Leadership: Vision, Meaning and Reality

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Leadership: Vision, Meaning and Reality

(Alternate title: Organizational Leadership for Twenty First Century)

Proposed for Indian Institute of Bangalore
PGP II, Term II or III
Instructor: Prof. S. Manikutty
Introduction and Overview
Managers within organizations have to take tough decisions. The toughest decisions within organizations are not the result of “rational/logical” analysis which requires a “Eureka!” response. These decisions are a result of answers to multiple questions bordering on what is right and what is wrong. Strangely and ironically, they cannot be clearly compartmentalized or categorized as “right” or “wrong”.
As a manager, you too will face a similar situation when you have to take a tough decision … and the situation will worsen when there will arise a need to take the most difficult decision involving a choice between right and right and between wrong and wrong. The choice will call for a compromise. Additionally you will also need to assess the situation and respond to the following questions: what is the difference between a sound compromise and a sell out? When do ethical ends justify dubious means? When do you take a stand?

These are only some of the questions that you will face and which managers face all the time. However, when you take on the role of a leader, these become the key questions. As you reflect and look for appropriate answers to these key questions, some other questions spring to the fore, which simultaneously need to be addressed: What is leadership? How is a leader different from a manager? How does one prepare to become a leader? Does a leader have a vision? Does a leader share a vision? What is meant by vision? Do you dare to dream? When can/do you dream and when do you come to ground realities? Is it worthwhile to dream for a seemingly unrealistic vision? Or is it better to be “practical” and choose “not to be”? Is a leader just a hero? What is the difference between success and satisfaction? When is ambition a propelling, creative force and when does it become destructive? The list is endless and these are only some of the questions that need to be resolved by students aspiring to be leaders.

This course, or for that matter, any course, cannot, by itself, provide answers to these questions. But it does not follow that it is no use asking them, or debating them. This course seeks to provide an opportunity to you to develop a deeper understanding of the dilemmas, complexities and subtleties of responsible leadership. It provides an opportunity to think, reflect and expand your mental horizon. It trains you to ask questions for which you very well know there are no concrete answers. You also know that it makes sense to ask these questions, debate and arrive at responses that help develop judgement, understanding and stimulate the senses to enable you to consider issues in the right perspective. In short, it seeks to enable you to take not more correct decisions, but better decisions (hopefully!).

Another important contribution of the course, hopefully, will be that the course will introduce you to the world of literature and show how to interpret great works of literature and draw lessons from them. Literature is not only fascinating to read (especially when it is not to be read for examinations in degree courses!) but also immensely rewarding in the process of self development.

1. To understand key concepts in leadership such as world view, vision, illusion, meaning, reality, myths, legends, symbols, rituals, beliefs, values, attitudes, will, ambition, virtue, responsibility, cleverness, intrigue, jealousy, personality, roles etc. with input from humanities.
2. To use such concepts in understanding the role of leadership and impact of culture on modern organizational life.
3. To understand relationships between organizational needs, role demands and personality differences, and

4. (Most important) To develop skills for selecting and interpreting great works of literature so as to learn meaningfully from humanities to assume a leadership role.

The course approaches the whole topic of leadership through a study of literature. Why literature? Many works of literature give glimpses of the different aspects of leadership. They present the dilemmas of life. In many of the literary pieces you will read in this course, you will not find clear, inspiring tales of heroism or sainthood, although in some readings there are. Many of the characters in these works are simple people like you and me, with strengths and flaws. They are, in Nietzsche’s phrase, “human, all too human”. That is why they reflect life in its true reality. These works of literature will puzzle, fascinate and challenge you to interpret the situation and the characters in as conservative or radical a manner as possible.
Interpretation forms the essence of the course. These pieces of literature give insights into the thoughts and feelings of common and lofty people who are either leaders or are on the path to attaining leadership positions with common follies but great successes and failures narrated/presented in a highly readable and fascinating style.

In this course, students will form study groups and each group will take up at least one work and analyse it fully, reflect over it and present their understandings to the class. But before doing so, they have to meet the instructor, as a group, at least one day prior to the class and discuss what they propose to present in the class. These presentations will be for about 20 to 30 minutes, followed by discussions and supplementary inputs by the instructor.

The class discussions tend to become quite interesting, with novel ideas and points of view presented with a new perspective. Interestingly, most students attending the course are quite astonished at their own ability to understand and interpret literature and see its relevance for gaining a holistic perspective of diverse situations, a must for all managers and leaders.

A film titled “The Making of the Mahatma” will form a part of the course. In addition, films on the following readings will be screened to those interested. These screenings will be purely optional and outside the main course outline. The films available are: Don Quixote, Joan of Arc, Othello, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Sidhartha, Lord of the Flies and Good Bye, Mr. Chips. The feedback on these films from the earlier batches has been that they enhanced the appreciation of the main readings tremendously. However, they are NOT a substitute for the main readings.

