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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Valmiki’s Hanuman : The Definition of Active-Loyalist

Loyalty is the acceptance of bonds that our relationships with others entail, and acting in a way that defends and reinforces the attachment inherent in these relationships. It is “the cornerstone of stability in all our relationships.” One can be loyal to many: friend, lover, family, community, employer, country, etc. Some loyalties could be more important to an individual than others. Simply put, loyalty is the counterpart of the word “my”, said Timothy Keininham and Lerzan Aksoy.1

Loyalty to an organization is more abstract than loyalty to a friend or family. This emanates mostly from our friendship with colleagues, and it is this loyalty to our colleagues and friends in the organization that serves as the glue between us and the organization. Timothy Keininham and Lerzan Aksoy identify yet another reason for loyalty towards organizations: it is the “need to accomplish something, and to be a part of something larger than ourselves. It indeed supports our view of ourselves within the society.” No matter whether it is loyalty towards a friend or lover, or towards an organization, to be loyal, one needs to have commitment—emotional bond. But mere commitment is not enough to prove that one is loyal, for loyalty demands recognition of the bonds that one has with the other and action that reinforces those bonds. Which is why loyalty is action—action that strengthens the bondage.  It is only when commitment transforms into action that loyalty comes into existence.  

Followers: All Are Not Same

In the case of organizations, the action of the employees is again defined by how actively they associate themselves with the organizational pursuits and its leadership. In this context it is desirable to have a look at how Barbara Kellerman2, a political scientist, differentiated the followers of a leader based on their “level of engagement” in the organizational affairs. According to her, followers can be divided into five groups, viz., 
  • isolates—completely detached, do not care about their leaders, nor do they know anything about them or respond to them in anyway, yet they are important, for their alienation is of significance for a leader, and unwittingly strengthens the superiority of leaders;
  • bystanders—they observe, but do not participate, deliberately choose to disengage themselves from their leader, indeed from whatever is the group dynamic, thus help to maintain the status quo;
    participants—they are engaged in oneway or the other, clearly favor their leaders and the groups to which they belong or oppose, in either case, they invest some of what they have to leave an impact; 
    activists—they are eager, energetic and engaged, indeed they feel strongly about their leaders and act accordingly; they work vigorously either to elevate the leader or to unseat him; and 
    diehards—they are ready to sacrifice themselves for the cause they believe in, deeply devoted to their  leaders, or in contrast, can dethrone them from their seat by adopting every means; in either case, they are quite dedicated to their cause.

In the opinion of Barbara, this typology helps both the leader and his followers to know what they are made up of and translate that into what they can do. It indeed tells how people with less power respond to those who have more power—from doing absolutely nothing to going all out in full speed to work for organizational goals or vice versa.
Valmiki’s Classification of Followers
Interestingly, saint poet Valmiki makes Rama, the protagonist of his epic Ramayana, classify agents of the master into three categories:

yo hi bhrityo niyuktah san bhartraa karmani dushhkare ||
kuryaattadunuraagena tamahuh purushhottamam |                   

yo niyuktah param kaaryam na kuryaannaripateh priyam ||
bhrityo yuktah samarthashcha tamaahurmadhyam naram |     
niyukto nripateh kaaryam na kuryaadyah samaahitah ||
bhrityo yuktah samarthashcha tamaahuh purushhdhamam |       (6-1:7-9)
People belonging to the first group are those who, noting their leader’s intention, both explicit and implicit, perform not only what their master told them expressly, but also other tasks that will have a bearing on easy accomplishment of the main purpose. These people have a brain of their own and also have devotion to the leader which impels them to do all that is needed for their leader. The second group of people just do what they have been asked to do, nothing more. The third group of people, when entrusted with a duty, will return to say that they were not able to do it.    

Obviously, when we talk about organizational loyalty, it is the people falling under the groups ‘activists’ and ‘diehards’ of Barbara Kellerman, and the first group of people of Valmiki who matter most. Indeed, Valmiki chiseled a few characters—of which Hanuman and Vibhishana stand out as classic examples of activist followers with loyalty for their leader—in Ramayana, perhaps, to prove how important it is for a leader to have loyal activists in accomplishing his goals and how fateful it would be for a leader to ignore the voice of concern aired by a loyal activist. Let us now take a critical look at some of the scenes from the epic that throw light on these aspects. 

Hanuman: A Classic Activist-Loyalist
In Sundarakanda, we come across Hanuman, who is wise, moderate in counsel, and of forethought, executing the assignment of finding Sita in Lanka with utmost devotion, rectitude and a sense of duty. Hanuman, like a comet spanning the whole sky, takes his flight above the sea and having crossed it, lands on Mount Lamba in Lanka.

