Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita 17 – Duty
Chapter 2 Verse 31
स्वधर्ममपि चावेक्ष्य न विकम्पितुमर्हसि |
धर्म्याद्धि युद्धाच्छ्रेयोऽन्यत्क्षत्रियस्य न विद्यते || 31||
swa-dharmam api chāvekṣhya na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyāddhi yuddhāch chhreyo ’nyat kṣhatriyasya na vidyate
The translation is – Besides, considering your duty as a warrior, you should not waver. Indeed, for a warrior, there is no better engagement than fighting for upholding of righteousness.
The lesson I draw from this verse –
When I was young, my dad would often say that it was his “duty” to do certain things and I grew up viewing the word “duty” as a negative four-letter word. I almost flew into a rage when my mother said I was taking care of her after dad passed away because I felt it was my “duty”. I never liked the word !! It is certainly taking all my maturity to continue interpreting this verse positively :), so please excuse any negative bias.
I think “duty” is doing things that you don’t like to do but you “have” to do because they are right and that’s what doesn’t appeal to me. But I understand why its important. Its my duty to take care of my parents – I got angry with my mother because I think I love my parents and taking care of them is an act of love, not duty. But what happens if there is no love? Then duty ensures that you still do what is right. Over the past few weeks I have heard of disturbing instances where old parents are left on their own without food and shelter by their child(ren) who are well to do. I am shocked.. how can anyone do that? The one incident that never leaves my mind is reading about this old lady standing at a traffic signal in Ghaziabad. When asked why she was standing there, she said, her son had left her there saying he will come back. For a couple of days she just stood/sat there in the hope that he will come back as promised. When contacted, the son says, he couldn’t afford to take care of his mother, so he left her there. I start to cry every time I think of that lady… and I love the word “duty” because in these circumstances where there is no love, it works.
While it may have seemed strange, when I read somewhere that the Government was trying to bring a law that government employees will not get their pension or PF or something if they abandon their parents, I actually felt good. Children have to be taught to do their duty.
Applying this to the corporate world – it is the duty of every executive to deliver to the best of his/her ability. It is the duty of every manager to help identify the potential in his/her team member. It is the duty of the organization to take care of its people and deliver returns to its shareholders. It is the duty of the government to make life better for every citizen in the country …. Duty can be positive and its another word for conscientious responsibility. Wish more of our politicians and business honchos delivered on their duties !
So do your duty and cheerfully. Fight the just battle and never shirk responsibility. Right Krishna?