Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita 4 – Timing

The Bhagavad Gita is fascinating on many levels, one of which is the many different ways Lord Krishna tries to explain every concept to Arjuna. Sometimes, Arjuna comes across as being really slow on the uptake but then, so many of us make the same mistake over and over and over again and just don’t get it. It almost seems as though Krishna explains things to Arjuna in different ways because the message is not just for him, but for many many many more people who will come after him. The biggest inference for me is – as a leader you don’t influence just one life, you influence a whole generation beyond that one life. Think about what you say to your direct reports, think deeply about what lessons you are imparting to them through your actions because they influence several more people down the line. Massive responsibility for leaders ….. phew!

While you mull over that here’s verse 14 from Chapter 2 –

मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदु: खदा: |
आगमापायिनोऽनित्यास्तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत || 14||

mātrā-sparśhās tu kaunteya śhītoṣhṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ
āgamāpāyino ’nityās tans-titikṣhasva bhārata

mātrā-sparśhāḥcontact of the senses with the sense objects; tuindeed; kaunteyaArjun, the son of Kunti; śhītawinter; uṣhṇasummer; sukhahappiness; duḥkhadistress; dāḥgive; āgamacome; apāyinaḥgo; anityāḥnon-permanent; tānthem; titikṣhasvatolerate; bhāratadescendant of the Bharat
The translation is as follows – O son of Kunti, the contact between the senses and the sense objects gives rise to the appearance and disappearance of happiness and distress. These are non-permanent, and come and go like the winter and summer seasons. O descendent of Bharat, one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
My interpretation –
Seasons change and like you change your dress to suit the outside weather, a leader has to behave differently in different “seasons”. When its summer, you don’t wear a heavy overcoat and when its winter, you don’t go shirtless.
In life timing is everything …there is a right time to share your ideas, be aggressive or to remain in the shadows. Most of us don’t recognise the right moment and many of us don’t have the patience to wait for it. When it is summer, find things that quench your thirst, and keep you cool. Summer is also the season when there is an upsurge of positive energy, so make the most of it. Summer is usually when the organization is nascent or when your boss is new or when you are new.

When it rains – it can be a pleasant shower or a storm. Your behaviour has to change accordingly. Winters can be cozy if you have a fireplace and enough firewood to burn. Winters can also be very harsh if you have no protection. Use this time to stay low, gather your energy and wait for better times.

Nature, like Lord Krishna is telling us through the changing seasons that there is always the right time to do certain things and you just need to have the patience to find the right season, the right time to do things.

I had written a blog way back in 2012 about Corporate Seasons with a similar theme.

References – Bhagavad Gita as it is, ISKCON’s book; Bhagavad Gita by Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 1959 edition, my father’s copy.

3 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita 4 – Timing”

  1. Bindu,
    Leader or not, everyone has some effect on the environment and on people they encounter. Also, you never know what people take away from a meeting. Yes, timing is important, but seeds dropped in the fall have the wisdom to wait until spring to sprout. By this I mean that sometimes information or activity that seems premature can ripen in time and blossom when the conditions are right. That’s why such enduring treatises as the Bhagavad Gita have lasted so long and are continually new and inspiring.

    • So true Katharine. In nature everything has a timing …. with science we have tried to grow vegetables and fruits right through the year, but the taste is so different when you eat them in season. I try hard to eat only fruits of the season and local produce. And yes, everyone has an impact on the environment and the people around them. I used the word leader because often, their decisions have a bigger impact as people tend to follow them.

      • Bindu,
        Of course you are right. I merely have a personal aversion to the word “leader” because people tend to assume religious or political leaders, but a “leader” can be anyone who has a wide influence, like a musician or sports star.

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