Yearly Archives: 2012


Motivation and Human Development

In the corporate world motivation is a means for enhancing human productivity. This article presents a wider perspective that views motivation as an instrument for human evolution.

The Higher Significance of Motivation

Motivation is a subject of perennial interest in management, psychology and leadership. But most of modern thought on the subject is either fragmentary or pragmatic with a heavy emphasis on human efficiency and performance rather than on human development. But an employee in an organization is not just a knowledge, skill and productivity engine existing solely for filling the coffers of the organization or for accomplishing its deadlines or bottom lines. She is a complex living entity with a sacred essence created with a higher purpose. What is this purpose? When this question was put to Buddha, the enlightened master spoke not a word, but simply took a fully blossomed multi-petalled from a basket and showed it to the disciple. The message is that the higher purpose of human life is a progressive flowering of a person’s potential from the lowest physical to the highest spiritual fully developed and actualized in her inner as well as the outer life. This article presents a motivational strategy which can lead to such an integral flowering of the human potential.

Hierarchy of Motives

Equality of human beings may be a spiritual truth but that is not yet an actual fact of life since individuals are at various levels of development. Motives, values and attitudes of individuals depend on their nature and the level of their inner development. The task or challenge of corporate leadership is to understand intuitively this inner level of an employee and provide her with a motivational programme that matches the unique needs of employee. How is this motivational level of each individual employee to be determined? This is where the importance of the concept of hierarchy of motives comes in.

In modern psychology and management we have the well known need-hierarchy model of Abraham Maslow. This model identifies five basic human needs and arranges them in an ascending order. They are – first, biological needs for sex, survival and other physical needs; second, needs for material and emotional security; third, social needs for affection, belongingness, acceptance and friendship; fourth, the esteem needs for self-respect, autonomy, achievement, status, recognition and attention; and finally the highest need of all, self-actualisation which includes personal growth, achieving one’s highest potential and self-fulfillment.

According to Maslow, as each of these needs become substantially satisfied the next needs become dominant. So the right motivation requires a clear understanding of the motivational needs according to each individual and focus on satisfying them.

The need-hierarchy model of Maslow, after a powerful initial impact on management thinkers and professionals, later went out of favour for supposedly better theories. Maslow’s idea was criticized on many points. For example, it ignores the cultural factor; the needs are parallel rather than hierarchical; it lacks empirical validity. All these criticism can be valid for no mental theory can hope to explain or encompass the incredible complexity of human nature and its motives. So any mental theory on motivation is likely to miss some aspect of the complex problem. But Maslow’s need-hierarchy model has two plus-points over other modern motivational theories. First, it recognizes the process of evolution, viewing the human being as an evolving entity, moving progressively towards higher and higher levels of motivation; second its intuition or idea is broader and more comprehensive than other modern theories.

However, from the view-point of the Indian spiritual vision, Maslow’s model has two flaws. First it ignores or fails to articulate clearly the higher intellectual, moral and spiritual motives in man; and second, from a holistic perspective, it needs to be integrated with a comprehensive vision of human development. Here comes the importance of the Indian vision of human development that rectifies and complements Maslow’s model.

Evolution and Motivation: The Indian Paradigm

According to Indian thought, there are four stages in the evolution of man that takes her towards her spiritual goal. Every human being begins her evolutionary journey as a physical entity driven by biological and security needs. She progresses to become a vital being with her emotional and vital needs. There are two sub-stages in the evolution of the vital person. First she becomes the emotional person with her needs for mutuality, harmonious relationship and enjoyment of life. The social need in the Maslowian hierarchy is only one part of our emotional needs. In the next stage, the vital person becomes the being of strong will and abundant vital energy, the leader or the warrior-type, with her needs of power, achievement, conquest and expansion. The esteem needs of Maslow are again one part of the needs of the man of will and power.

As the person progresses further she becomes the mental and moral being with her intellectual, ethical and aesthetic needs for knowledge, values, ideals, vision. She looks beyond her physical and vital needs, seeking to understand the higher aims, values and laws of life and trying to organize her life according to these higher verities. As the mental person reaches the highest peak of her intellectual, ethical and aesthetic development she becomes aware of a spiritual reality beyond Mind and awakens to this highest spiritual need for Self-realisation, Truth and God. She begins to become the spiritual person.

