Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita 13 – Integrity

Verse 23 from Chapter 2 is also something that I chose for the Bhagavad Gita recitation competition at the Ramakrishna Mission, Shillong way back in 1982. Its again a classic verse that speaks of how the soul is unaffected by weapons, fire, water or wind.

नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावक: |
न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुत: || 23||

nainaṁ chhindanti śhastrāṇi nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ
na chainaṁ kledayantyāpo na śhoṣhayati mārutaḥ

nanot; enamthis soul; chhindantishred; śhastrāṇiweapons; nanor; enamthis soul; dahatiburns; pāvakaḥfire; nanot; chaand; enamthis soul; kledayantimoisten; āpaḥwater; nanor; śhoṣhayatidry; mārutaḥwind
The translation is – Weapons cannot shred the soul, nor can fire burn it. Water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it.

The link to the page is – https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/23

My interpretation is as follows –

I believe Lord Krishna is alluding to the integrity in this verse by showing the example of the soul, that remains unaffected by external elements. In the same way, either a person has integrity or not. There is no such thing as having partial integrity :).

What is integrity and why is it so prized? My understanding of integrity is walking the talk, remaining true to one’s values at all times. Its extremely tough to do because we always succumb to external pressures. There are many actions that speak about a person’s integrity. Some examples from the corporate world would be – not talking about someone who is not present, not promising a promotion when its not due, not trying to put down a colleague so that you can move ahead, not fudging data, not misusing the funds at your disposal, honouring confidentiality agreements etc. Some are very obvious and some not so much.

As a coach, integrity is central to my success. My coachee will not share his/her deepest fears, anxieties and thoughts, if I am not trustworthy, and without integrity I can never be trustworthy. In ShikshaDaan, we hold the donor’s money in trust – so we need to use it for the benefit of the beneficiaries and not let a single penny go waste. Again integrity of purpose is critical if we want to make a difference through ShikshaDaan. Krishnan and I are very conscious of this and to that end, we ensure that ShiskhaDaan abides by every law that applies to an NGO. We file our returns every year without fail and we have zero cash transactions. We may achieve our goals a little slowly but we will achieve them with no compromise on our integrity and consequently our trustworthiness.

Acting with integrity is central to our personal and professional lives. While pubic memory is short, the Enron scandal, the Ford Pinto fiasco and more recently the Wells Fargo auto insurance scandal, all are clear cases of men and women acting without integrity. Many of these organisations have either shut down or suffered major loses. Many incredible public faces were marred by the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal…. many heroes suddenly became zeroes.

Walk the talk, act with integrity every day, every minute and see the value of being trustworthy as you succeed.

Suggested reading – Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey.

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