Then from Mount Trikuta, taking a look at the city of Lanka, he thinks that it will be a tough job to conquer this city. Even a war against Ravana seems to be a tough proposition. He decides to first search for Sita. His loyalty to the task can be gauged from the fact that he worries that because of him Sita should not be put to any trouble. He therefore decides to trace her only through crafty means, for there is no better way to outsmart crafty people than through craft.

He then assumes a microscopic shape, thinking it is the best means for finding Sita’s whereabouts. As the moon spreads coolness across Lanka he starts the search assiduously in the abodes of Prahasta, Kumbhakarna and others. There is no trace of Sita. He then enters the interiors of Ravana’s castle. Even there he could not find Sita. Then he enters the pleasure resort of Ravana. Later, he enters Ravana’s feasting room. Seeing strange ladies lying carelessly, he questions himself, “What am I to do? Is this right of me?”  Feasting his eyes upon these ladies, he feels he might be transgressing the moral code. He reflects: “My fate has led me … to see the women of another person lying about and sleeping …I have not done this before, but I am obliged now to do this improper thing.” Immediately, another reflection follows: “Yes, I have seen these women of Ravana, but I can say consciously that my mind is not in any way affected… I have come here to look for Sita. The natural thought is that she might be found among the women. Am I to go and look for Sita among deer?” He then reassures himself thinking—“Mano hi hetuh sarvesam / Indriyanam pravartane, / Subha subhasu avasthesu / Tat ca me suvyasthitam (5-11:41)—that manas—mind— which directs the senses in right ways and wrong ways, is under my full control…” and continues with the task.    

Interestingly, this genuine reflection of Hanuman upon his seeing Ravana’s women— “atyardham dharmalopam karishyati (5-11:37), it ruins my dharma”—is similar to today’s management theorists’ prescription that loyalty does not mean ‘blind loyalty’—of surrendering one’s values to the cause of organization. Like any virtue, loyalty, if it goes too far, is in danger of becoming toxic, says Timothy Keininham and Lerzan Aksoy. According to them, a follower should never ever ignore one’s ‘moral compass’ while being loyal to a leader.

Telling himself thus, Hanuman searches the whole of Ravana’s palace but could not find any trace of Sita. He speaks to himself thus: “My efforts have been a complete failure. Can it be that she has yielded to Ravana? Had Ravana put an end to Sita, or could it be that Sita, frightened by these terrible Raksasa women, herself took her life? What shall I say to Rama who is anxiously waiting for information? If I go back to Kishkindha and admit my failure, what will Sugriva think of me? and the unhappy brothers? and the assembled and expectant monkeys? …My return home will be attended with an endless chain of deaths, the destruction of the royal family of Ayodhya and of the entire race of vanaras… If I stay away here, it is just possible that the heroic brothers will sustain themselves with hope, and source my brethren the monkeys who have sunny dispositions by nature. Frustrated in my mission, I had better turn anchorite…. Or I shall erect a funeral pyre and burn myself on it.”           

Here, in this stream of thought, we see Hanuman worrying, one, about the failure of the mission; two, its impact on the leaders i.e., Rama and Lakshamana, and Sugriva; and importantly, three, its impact on his colleagues, vanaras. A true loyal person remains loyal not only to the establishment for which he works, but also to his colleagues there. Indeed, as Timothy Keininham and Lerzan Aksoy observed, loyalty to an organization emanates from the loyalty one cultivates towards the colleagues. That is the loyalty of active followers: the acceptance of bonds that the  relationships with others entail, and acting in a way that strengthens and reinforces the attachment inherent in these relationships. It is “the cornerstone of stability in all our relationships”—loyalty at its maximum.

Immediately following this frustration, Hanuman curses himself thus: “Wretched fool! What a dismal train of thought I have followed! To give way to despair is sure to lead to mishaps. Holding on to life is the only way for successes. Come on, where is my courage gone! Anirvedo hi satatam sarvarthesu pravartakah / Karoti saphalam jantoh karma yat tat karoti sah (5-12:10&11)—hope is the source of all good deeds. Everything is obtained through exuberance. The wise men insist on enthusiastic effort in all human endeavors. So I shall continue my search with renewed vigor.” Where I have not looked yet, I will go now and see.” Like most of us, activists too, when assigned with great tasks, sway between moods of confidence and pessimism, but will not give up easily—for they are eager, energetic and engaged.