Grading Scheme
The following will be the grading scheme followed:
15% Class Presentations: This segment will consist of two sub segments:

  1. the class presentation itself and

  2. a brief written report on your own presentation, in about 3-4 pages, submitted as a group. These two segments will carry equal weight, of 7.5% each.

The presentations made by the various groups will be evaluated based on

  1. the quality of their interpretation (rather than merely summarising the reading)

  2. the issues generated for discussions and

  3. the innovative elements introduced to make the presentations more effective. This will be a group grade in which all the members of a group will receive the same grade, unless there are good reasons to believe that some of the members have not contributed at all or only in an insignificant way to the group’s output.

The written report will not be a mere repeat of your presentation, but will also include the significant points raised during the class discussion in that session. The evaluation of this report will be based on the clarity of the report and the extent to which the class discussions have been incorporated.

20% Individual class participation and attendance: This will be based on the interest taken in the class and the quality of contributions to the discussions.
25% Term Paper: The term papers will be a group effort, and could be on any of the topics on leadership, may be one of those covered in the class, may be not. They could be based on a theme encompassing more than one reading given in the class or other material, or they could be a detailed reflective elaboration on one of the readings done in the class, including the presentation made in the class and the discussions. A group can choose to write on its own presentation or on one of the presentations of any other group. The grade will be a group grade.
40% End Term Examination: This could be either of the class room, or take home type. Of course, this will be an individual evaluation.



1. Management Education and Humanities

1. Manikutty, S & Sampat P. Singh (2009). The Essence of Leadership: Explorations from Literature. Delhi: Macmillan. Chapter 1, “The Essence of Leadership: Awakening the Human Spirit” .
2. Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas, “The Crucibles of leadership”, Harvard Business Review, September 2002.

2. Managers and Leaders

1. Manikutty, S & Sampat P. Singh (2009). The Essence of Leadership: Explorations from Literature. Delhi: Macmillan. Chapter 2, “From a Manager to a Leader”.

2. Singh, S P (1999). “Learning Leadership and Decision-Making from Literature,” Vikalpa, July - September, 24(3), 3-10.

These first two sessions do not use any literature as such; they set the stage for the course and dwell upon the distinctions between managers and leaders, role of values and are a “how to” guide for appreciating literature.

3. Leaders in the Making

Film: Shyam Benegal, “The Making of the Mahatma”.

Duration of the film: three hours.

This film traces the process of development of an ordinary boy named M.K. Gandhi into a Mahatma, of whom Einstein said that future generations might not believe that such a person actually walked on the face of this earth. How he became a leader, and what dilemmas he faced are vividly brought out in this film.
4. Discussion on the Film
5. Dreams and Reality


Cervantes: Don Quixote

Sheldon Kopp: Tale of a Mad Knight

Excerpts from Ortega's Meditations on Quixote

Don Quixote is a synonym for the eccentric, “unrealistic” dreamer who lives in his own world. But the classic novel raises the question: Would the world be much better without such dreamers and cranks? Who is in fact the dreamer and who, the realist? Why does this eccentric inspire the world today so much so that it continues to be translated into a record number of languages, and people continue to read it? And still feel nothing but affection for this mad knight?
We are using only a school edition of this long novel. Interpretation is facilitated by the readings by Ortega Gasset and Sheldon Kopp.
6. Heroism and Martyrdom


George Bernard Shaw: Saint Joan

Joan d’Arc is the person best known for her uniting France as a nation against Englad, and goading a Dauphin, utterly without self respect, into becoming the King of France, and started a process that eventually resulted in the driving away of the English, and the end of the Hundred Years’ War. She is still “the soul of France”. But she was burnt at the stake as a heretic before she was out of her teens, and before her vision became a reality. What do we learn from this heretic turned Saint?

7. Vision and Action


Girish Karnad: Tughlak

Here is another dreamer, another visionary. But why do we feel so different towards him as compared to, say, Joan or Don Quixote? What are the qualities he possesses? Does he possess any such quality/qualities that led to his failure, and prevented him from becoming a leader who could command respect rather than fear?
8. Ends and Means


Vishakadatta: The Signet Ring of Rakshasa
Chanakya has fascinated people for the last two centuries. For him, end justified the means. No holds barred. Yet he comes as a sharp contrast from Tughlaq. Why? In this immortal play, we look at when ends may justify means.
9. Freedom and Social Responsibility


Brecht: Life of Galileo
Galileo was threatened to be burnt at the stake for his view that challenged the beliefs of the Church on many issues, notably on whether the earth was the centre of the universe, and Man, the chosen of God, or the earth was merely one of the many planets, revolving around the Sun, in an empty space. He was tried by the Church for heresy, recanted and led a life devoted to further advances in physics which did not offend the church. What is the responsibility of the leader when it comes to personal choices? Did Galileo sell out or did he choose a course of action that led to a better world, all things considered?
10. Private versus Public Life


Arthur Miller: All My Sons

Capitalism has its ugly side. It is never uglier than when it forces people to take decisions endangering others’ lives. But some of these lives may be those of the near and dear. How do leaders take decisions that need a choice between what organizations demand and what they want to do? In this powerful play by Arthur Miller, we explore many of these uncomfortable issues.