This four human types or stages in human evolution can be placed in a corresponding four-fold motivational spectrum which will be discussed in greater detail in the next article in this issue. At the lower end of the spectrum are the outwardly motivated who needs the stimulus of external reward or punishment to remain active. At the higher end of the spectrum, first come the self-motivated who feels an intrinsic joy in work and therefore need no external stimulus to remain motivated. Next, come the ethically motivated who feels the need to contribute or serve a higher moral or social cause. The ethically awakened individual seeks not only joy in work but a higher meaning in work. The last and the highest, is the spiritual motivation, which develops when the individual is awakened to her spiritual self beyond her body and mind. Let us now try to relate the four stages of evolution, which we have discussed earlier, to this motivation spectrum.

The physical person who is bound to the needs and instincts of her body is at the lowest level of the motivation spectrum. For her higher evolution and development her vital and emotional being has to be awakened by external motivators like the need for wealth, power, enjoyment and success. The higher vital, mental and the moral types are potentially capable of all higher forms of motivation.

The vital person is capable of self-motivation and self-dedication to a higher moral or spiritual cause. When she awakens to these higher motives and dedicates herself to a higher ideal, she not only accelerates her own higher evolution, but also becomes a dynamic instrument for the higher evolution of the collective.

The vital person inspired by higher values can be a very effective and heroic leader and crusader for manifesting these higher values in the outer life. However, if there is a lack of sufficient mental or spiritual illumination in the mind, the vital person can become an aggressive and intolerant tyrant, forcefully championing a narrow dogmatic idea.

Similarly, the mental person when she awakens to the spiritual motive may blossom into a high thinker, sage or a saint sowing luminous, kindly or inspiring ideals in the consciousness of people. But if there is a lack of strength in the will or vital force, the mental, moral or spiritual person will be ineffective as a leader. So to realize fully the moral and spiritual potentialities, both the vital and mental person have to pursue a mental, moral and spiritual education and discipline, which leads to a deepening, widening and refinement of their mind and heart, and linking their consciousness and will to a spiritual inspiration and energy. One such discipline is the Karma Yoga or yoga of action of the Indian scripture Bhagavat Gita. One of the main principles of the discipline, which has a direct relevance for the corporate world, is to renounce the eager and anxious seeking of rewards of action and concentrate all our energies in the present on work to be done. If we have faith in God, we may add to ther a consecration of all our activities to the divine power. The path of Karma Yoga of the Gita leads to motiveless action, driven not by human motives, vital, mental or moral, but by a universal spiritual force, which transcends the individual and collective ego.

Thus, Indian spiritual vision links motivation with human development in an integrated perspective. This Indian scheme provides a broad and general framework for understanding and identifying the process of motivation in an evolutionary perspective. However, as mentioned earlier, human evolution is a complex process which cannot be rammed into any mental formula. For a human organism is at once physical, vital, mental and a spiritual being. It is the most dominant or manifest part which determines our stage of evolution. We also admit that this Indian scheme of human evolution is only one among many other possible formulas. Other schemes with different systems of classification are also possible and equally valid. We prefer the Indian concept because we find it integral, embracing all the fundamental elements constituting the human organism.

Beyond Job Satisfaction

This brings us to one of the major objectives of modern motivation programmes: Job Satisfaction. Job satisfaction happens when the motivational needs of an employee match the nature of work and the rewards received for her work. But mere job satisfaction cannot be the highest ideal for an evolving human being.

In an evolving world, growth and progress is an eternal law and a higher need. Anything which does not grow disintegrates and perishes. Thus someone who is satisfied with her present condition has no inclination to grow. Maslow’s need-hierarchy theory contends that when a lower need is fulfilled, the higher need awakens automatically. But this may not happen, if the individual is intensely attached to the sense of fulfillment or joy which comes from the gratification of her present needs. Or else the higher awakening may come after a very long time, through the slow and painful process of natural evolution, after many hard knocks, suffering and misery.

