Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita #25 – Visibility

Chapter 2 Verses 42 and 43

यामिमां पुष्पितां वाचं प्रवदन्त्यविपश्चित: |
वेदवादरता: पार्थ नान्यदस्तीति वादिन: || 42||
कामात्मान: स्वर्गपरा जन्मकर्मफलप्रदाम् |
क्रियाविशेषबहुलां भोगैश्वर्यगतिं प्रति || 43||

yāmimāṁ puṣhpitāṁ vāchaṁ pravadanty-avipaśhchitaḥ
veda-vāda-ratāḥ pārtha nānyad astīti vādinaḥ
kāmātmānaḥ swarga-parā janma-karma-phala-pradām
kriyā-viśheṣha-bahulāṁ bhogaiśhwarya-gatiṁ prati

yām imāmall these; puṣhpitāmflowery; vāchamwords; pravadantispeak; avipaśhchitaḥthose with limited understanding; veda-vāda-ratāḥattached to the flowery words of the Vedas; pārthaArjun, the son of Pritha; na anyatno other; astiis; itithus; vādinaḥadvocate; kāma-ātmānaḥdesirous of sensual pleasure; swarga-parāḥaiming to achieve the heavenly planets; janma-karma-phalahigh birth and fruitive results; pradāṁawarding; kriyā-viśheṣhapompous ritualistic ceremonies; bahulāmvarious; bhogagratification; aiśhwaryaluxury; gatimprogress; pratitoward
Translation – Those with limited understanding, get attracted to the flowery words of the Vedas, which advocate ostentatious rituals for elevation to the celestial abodes, and presume no higher principle is described in them. They glorify only those portions of the Vedas that please their senses, and perform pompous ritualistic ceremonies for attaining high birth, opulence, sensual enjoyment, and elevation to the heavenly planets.

The link to the page is – https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/42-43

My interpretation – Very few people like to be in the background… most people would like to have their names on marquees and the front pages. At work, we are happy to be in the limelight. The BPO world has a word that I don’t like at all and had banned its usage while I worked with Aon Hewitt – “visibility”. Whatever feedback a manager gave to a team member, visibility always featured as one. Every time you asked anyone about their area of improvement in an internal job post interview you would get the word again – “I need to improve my visibility”.

I love these two verses from Chapter 2 because it seems even in the times of Lord Krishna, people were worried about visibility. They apparently believed that doing the rituals will get them “moksha” ! Just like today’s employees in the BPO world believe that “visibility” will get them the promotion. You need to do “good” work to be noticed, you can’t be noticed because you focus on visibility. The only sure-shot way of improving your visibility is by doing an outstanding job. Yes, smart work also is hard work.

The new age workplace rituals are just as empty as the vedic rituals that Lord Krishna refers to in these verses – taking the team out for dinner as R&R, taking them out for a movie, etc etc etc. Nothing will lead to true engagement except finding a way to make the work meaningful, helping your team member learn new things, making them more “employable”. Do all these and see your engagement scores go up. But all that is hard work. My dear friend Arun Krishnan (Founder of n!Factorial) created an amazing daily engagement evaluation tool and he was super enthusiastic about it. I had to puncture his enthusiasm by saying, very few organisations want to improve engagement – they want to improve the engagement score for the sake of looking good in surveys. That insight helped Arun position his product in a different way. Its the reality of the corporate world. There are a handful of organisations that genuinely work on engaging their employees and kudos to them. Their attrition levels are at the lowest and they are often the “CEO” factories because they build an employee’s capability.

Study how Unilever manages its engagement survey and scores ….no wonder, its the CEO factory.

I am getting off the pulpit because this topic just gets me going. So enough said – don’t focus on “visibility”, first focus on getting things done and becoming more competent and skilled. Visibility is a byproduct.

Have a great day folks, with clear visibility :):).


1 thought on “Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita #25 – Visibility”

  1. Bindu,
    That’s why I don’t fit in a corporate world. I shy away from the limelight and prefer to observe rather than be observed. I don’t like being watched, maybe a big reason I’ve chosen to live alone.

    On the other hand, I crave understanding, meaning being known on deeper levels. The internet works to the advantage of people like me, who can wear comfortable clothes, communicate on my own schedule, and not pander so much to other people’s expectations.

    Also, a writer who wants to be published must come out of the shadows sometime, increase “visibility,” and abide by some of the world’s social conventions.


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