Motivating the ‘to be an Activist Follower’
Coaxing himself thus, and praying to gods, Hanuman recommences the pursuit of the mission. Here, we must appreciate one thing: the leader is not around, yet the follower, Hanuman motivates himself afresh to undertake the task assigned. This makes one wonder: Why does a follower follow a leader’s instruction so steadfastly? Freud, writing his last book—Moses and Monotheism3used the biblical theme to find an answer to this most intriguing question: Why do people follow leaders?  According to him, human beings have a strong need for authority. This need is the consequence of our relationship with the dominant father during our childhood. He then goes on to relate the need for authority with our religion—implying that our relationship to God is similar to and derives from our submissive relationship with father. In his view, all power relationships will always have an element of admiration and envy on the one hand, and fear and loathing on the other.

This leads to another question: Does this hold good even today? As Plato said, we, being “social animals”, strive to be with a group that protects us from “the other.” Secondly, consciously or unconsciously, we believe that our wants as individuals are well met if we play the role of a follower, for leaders provide safety, security and a sense of order by virtue of offering a community to which one can belong.

The obvious next question is: For what group benefits do we follow a leader? According to Freud, our behavior as group members is quite different from our behavior as individuals—“by the mere fact that one forms part of an organized group, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization.” As an individual, one may be a cultivated man, but as a member of crowd, he displays barbarism, merely acting on instinct. So, groups need leaders, as otherwise there is a danger of their reverting to “barbarian”, avers Freud. According to him, we want “to be governed by unrestricted force.”4 Robert Michels5 too argues that it is “the incompetency of the masses” which makes leaders indispensable. Barbara Kellarman states that people in groups follow their leaders because they provide groups with a structure, with a goal and with instruments of goal achievement, which are appealing.

The next question is how followers and leaders relate to each other? This, of course, has a striking range. On the one hand, we have leaders who are brutes, tyrants, and dictators like Ravana, with followers living at their mercy, while on the other, we have leaders who are democrats, well-intentioned, like Rama, treating the followers as their partners. Many theorists grappled with the question: What is the appropriate relationship between the ruler and the ruled? And it has been constantly aired: “equality.” But this appears to be a mere “ideal”, a fantasy.

Then came James MacGregor Burns who presumed that both democratic leadership and democratic followership exist. He came up with ‘transactional leadership’—an economic model in which leaders and followers have an exchange of some kind, from which both parties stand to benefit. There could also be transforming leadership—where one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality. Though these two are different, there is nevertheless a similarity in them: they both take into account the needs and wants of both leaders and followers. Sensing the slowly creeping change in the corporate world, Burns opines: “Leaders, in responding to their own motives, appeal to the motives of potential followers—as followers respond, a symbiotic relationship develops that binds leader and follower together.”

The next question is: How do followers behave? Literature reveals that followers of charismatic leaders or cult leaders exhibit willingness to make personal sacrifices, like Hanuman, in the interest of the mission and because of their strong emotional attachment to their leaders. When it comes to ordinary leaders—transactional but not transformational—it is predicted that the leader’s ability to motivate followers is defined by the strength of the leader to “behave in a way that exemplifies the values and ideals that are shared by the groups they lead. Now, the obvious question is: How do followers behave when leaders are not charismatic? The answer is, perhaps, we know very little except to predict that followers disengage—merely follow the leader, like the majority of the Ravana’s followers (unlike Vibhishana, Kumbhakarna, Maricha, and Mahadari), for there is no alternative.  

Though lot of research has been carried out on what makes a good leader, little is done to understand what it calls for to become a good follower. In the recent past, researchers have, however, started paying greater attention to questions like: What is a follower’s role? What are the follower’s rights and responsibilities? This is indeed a healthy development, for it is a pointer towards our viewing leadership as a relationship that involves at least two people: one leader and one follower; and similarly, followership is relationship involving one follower and one leader, says Barbara Kellerman. Nonetheless, there are great followers, exemplary followers, and loyalist followers in every organization without whom no organization can survive.

                                                                                                                             ---to be Continued


Unknown said...

Hi Friends,
I think "HANUMAN JI" is most powerful god in universe.
I pray to "HANUMAN JI" for long and happy life of every good person in word.
Read hanuman chalisa will give you success.

Unknown said...

Read Hanuman Chalisa to get rid of any type of evil spirits.

Unknown said...

Awesome Post Admin.Jai Hanuman.Reading hanuman chalisa every day gives you Strength and power to you.Jai Sree Ram.

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