To avoid these negative possibilities, which may retard the progress of the individual and the collective, we have to create a work-culture which consciously promotes and accelerates the progressive evolution of the individual by awakening in her the dormant higher needs. So the aim of motivational strategy has to be not only to satisfy the employee’s present motives but also to awaken higher motives. This means the physical person has to be awakened to her vital and mental needs and helped to become the vital and mental person; the vital person to her mental, moral and aesthetic needs which will bring the light of a higher culture to her life of raw desire and ambition; and the mental and moral person to her highest spiritual goal.

So, not just job satisfaction but human growth through work has to be one of the higher aims of motivation. And this growth has to be integral covering all the dimensions of the human being.

M.S. Srinivasan

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.



Power, Democracy and Leadership

A major challenge facing modern democracy is how to build enlightened leadership within the democratic framework. This article examines the problem in a holistic perspective and in the light of Indian insights.

Key Perspectives

Forms of power; political challenge. 

The Forms of Power

Oxford dictionary defines the concept of power as the “ability to influence people or events,” “right or authority to do something,” “political authority or control.” We may classify power into four categories: political, economic, social and psychological. Political power comes from position, authority and hierarchy. For example a Prime Minister or President of a Nation or the CEO of a multinational company has a certain political power which comes from their position of authority. We may include here as part of political power some of the material or vital forms of power like oratory, physical charisma or mass appeal. Wealth is the source of economic power. This doesn’t need any elaboration or example because the power of money is well known. The social power comes from possessing a knowledge, skill, expertise or qualities valued or respected by the community, especially a particular community, nation or culture of which the individual is a part. For example, in ancient India, the Brahmin had not much of political or economic power but has considerable social power. The fourth and the highest form of power is the psychological and spiritual power, which comes from power of thought, – which means the ability to think with clarity, insight and vision – leadership qualities, strength of character, self-mastery, lived values or walking the talk and spiritual growth.

The Political Challenge

The great challenge facing modern governance is to ensure that political power goes to people with sufficient and matching psychological and moral power. In ancient India political power was vested mostly with the royal and warrior clans of Kshatriya’s, bequeathed by birth and hereditary. But most of the leaders of the Kshatriya clan, like for example the crown prince, were put through a rigorous physical, mental, moral and religious education based on the ideal of dharma.

This education and training has to a certain extent helped in building the required psychological and moral power in the political leader. But in modern democratic polity, which elects the political leaders by vote, there is no such mental or moral education or standards for the leaders. As a result there is a great deterioration in the quality of political leadership.

How to rectify this situation? The first step is to educate the citizen and the voter on the ideals of true leadership and on the type of leaders which can bring the highest wellbeing to people and society. In this task, the modern mass-media with its extensive reach can be a great help in educating the public on how to choose the right type of leaders. The second step is to maintain certain basic mental and moral standards for contesting the election like for example some minimum educational qualification or no criminal record. The third step is to educate the elected leaders on the ideals of leadership and governance and how to develop the psychological, moral and spiritual power needed to lead and govern in the right way. For example in most of the big and progressive companies in the corporate world, managers and executives go through regular training and development programmes for upgrading their knowledge and skill and some of them make a conscious, systematic and planned effort to educate and groom their future leaders. A similar effort has to be made in the political domain.

The third step is to promote creative thinking and research in political thought, governance and leadership. Here again the modern political world can learn much from the corporate world. Modern business has given birth to the science of management which is a rigorous and innovative academic and professional discipline, which nourishes theoretical and practical research on the various aspects of corporate management, governance and leadership. A similar attempt has to be made in the political domain.

M.S. Srinivasan

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.


The Mantra of Leadership

Help men, but do not pauperise them of their energy, lead and instruct men, but see that their initiative and originality remain intact; take others into thyself, but give them in return the full godhead of their nature. He who can do this is the leader and the guru.

– Sri Aurobindo

The mantra of old leadership is Enforcement by Law. The mantra of new leadership is Unfoldment through Liberty or in the striking phrase of Tom Peters, “Liberation Management”. The main challenge of new leadership is to create an environment which leads to a free and harmonious unfoldment of human potential in the consciousness of the individual and the group and an equally free and harmonious self-expression of this unfolding human potential in the outer life of the group.

