Leadership Lessons from the Bhagvad Gita 20 – Respect

Chapter 2 Verses 35 & 36

भयाद्रणादुपरतं मंस्यन्ते त्वां महारथा: |
येषां च त्वं बहुमतो भूत्वा यास्यसि लाघवम् || 35||

bhayād raṇād uparataṁ mansyante tvāṁ mahā-rathāḥ
yeṣhāṁ cha tvaṁ bahu-mato bhūtvā yāsyasi lāghavam

bhayātout of fear; raṇātfrom the battlefield; uparatamhave fled; maṁsyantewill think; tvāmyou; mahā-rathāḥwarriors who could single handedly match the strength of ten thousand ordinary warriors; yeṣhāmfor whom; chaand; tvamyou; bahu-mataḥhigh esteemed; bhūtvāhaving been; yāsyasiyou will loose; lāghavamdecreased in value
Translation : The great generals who hold you in high esteem will think that you fled from the battlefield out of fear, and thus will lose their respect for you.

The link to this page is – https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/35

अवाच्यवादांश्च बहून्वदिष्यन्ति तवाहिता: |
निन्दन्तस्तव सामर्थ्यं ततो दु:खतरं नु किम् || 36||

avāchya-vādānśh cha bahūn vadiṣhyanti tavāhitāḥ
nindantastava sāmarthyaṁ tato duḥkhataraṁ nu kim

avāchya-vādānusing harsh words; chaand; bahūnmany; vadiṣhyantiwill say; tavayour; ahitāḥenemies; nindantaḥdefame; tavayour; sāmarthyammight; tataḥthan that; duḥkha-tarammore painful; nuindeed; kimwhat
Translation : Your enemies will defame and humiliate you with unkind words, disparaging your might. Alas, what could be more painful than that?

The link to this page is – https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/36

My interpretation is as follows –

Arjuna was a great warrior. He was considered to be the greatest archer of his times. In today’s parlance, he was the top expert in archery and everyone looked up to him as a role model. Lord Krishna says, Arjuna will lose the respect of his generals and his enemies will “troll” him if he didn’t fight.

Huge lesson about how respect is earned. This is for all levels of managers, leaders, and even team members. Arjuna is respected because of his expertise, his fairness in battle and his courage under fire. Thats why he is called a great warrior. Duryodhana was a great warrior too, but he was not respected because he played an unfair game and he used every known sleight of hand to cheat the Pandavas of their right. He would have earned huge respect if he had challenged them to a war instead of cheating them at a game of dice.

What happens in organizations today ? A subject matter expert is made into a manager or someone with tenure is made into a manager and then when the engagement scores dip, the manager is flogged and asked to do “something” to improve the score. Also I need others to comment if this is a BPO-only phenomenon or it happens across industries – the minute someone gets the tag of a manager, he/she refuses to get their hands dirty. I have always insisted on managers taking calls in a call centre like a regular customer service rep for atleast a few hours every week. I have also insisted on managers learning to do workflows and other frontline activities for a few hours every week because your frontline respects you only if you know your stuff !!!!

Capability, expertise and prowess in any field commands respect. Taking folks out for a party and pushing them under the bus when something goes wrong will never earn you respect. A simple rule that great leaders follow is – when things succeed, the team did it, when things fail, the leader takes responsibility. Think about why a Rahul Dravid is so respected – on and off the cricket field. Its not just his expertise but also this quality of taking responsibility when things go wrong and pushing the team in front when they succeed.

Respect is earned by being an expert, being fair in all transactions and having the courage to face tough situations. Just sweet talking, being friendly and parties won’t do. Handwork? You bet !!

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