Dr. Sudhir Kakar
Psychoanalyst and Writer
-Thank you very much for inviting me here. My brief is the Indianess of Indian organizations and how does that compare to the world’s organization, the positives and the negatives. For those of you who don’t believe in national character let me start with the ---- of national character. This is a test; you are in a boat with your mother, spouse and child, the boat starts sinking and you can only save one, who will you save? Let me start with Atul. This is 30 years ago in the class room at IIMA

- The child
- Who would you save?
- Spouse
- What about you?
- Child.

From the results you don’t reflect the Indian character that much. In western societies 60% save child, 40% save spouse. Saudi Arabia 80% save mother and they are the most logical because you can always remarry and have more children. In India about 40% save child, 30% save mother and 30% save spouse. Let me come to the institutions but let me start with the first institution or the first organization where we really learn about organizational life and where the most deepest lessons of organizational life sunk into us which is the family. And the Indian family is the one where we really start learning how to deal with people, what is authority, what is hierarchy and there are two parts of this. I will only take these two, hierarchy and authority and relationships, these are the two lessons from early family life which we take into organizations and then they get ---by many other things, what we learn, our intellectual things but these are the two emotional kind of anchors which colour and which we all again fight against if we believe it exists. Now there are basic six nursery sounds, baby language which infants all over the world use with such a slight variation from one society to another. These are repeated in combination of the vowel AAA preceded by different consonants such as dada, mama, nana, papa, tata so infants keep on repeating these very closely related sounds over and over and parents and other members of the family keep on reinforcing them. In most western societies only a few of these sounds for example mama, dada, papa are recognized and repeated by the parents and thus reinforced in the infant. In India on the contrary just about all those closely related sounds are repeated and reinforced since each one of them is a name for various elder kin in the family which a child must learn to identify with the position he or she occupies in the family hierarchy. In my own mother language Punjabi you have chacha, kaka, taya, masi, masa and I think this holds true for all other languages also. I think later in institutional life this very highly developed antenna which the child starts learning like who is where in the hierarchy makes an anticipate division of various superiors and adjusts his behaviour accordingly. There is a very strong antenna which you develop for all the people higher up in the authority, what they want from me and this you learn very early. Also the child’s learning when to retread, when to be stubborn in order to get what they want makes the Indian or this is at least often said or often people in European countries say that Indian is a formidable negotiator so negotiating is one of their strengths which also a child has to learn very early in life, child is a small creature, defenseless, he has to learn the negotiation much more in a much stronger way than anyone who is brought up as only a single child or only two in a smaller family. In school story books if you look at stories which you learn of superiors, who are they, gurus, teachers, kings etc there is a model of superior in school story books. And that model is of a superior who is very authoritative but always very caring. He gets his wishes or things done not through punishment or rejection but through emotional rewards so to be near to the superior is a kind of a very motherly superior, authoritative but maternal, motherly and not a punishing one. Punishment or rejection in these school story books never lead to open defiance. There is no rebellion in children but to very kind of passive aggressive you evade with yes I will do it, yes but it will never get done so there is never saying no to it. How does that then go up in the organization? In the organizations too a strong preference for an authoritative but not authoritarian leader, strict, demanding but also caring and nurturing so very much like the paternal head of the family who is strict in getting the tasks accomplished, tries to dominate the activities of the subordinates but who is a guide, takes a personal interest in the well being and growth. Cultivation of personal relation with the ---becomes very important in the Indian setting. Another legacy from childhood is the tendency to idolize superior so leaders at almost every level as also religious spiritual leaders take on an emotional importance independent of any realistic evaluation of their performance let alone an important event of their all to human being. Charisma then plays a usually significant role among Indians. So we are really liberally endowed with the bumps of reverence ---so we are generally prone more to revere than admire. Admire is often said to be a mature form of dealing with a person you respect. Now idolization is only when you ---an authority, when an Indian grants an authority to the leader, when he thinks a leader wants it. Otherwise we go to the other extreme, very skeptical and almost cynical. The granting of authority is involuntary of course in case of family and caste leadership during childhood and it may be voluntary in situations of acute crisis or distress which is also why the healing systems of most diverse kinds fledge in the country. And the effectiveness of these systems may be less because of their particular medicines or healing regimens but because they harness this manna, this is a word for the magical thing in the leader and the vital forces that this gets mobilized in the person themselves. One of the examples I had, I had a friend not many years ago who was working in the German pharmaceutical firm Bayer and they were testing an anti–depressant and these tests take long time, 8-10 years. India was one of the countries that was being tested and Mexico and there were two or three others so he used to come to India for these tests and they discontinued the tests in India because it didn’t matter if the doctor gave the ---or the anti-depressant, they worked exactly the same so they had to kind of leave the testing out. The authority granted to the doctor was so much that the test couldn’t go on. So in the organizations also one finds that the leader is often idolized. Now I teach a course called challenges of leadership and I have been teaching it for 15 years with a colleague of mine. This is for top management from all over the world at ----which is a school of business administration and we have one of these tests of 360 