The values of old leadership are authority, hierarchy, command and control, fear of punishment, lure of reward, rules and regulation, rigid dogma or ideology, order of uniformity, rational analysis. The values of new leadership are living example, empowerment, intuition, vision, empathy, understanding, purpose, values, non-dogmatic flexibility, integrating diversity. The old leader is bent on managing others, but the new leader is anchored in self-management. The old leader is satisfied with the routine and efficiency of statuesque. The new leader has to embrace change and foster creativity, innovation, evolution and spiritual growth.

The new leader will perceive the truth of spiritual evolution of consciousness and the need for spiritual progress. He understands that only in the intuitive knowledge of the spiritual consciousness of unity where he can feel his oneness with all existence, he can unify and harmonise the interests, claims and realities of life with the higher values and ideals of the mind and spirit. So, the new leader strives consciously to attain this spiritual consciousness and intuitive knowledge through an inner discipline.

In the segment of life he leads, he will felicitate this higher evolution of consciousness within his sphere of influence. The eminent scientist and evolutionary thinker, Teil-hard-de-chardin coined the world “Evolutor.” He said, the divine is the Evolutor which means He makes the world evolve towards higher orders of life. The New Leader will be such an evolutor and a human representative of the Divine Evolutor.



Leadership of the Self

His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar, the King of Bhutan

The great change of the Modern age is not to remake the world but to remake ourselves. Be the change you wish to see for the world.

– Mahatma Gandhi

We tend to look for great leaders and saviors to come and redeem the world. Sometimes such exceptional leadership may be needed when the change which has to be achieved or crisis to be solved is too difficult to accomplish for average humanity. Similarly, good role models who walk the talk and live the values they preach are helpful in our higher evolution. But in general the power to change the world is within every one of us because we are the world. The world we see outside is the expression of what we are within. We can change the world by making a corresponding change within our own self. Excerpts from an inspiring talk by the young king of Bhutan, delivered at University of Calcutta.

Don’t Wait to be Led by Others

Did we ever sit down and think about this while at university? Some of us will have done so – but most of us feel limited in our capacity to make real change – most of us would think – we are young – we are not billionaires or world leaders or famous celebrities – we are students fresh out of college – it is difficult enough for a young person to survive – to make a living – shouldn’t it be world leaders who make a change in the world?

This is the flaw – this waiting for saviours – why must the world wait for a few individuals to be born?

In a way, the environment we live in inculcates in us this outlook to life – those words we use so often at university – competition, future, jobs, income, investment and other such words – nothing wrong with the words – except that we have slowly become their victims; not their masters. In the absence of other ways to qualify and evaluate success in education, we equate success with money or power. Even Mahatma Gandhi during his time felt that we had no idea what education really meant and how to put a value to it. It is the same today. We know what we get if we work hard, a good degree and find a good job – we get a nice car, nice house and the appreciative admiration of others. We don’t know what we get exactly from being honest, just and compassionate. The benefits from this do not accrue so easily or visibly.

But as Gandhiji said, “an education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other, is a misnomer.”

For our generation, no matter what we have all studied in university or where we are from, we have been born into a world where it is more likely that we will pursue material rewards more than what is morally right – that we will follow the path of individualism at the cost of community and fraternity. This is the direction we have been pointed towards by the kind of growth the world has pursued.

How unfortunate – for if we take this path – then no matter how much scientific or material progress is made in our lifetimes, global problems will prevail, in fact multiply and we will continue to endanger each other and the future of our children.

But how wonderful if we decide today that we will make the effort, as individuals, to try and solve global problems, to make the world a better place for our children and for the less fortunate among us. If we decide to change the way we are expected to think and behave. If we, in this room, seize this chance to do things differently. If we act without waiting for great leaders to be born, if we can believe in the extraordinary potential of simple human values then… we can be the generation that made the difference – the generation with a conscience – the generation that the world has waited for, for so long.