11. Ambition and Purpose


Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

In this novel set in Africa, we explore the raw ambitions of a man which still lead him nowhere. We explore such questions as: What is character? What is ambition? When does it become all destroying? Usually in this story, participants compare with some people they know, and, sometimes, with themselves.
12. Reconciliation of Conflicting Demands


Jean Paul Sartre: Dirty Hands

In this play by Jean Paul Sartre, the dilemmas of leadership in reconciling conflicting demands and the conflict between idealism and compromise to reach the goals is dramatically brought out. A young idealist from an aristocratic background joins the “party” for its ideological appeal, but is confronted by the way the party is compromising its basic ideals, and how ruthlessly individual leaders pursue their own agendas.
13. Success and Satisfaction


Milind Bokil: Thirsting for Water

Success is one thing. Satisfaction is wholly different. They are neither mutually exclusive nor necessary complements. In the short story, we explore the makings of a leader who becomes a leader almost by accident, but who derives satisfaction. We contrast her to another character in the story who is outwardly successful. Building further on Things Fall Apart, the story pushes the point of the need for a balance between success and satisfaction.

  1. Ideals and Reality – I


Iravati Karve: Yuganta, Chapters “Final Effort” (on Bhishma), Kunti and Draupadi.

15. Ideals and Reality – II


Iravati Karve: Yuganta, Chapters on Karna, Ashwathama (Paradharmo) and Krishna.

These two sessions are based on an interpretation of the immortal classic, Mahabharatha by Irawati Karve. We come across the famous characters such as Bhishma, Kunti, Draupadi, Karna and Krishna. Everyone has his or her own flaws. But how does one keep these flaws under control? How does one achieve a perspective and a balance between ends and means? These are the themes explored in the play. No one forgets the interpretations of the characters in the play, especially that of Krishna, the master strategist.

16. Taking a Stand


Sophocles: Antigone

In this classic Greek play by Sophocles, two inflexible characters take positions and their positions are irreconcilable. It leads to a tragic series of events Greek tragedies are famous for. What were the real issues they were taking a stand for? Could they have achieved those yet reconciling with the other person’s viewpoint? Or are ideals, by their very nature, incapable of any compromise? These issues arise when one takes a stand on a matter of principle, and this play beautifully brings out the complexities involved in resolving them.
17. Self and Ethics


Bimal Kar: Satyadas

In this powerful short story, we explore the meaning of ethics, self respect and the way one gets rich but gets degraded in the process. It raises powerful questions on the meaning of the term character.
18. Leadership as a personal Journey

Read: Hermann Hesse, Sidhartha.

Sidhartha (not Goutam Buddha) is a brilliant Brahmin boy who, after learning and mastering the scriptures, is dissatisfied and goes in search of truth. He masters sensual pleasures, becomes a successful businessman, and finds the truth still eludes him. He meets a high class courtesan, Kamala, and later discovers that he has become a boy’s parent through Kamala. He continues in search of truth, and eventually meets a boatman, who asks him to listen to and learn from the river. Also made into a great film (available to be shown).
19. Leadership, Passion and Discipline
In this session, a DVD titled “Passion and Discipline” by James March, Stanford University will be screened. This effectively brings out most of the lessons in leadership we have learned in the course.
20. Organizational Leadership: A Sum up


a) Manikutty, S (2003). “From a Manager to a Leader: Bridging a Gulf or

Jumping a Chasm?” Vikalpa, October - December, 28(4), 53-6.

b) Collins J (2001). “Level 5 Leadership- The Triumph of Humanity and Fierce

Resolve,” Harvard Business Review, January, 67-76.

This will be a wrap up session. Some other works of literature will also be mentioned for further reading.

For the course, which is based on readings from literature, the following will be the books needed to be purchased. What are not mentioned here are photocopied materials. These are not very expensive books. I can give more details reg publishers etc in due course.

List of books needed to be procured


1. Don Quixote (Macmillan edition)

2. Saint Joan

3. Tughlaq

4. Life of Galileo

5. All My Sons

6. Things Fall Apart

7. The Dirty Hands

8. Yuganta

9. Antigone

10. Sidhartha

11. The Essence of Leadership (to be given only at the end of the course)

12. The Little Prince (to be given only at the end of the course)

Prof. S. Manikutty

Professor, Business Policy Area (Retd.)

Indian Institute of Management

Ahmedabad 380015.

E Mail: manikuti@iimahd.ernet.in
23 August 2012

.Mr. S.V. Chandrasekhar

Senior Executive

PGP Office

Indian Institute of Management Bangalore


Dear Mr. Chandrasekhar,
As discussed, I am sending all the materials to be photocopied and distributed for the course LVMR.
Thanking you and with regards,
Yours sincerely,

(S. Manikutty)

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