on leadership, which focus on the maximization of owner’s wealth. He dwells on developments in the theory and practice of leadership in Scandinavia and in India, while surmising that the best form of leadership is a combination of the Western approach to leadership with the Eastern values of an ideal leader, such as non-attachment, selflessness and santhi (having equanimity and peace of mind).
In these six sections of the book while many issues have been brought to the fore, certain questions remain unanswered, such as if true responsibility is not learned but is rather imbibed from inner self motivation, then how can an organizational head encourage all his team leaders to be responsible? Also, if ethics is relative to each subculture, then this could give rise to a conflict of ethics, in that the perception of what is right in one subculture can be interpreted as being intrinsically wrong in another. How can one reconcile this conflict?
The choice of topics, lucid language and the short selections make this book an interesting read for the discerning reader. A few more selections from the empirical study of his earlier book “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” would have been appropriate.
“Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership” is to a large extent an appropriate fit in the Frontiers of Business Ethics series, which aims to represent writings that convey a new ethical model for transforming business into humanistic, sustainable and peaceful forms. The selection of writings cover several issues, themes and questions which would be valuable to the business leader delving into this sphere for the first time. To the seasoned academician, however, many of the concepts such as that of ethical accounting and spiritual-based leadership (SBL) may not be new. There are several writings on SBL, one of the latest being “Understanding Leadership Perspectives
Theoretical and Practical Approaches” by Fairholm, Matthew R., Fairholm, Gilbert W, in which Leadership Perspectives are presented through five distinct orientations namely scientific management, excellence management, values leadership, trust cultural leadership, and spiritual leadership. Academics would also be familiar with the Hindu perspective on leadership values at the workplace, elucidated in detail by S K Chakraborty in “Ethics in Management: Vedantic Perspectives” as long ago as 1995.
What distinguishes this book from others of its ilk is the way in which Pruzan masterfully weaves intricate concepts with his own life experiences. It is through this that he is able to forge a new ethical model in which theory and practical converge.

Book review by Payal Kumar
Doctoral scholar, XLRI
Vice President, Editorial & Production
SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd

• Chakraborty S K “Ethics in Management: Vedantic Perspectives.” 1995. Oxford University Press
• Fairholm, Matthew R., Fairholm, Gilbert W “Understanding Leadership Perspectives Theoretical and Practical Approaches” 2009
• Pruzan P & Mikkelsen K P “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” 2007, New Delhi, SAGE India Publications


The labyrinth

We tend to associate ‘labyrinth’ with ‘maze.’ But the two are essentially different. While a maze is a complex path consisting of different routes to choose from, a labyrinth is a single path that leads to the centre and back, and is less complex in nature. According to Greek mythology, a labyrinth had been designed for King Minos of Crete to hold the Minotaur, a mythical creature that was half man and half bull.
I walked in my first labyrinth today, with the path marked by stones placed strategically. This walk was part of an exercise to achieve a reflective state, in which one is meant to be so focused on following the given path, that the constant chattering of the mind is pacified ( purgation).
There was one expected twist in the labyrinth, which meant we had to retract our steps a little, before we reached the centre. And while the double seven-circuit classical path seemed small and manageable in the beginning, by the time we came back to the beginning, it seemed to be quite a long journey.
How many twists and turns are there in our lives? We think we are moving in one direction, and then something changes – an event, or someone we meet – and the direction drastically changes. We think we are in control, but are we?
Is life like the maze, with a choice of paths for us to take, or is the path more predetermined like the labyrinth? Either way, there are always surprises on the way, some beautiful, and others devastating.
Socrates captures this element of surprise:
“Then it seemed like falling into a labyrinth: we thought we were at the finish, but our way bent round and we found ourselves as it were back at the beginning, and just as far from that which we were seeking at first.”
Remembering the words of Laren Artress, perhaps what we need to remember is to keep walking on fearlessly: “We are not human beings on a spiritual path, but spiritual beings on a human path.”

Are extrinsic rewards the ultimate motivator?

When our son utters his very first words we shower him with kisses, or when our daughter takes her first few wobbly steps we sweep her in our arms and hug her. Life is all about punishment and rewards. We know that even animals comprehend this simple truth, aka Pavlov’s theory.

Management schools teach the same dualism: lead a team successfully to achieve the company goal and you will be rewarded with a promotion and an increment, or else you will be doomed to a position of insignificance.

How do we reconcile this apparent truism of life with the Bhagawad Gita’s doctrine on karma yoga, in which the karma yogi is meant to achieve spiritualism by being duty-oriented, indifferent to rewards and by showing equanimity to all people? Duty orientation is understandable and to some extent attainable. But how do we achieve a state in which we are indifferent to rewards when we are conditioned from an early age that achievements will be rewarded and failures will be punished?

While I am still grappling with these questions, I did some across a karma yogi recently. Someone who believes in working meticulously in the corporate environment that he is in, silently, without bragging of his own competencies, and someone who after bagging a promotion, did not trip over himself to immediately share this good news with either family or colleagues. He just took it in his stride. It was as if he was unmotivated by the results of his actions, but rather that the work he was doing was a reward in itself. To him it was the journey and not the destination that was the ultimate. What an eye-opener this was for me.

As for showing equanimity to all people, I have found this rare trait in my father-in law. He treats everyone with the same love and respect, even those who have cheated him in life. When I ask him, “Why so?” he replies, “Who am I to punish them? That is for God to do.”

Working hard, but not being driven by the results, and also treating everyone around you with the same amount of love and respect – phew! That’s a tall order, but not totally unachievable!

How pure is love?

Just as evil is a prerequisite to sensing goodness in all its fullness, so too love cannot be experienced without some amount of pain. After all, it is only when you love someone that you feel the gnawing pain of separation. Children catching a flight to return to their boarding school, a lover who has to go abroad to study for a year, or even the death of a loved one. Those who do not experience love also do not understand pain.

How can love be defined? There is the tender love of mother and father for a new- born child, the love of a friend, or brotherly and sisterly love.

As for couples, Meryl Streep in “Falling in Love” defined this as “the first person you think of in the morning and the last person you think of at night.”

A journalist friend of mine recently came up with a succinct definition: “It is mutual respect and passion.” How true. One without the other is incomplete.

But how many of us can love unselfishly? Does the parent not expect respect from the child, or does the lover not expect to be doted upon by her partner?

Even when we love God, do we not expect some deal in return? Perhaps yes. But there was one sufi seer, Rabia al Basri who lived in Basra in Iraq in the second half of the 8th century AD, whose love was pure and selfless. Here is one of her prayers:

 “O Allah! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,

and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.

But if I worship You for Your Own sake,

grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”


The Karma conundrum

Karma is the only doctrine that explains suffering. Why is it that good people suffer? According to karma every deed has a direct repercussion, which may be immediate, or may be transmitted to a future rebirth. It is as if God has a master excel sheet upon which our deeds – good and bad – are being tabulated!

If one buys this theory, the karma doctrine certainly encourages an activist faith. Several western scholars have claimed that Hinduism is a religion in which the followers believe that everything is predetermined or fatalistic. But if you look at it more closely, if every action has a reaction, then this doctrine puts a lot of impetus on each one of us to act with free will and create our own destiny. Thus, our future is in our own hands. Or is it?

How much of our own destiny can we actually create? The doctrine of karma seemingly does not seem to take into consideration the power of the networks around us. The conundrum is: to what extent does the karma of those around you affect your own karma and thus your destiny? After all, in the words of John Donne “No man is an island.”