Leading Comments

Raghu Ananthanarayanan

January 2011 Issue

Before turning this column over to the Guest Editor of this special issue on India I want to share some of my own relationship to that amazing subcontinent. When I was a senior in college (1960-61) I took a two semester seminar in political science, my major, that required a significant research paper in each semester. There were two things that I knew about India that intrigued me (and much of the rest of the Western world at that time): Gandhi and India’s foreign policy. I chose India, because I was looking for an area specialty to bring to my graduate work in international relations (later transformed into political science and public administration). Both of my interests in India influenced my decision to focus on South Asia.

The first paper I wrote, after a letter campaign to black newspaper editors and cultural/political leaders and a stint in the Library of Congress gathering as much information as I could, focused on Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha and its influence on the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. What I learned about both further cemented my commitment to nonviolent resistance, my involvement in civil rights demonstrations, and my deepening interest in the culture from which this amazing man’s work emanated. My love of Gandhi and of India was established.

The second paper focused on Indian foreign policy and its championing the Third World and—to many in the West—its maintaining solid relationships with socialist countries, while holding the West a bit at arm’s length. After all, India was establishing its national identity after many years of British colonial rule. This study led me to learn more about Nehru and a growing appreciation for the wisdom of this man. It also led me to a growing familiarity with the work of Nehru’s friend and colleague, V.K. Krishna Menon, this fiery Keralan who spoke truth with directness to India’s powerful suitors in the West, while not suffering fools gladly. This interest grew into my master’s thesis at Berkeley, A Political Biography of V.K. Krishna Menon.

My interest in Krishna Menon fed my growing admiration for Indian culture and the capabilities, the creativity, yes, the genius of the people of India. Menon symbolized this in his career as a founding editor of Penguin Books, his diplomatic service in London, the United Nations, and later his role as Defense Minister under Nehru at a time when the Chinese challenged India militarily on the borders of Tibet.

Increasingly my interest in India grew in her efforts to develop politically and economically. This led to my receiving a Fulbright Fellowship and about 15 months in India doing research on a capital intensive steel mill project in Rourkela, Orissa, and its impact on local politics and public administration at the district level, Sundargarh.

After teaching about Indian politics at the University of Arizona and the United States Army Intelligence School at Fort Juachuca (near Tucson;my pupose being to instill a strong appreciation for India) I left behind my studies of India for other interests. But I have never left behind my memories of that wonderful, complex, amazing country, culture, peoples. I still eat Indian food regularly and enjoy using my fractured Hindi whenever possible.

I was delighted when Raghu agreed to do this special issue on India. As you will see, he has done a remarkable and creative job in contributing to and finding others to provide material for this remarkable issue. Whether you have interest in India or not, I believe you will find here a remarkable set of interesting and intelligent works that help light the path to more generative, integral cultures and leadership.


The Guest Editor’s Reflections :

Raghu Ananthanarayanan

India is entering an exciting phase of its growth as it moves out of the ranks of “the developing nations” and prepares to take its place among “the developed nations”.  The process of putting together a set of papers that capture the dynamics of India as it grapples with its development and evolution has been a great learning opportunity. I am hoping therefore, that the reader will not only enjoy the various papers, but also the vast space that they cover.

There were four icons who emerged as India won her Independence in 1947, they were Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Shri Aurobindo and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

The most visible internationally is Mahatma Gandhi. He is the most often quoted leader worldwide. However, Gandhiji’s model of inclusive and holistic growth centered in India’s villages is not the one that drives India. Ramasubramanian’s paper (“‘Amirtasya Putraha’ rejoice being ‘Slumdog Millionaire’”) captures the attempts on the ground to energize Gandhiji’s vision for India.

Pandit Nehru represented a technological vector and a modern economy based on a socialist model. This has been revised into a more capitalist leaning economy today. The paper by Anil Nayar (“Unraveling the DNA of Bharti Airtel”) profiles the growth path of the largest telecom company in India—Bharti Airtel. This paper captures the drive of an entrepreneur as he rides the new wave. Many Indians have become very competent and adept at deploying a modern western education and succeeding in management careers. However, they struggle to integrate a love for things Indian with these accomplishments. Sridhar (“How to Win the Hearts and the Heads of CEOs”) grew to the very top echelons of Ogilvy, Benson and Mather (an advertising multinational) in India, yet he finds great joy and meaning in applying the insights and subtleties of classical Karnatic music in helping CEO’s find innovative business solutions.

Shri Aurobindo represents the Spiritual heritage of India. Manoj (“Telos—A Consciousness Based Perspective”) has delved deeply into the philosophy of Shri Aurobindo to develop a framework for organization development. Suresh Kumar (“The Integral Self System Model and Sustainable Leadership) looks at various schools of western psychology, how they define the self and discusses how this impacts leadership. He explores Indian metaphysics as a way of looking at self as a possible alternative.

Dr. Ambedkar voiced the angst of the discriminate against and oppressed people of India. Suresh and Pradip (“‘Koodam’—Breaking Hierarchy, Building Democracy”) have done path breaking work in developing the Tribals’ belt of the Indian hinterland. The work of Suresh and Pradip in democratizing the functioning of Government Departments in Tamil Nadu, India, through reviving the old governing institution of the Koodam. This is a great example of 2nd tier thinking.

The State Bank of India is one of the largest banks in the world. Mr. Bhatt has taken inspirations from all the four icons in leading a cultural transformation. Prasad Kaipa’s interview of Mr. Bhatt is a key paper in this edition of Integral Leadership Review.

Gagandeep Singh (“The Tensegrity Mandala: A Model for Organization Design”) shares his experiments with a new model for organization design. The Tensegrity Mandala is based on some of the work of Prasad Kaipa, Russ Volckmann and Chris Newham. It draws on ideas from Buckminster Fuller and Indian thought.

I have attempted to present an overview of the Indian context through a variation of the AQAL framework (“Exploring what is Indian?”). Understanding India is certainly not easy. After studying its various faces and listening to its myriad voices for many years, I am not very sure if I have come to solving the enigma that is India!

Raghu Ananthanarayanan


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