degrees feedback which perhaps most of you know where various dimensions of leadership you get feedback from the subordinates, from the colleagues, from the seniors and the Indian participants always got very high scores on all dimensions. So we started wondering are Indian leaders of organizations, CEOs so good or are the sub ordinates or others so afraid of them. I mean what is the reason. Then talking more to it when the leaders and CEOs when they are respected you do not have any kind of discrimination, he is very good at visioning , he is very good at encouraging, he is very good at building teams, he is good in everything. So they all were very high. Now this of course has an advantage and the advantage of course are there is a greater ---score in the senior management team, there is a higher degree of loyalty, satisfaction and commitment to the organisation of the managerial team and in the case of the individual a work ethic and the performance that can be much more than what a leader might reasonably expect in other cultures or organisations. So these are of course the advantages. But everything that has an advantage always has a disadvantage so that is the lesson one learns, everything that has a disadvantage you can always look at what function does it serve. Problem of course here are that the leaders get deprived of that critical feedback from the senior people of the organisation which will help him ----this functional behaviours while helping him develop more effective leadership practices. Those decisions tend to be pushed upwards and the top leadership must often intervene in organizational processes. More than many other societies the quality of leadership that becomes critical for the success of an institution. And anger and disappointment if idolisation is dented is seen as really personal betrayal. People sub ordinates can get very angry, more than what the faults the leader has committed might objectively as one says deserve. The disadvantage if of course of any leader of an organization who keeps on hearing you are great, you are great, it becomes very difficult not to start believing it after a while. That is why in the roman times when the Caesars came after conquer and the chariots rolled into Rome and the arches in the chariot there was always a man at the back of Caesar who kept on saying you are mortal Caesar, you are mortal. So this is a good thing to have an organization fool who says you are not that great, you are not that great but unfortunately if you get into the habit of sucking in this how great I am you don’t want any other there and this is one of the kind of difficulty which you have both the disadvantage of the leadership part here. There are of course some other of the relationships which we were talking of the second part, how important you learn in the family that you are a part of a stable network of relationships, you have obligations towards, some duties towards others and that that is the most important criteria of your actions, and this of course becomes quite difficult because emotionally intellectually you know it must be the merits of the thing. This is what the decisions have to be taken on but emotionally there is some things saying to you actually it is a relation to this individual which is the most important, not the merits of the case. And that is where some conflicts are often taking place and people in the modern educated organizations which are difficult to be solved or not that difficult to be solved but they create some kind of emotional discomfort. And that is also difficult then team work becomes difficult because to give negative feedback is a very difficult thing in our kind of organization. You always disguise it, we shall see, I am not sure but we will try for you to judge from what kind of words you are using, body postures etc of saying negative feedback. So this is a cultural obstacle because to say frankly no is a very difficult thing. Of course even if you ask directions on a street so the person who says go there when he doesn’t know it, it’s not only because he is pretending that he knows it, it is also that there is a relationship, very temporary relationship which has been established and he would hate to destroy it by putting something negative into it. So that is one of the reasons you get the directions that I know, which means our relationship should not get disturbed. So that is of course one of the things that goes into organizational life for the time that we have to be careful or be aware of it. Effective leaders in Indian organizations plays great emphasis on relationships, how to cultivate relationships with the people, the problem is of course how to do it with favoritism. Because if you remember in the families with so many children anyone being a favourite creates a huge kind of anger in the others. So we are very sensitive to favoritism. This is one of the things of absolute paranoid abilities to spy if the leader is favouring someone or not, not that we resent ----, that is not the thing. As long as we are the intended beneficiaries and in most accept the distinction between our own man and the others. As long as you are the leaders if your man is the CEO it is fine. The problem as I said arises only if you are out of the man syndrome part of it. Most people I think will express horror but some will grudgingly sympathies or agree with this politician because when the journalist asked him he put his son as the president of the party and he said how else will I put, your son? I mean most do recognize that this is okay let me now go to the international comparison of how do our organizations on various things compare to the other institutions and here I am going to give you the results of a study. This study was called the globe study, global leadership and organizational behaviour effectiveness carried out since the last 15 years among 17000 middle managers in 62 cultures and the industry was banking, food processing and telecommunication. What they did was they divided various countries, 9 cultural clusters which we would see here. The cultural clusters is -----which is Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan, south Asia in which India is the biggest one, north Europe which is Scandinavia, Germanic Europe which will include Germany, Holland, Austria and Switzerland, eastern Europe Poland, Romania , Bulgaria etc, Anglo which is US. UK, New Zealand etc, Latin Europe I don’t have to say that, France etc, Middle East, sub Sahara, Africa and Latin America. So these were all 9 dimensions and I will start with the first one which is power distance. Power distance is the culture which encourages through status, authority, the big difference between top and bottom and that is the distance and here if we go down again you will see that we are on the top. We have the highest power distance in our organization. There was a study in 1980 cultures consequences which was the biggest