None of us here may have, today, the wealth or skills to combat natural disasters or plug the ozone layer or remove world poverty. But we know that there is one thing we can change – that is ourselves. That is the most important thing – that is the one obvious starting point in our quest to find a solution to global problems – one’s self. As Gandhiji said, “Be the change you want to see.”

Do not feel alone, small or inconsequential. Too often leadership is associated with one great person giving an inspiring sermon to the masses and leading them to greater heights. I would be happy with this version of leadership if only it happened enough. By enough I mean if great leaders led millions everyday all over the world and solved all our problems. But that is not going to happen. We need millions of Mahatmas but history has given us only one.

Therefore, even if all of us cannot own billions or rule the world – what we can do for certain is we can touch the life of one person at a time – that is what is humanly possible and that is the great equalizer – whether you are the richest woman in the world or an ordinary man making a living you have the same power to truly touch someone with kindness, compassion and care.

When I speak about kindness, compassion and care – I know I may sound naive but the fact is that I believe in what I am saying. What I am saying is that in this global village – on a daily basis we are not fighting world wars or military conquest – every single day we are fighting the consequences of simple human negligence, complacency, lack of compassion, inequality. What we need is not a Leader to lead the Masses – we need Leadership of the Self.

This is my message today. I do not know how to find the cure for diseases and I cannot tell governments or multinationals to respect the environment – but I can assure you with all confidence that each of us can be better individuals – better human beings. Whether we become farmers, scientists, inventors or bureaucrats, the one thing we can all do alike is to live our lives according to the values of kindness, integrity, justice – we can be good human beings.

Create A Better World by Becoming A Better Human Being

Well, there are hundreds of us here today and thousands more under the University of Calcutta.

Some of us will become scientists, some corporate leaders, some national leaders and teachers so on. The difference will be that as good human beings we will be scientists who make the right inventions and cures; corporate leaders who do business with ethics; national leaders who keep in mind the weakest sections of society and the welfare of future generations; teachers who nurture and build good people. Imagine all the good we can do with the skills that our education provides, the tools that science and technology offer and all the resources of the world.

See, throughout history, we have always had the resources, the technology and science to not only solve but also actually prevent the problems that have plagued our world. What we lacked at certain moments is the Conscience to direct these resources to their right and noble use. When 24,000 children die every day due to poverty, we spend $1.5 trillion dollars on arms and ammunition. So now we can direct a missile at a target on another continent with the simple press of a button, but we cannot yet bring safe drinking water to half of humanity. We always had the resources. We lacked steadfast commitment, conscience and compassion.

I hope you see why I have kept speaking about the need to develop ourselves as individuals before we seek change in the world. We live in a highly globalized and interdependent world, a world where problems facing humanity like poverty, disease, war, strife do not recognize borders of nation, ethnicity or religion. It affects all of us; it affects every part of the world.

The solution to global problems will not just materialize from politics, from great leaders or from science and technology. The solution will come from us living as citizens of our communities, our societies, our countries and above all as citizens of the world.

As citizens of the world, our unifying force – our strength must also come from something that is not bound by nation, ethnicity or religion – from fundamental human values.

Values Shape the Future of Humanity.

Values are the root of our character – if we do not tend the roots, the character that springs from it no matter how much wealth, power and fame surrounds it will bring little benefit to oneself, the lives of others and to the well being of the planet.

All these buildings, monuments, this life that we hold so dear – all of these must give way and perish – not Values – Values of kindness, integrity, justice. Even death shall not extinguish them. Nothing travels endlessly with time and stays relevant from generation to generation, era upon era except fundamental human values.

I hope we will realize that we are at the cusp of a fundamental change of thought – a social revolution that will change the way humanity will pursue growth forever. Our generation is called upon to rethink, to redefine the true purpose of growth. And in doing so, to find a growth that is truly sustainable.

We must never forget that for lasting peace and happiness in this world, the journey forward has to be one that we must all make together. No one should be left behind.

This we must achieve without waiting for some great leader or genius who may or may not ever emerge – we should instead seek to do so, each of us, on our own. As we become better human beings, we build better families, stronger communities, successful nations and a peaceful stable world for ourselves and our future generations. It all starts with Leadership of the Self.

King Jigme Khesar was the world’s youngest head of state until 2011.