international cultural study before this one which also had the same that India is the highest power distance between levels. You can see that we are the highest there. So that we are separated the most by power, authority and prestige. The least is Scandinavia. When you see those lines these are where we are, those lines is where it should be, where all those 17000 managers said how it should be and I think that is going to be important when we look at it . It is not that we are happy with it, we also want to go down, and now everyone wants to go down. So this is I think one of the global ideal kind of a firm, that the power distance should be very little. Every country in the world wants this power distance to be reduced which means that we have a long distance to travel, we have a longer distance to travel than the others but this is one of the global firms. I am first only giving you where we are the highest. The second is ---orientation which is the degree to which people are caring, ---, generous and kind. We are the highest on that; the lowest is Germanic Europe on that. That’s what the managers say but if you look at the directions of where it should be again every country wants to go up. That the organisation should be more caring, more ---, generous and kind but we have the smallest distance to travel but here we can congratulate ourselves that we should keep this part -----. In-group collectivism is the degree to which people feel loyalties towards their family organization and employees. Again south Asia is again the highest, Scandinavia here is the least. If you look at the directions again all countries except ---Asia which wants to go a little down they feel that there is too much of loyalty etc, everyone else also wants to really go up. We also want to go a little down. Again this is not a problem at all for our organization so the human orientation is a very good thing for our organizations. So in group collectivism we are there where others want to be and human orientation we are very good at. Institutional collectivism what It means where people have the degree to which where people are encouraged to integrate into broader communities with harmony and co-operation as the paramount principle at the expense of autonomy and individual freedom so more harmony rather than freedom. So here if you see we are rather pretty good here. If you see China there they want to be where we are, they think that they have too much harmony, too little autonomy and individual freedom but we are pretty good in this part of it. Most of the people in global countries want to move up on that. They feel that there is too much individual autonomy; they would like a little more harmony and co-operation there. Uncertainty avoidance is a degree to which people seek orderliness. Consistency and structure. Here what people want is that we need to be a little less chaotic, we would like much more orderliness and structure than the others, northern Europe think that they are too much structured, they would like to be less, ---Europe as one would expect even for the stereotypes they would like to go very much down, the Germans don’t like to be that orderly who are working there. All the others, Anglos would also like to be little down, the others go up so there are different kinds of movements there but here on ours we need to be less chaotic. This is all what these middle managers want. Future orientation. This is really delaying present gratification for future results etc. so if you look at that we could be little future oriented. So that is something all want to be so that is nothing special, all countries think that they are not as future oriented as they would like to be but ours is somewhere in the middle. The interesting part here is that you can compare, if you want to compare it with china you can keep on comparing only the first two, how it is related to china so here we and china are pretty close. They may be a little more future oriented but not that much that makes a difference. Gender ----I mean I don’t need to explain, that of role of women and men. If you look at that we need to do much better on that, we need to be better and it doesn’t help that China is worse than us but we need to do better if we need to compare to most of the others except Germanic Europe and middle east, these are the two which are lower than us and Germanic Europe maybe a surprise to many of us, everyone thinks that Holland and all are much more advanced but not in their organizations. It seems that at least they don’t think they are. Assertiveness is almost the reverse of human orientation. If you are high on human orientation you are likely to be less in assertiveness. And we feel that we should be somewhat more assertive which is also like China. In fact all the others feel they are too assertive in their institutions, they need to be more human. We feel that we could do with a little more assertiveness. Performance orientation of course is a degree to which performance should be rewarded and encouraged and all want more. We are not that bad. China, Japan is the highest on performance orientation. We are pretty good, just less than Germanic Europe and Anglos. So all want more but we want to be much higher. It seems that our middle managers would really like the performance to be much more rewarded and encouraged than it has been. We are pretty high on that one. These then are Indian institutions in a very kind of international mirror of how they compare with others on these criteria. I said before that power distance or hierarchy or authority is one of the big problems in the institutions. But that I think is also changing which also sees from as it should be people do not like that. It is not something which is an acceptable thing and again since I started with a family I’ll end up with a family that there are changes taking place in the family which is not responsible for it but is certainly contributing for it. What are the changes taking place? in the early years lets say even till 2-3 decades, I am not talking about traditional India since here there are more modern Indians sitting there, the role of the father in the family was a very different one. He was a much more remote figure, distant figure who would come responsible for punishment so the child had very little to do with him on the day to day basis. That was much younger uncle, mothers, aunts etc but the father or head of the family was much more distant, this of course has changed. This has changed in middle class families where the son or daughter are getting emotional access to the father from much earlier years, who plays with the son, daughter so the distance between the father and the child has reduced and that is I think one of the things which is driving this need in later organisations that we do not want this great a distance. I will stop at the moment and if any questions.

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