Thursday, June 11, 2009

How Fit Are You?

Another long one I am afraid!!

An ad for a B School claimed that their mission was to “produce managers fit for the society”. This statement demands an examination of what we consider is “fitness” for the society. 

I am sure most of you will agree that "fitness for the industry" would be an easier construct to define. Considering all what would be expected from an MBA, an ability to deliver results on what your organization considers are your key result areas will be the primary determinant of “fitness” in the industry. The ability to deliver numerical results are however only one part of the equation. The long term success of an MBA in the industry will be determined to a very great extent by what can at best be described as a mosaic of abilities. I am sure that the list of abilities to feature in that mosaic would be highly subjective and every one will have one based on their learning, perceptions, experiences, beliefs and value systems. I too have such a list:

·         Emotional intelligence

·         Internal locus of control

·         Ability to network

·         Self Effacing

·         An ability to keep the long term and the immediate separate.

Among noticeable omissions in the above give list are the commonly touted “communication skills”, “interpersonal skills”, “leadership” etc. As the list is based on my experiences howsoever insignificant they might be, I have come across enough successful managers and entrepreneurs who were not great orators, with enough interpersonal problems and conflicts. I did not include leadership as it is a very dynamic variable and tends to assume changing values in different situations. Even though it is undeniable that the ability to lead is perhaps a single most cherished trait, I have not yet come across a satisfactory answer to the very simple question, “What is Leadership?” Maybe one of you can enlighten me on that.

Coming back to the point, the concept of fitness for the industry is easy to describe even though the contents of the description still remains subject to debate. The concept of “fitness for the society” will be a harder nut to crack. The difficulty in doing so arises from the conflicts between what can be considered to determine fitness of an individual. Is the ability to generate wealth not good enough? Or would you be the more spiritually inclined who would consider abstract terms like honesty and spirituality? Or may be you are the “practical” being who would probably smirk at this question and say “What the hell!!”

Following is what I consider the components of fitness for the society. I will not impose lengthy explanations of each one.

1.       Physical Fitness

2.       Mental Fitness

3.       Emotional Fitness

4.       Spiritual Fitness

Physical Fitness

We are physical beings and being physically fit in my opinion is a primary concern. A healthy body as a prerequisite for a healthy mind is not new and I totally subscribe to the concept. Till yesterday evening this was an opinion based on my gut feeling and advice by many learned individuals. A program on obesity among people who have been athletes was an eye opener. Of course we all know the hypertension, cholesterol, heart ailments etc. but what shocked me was that the moment you start to gain wait and become unfit in any way, the hormonal balances in your body goes for a six and of all things the first to deteriorate is your mental make up!! They had a horde of evidence and explanations. But the bottom line was, “If you are unfit physically, you are unfit mentally too”!! Even if we leave that, how difficult is it to understand that your physical fitness is one of the few things you can control to a very great extent and if you are not doing so, serious doubts about your ability to control anything can be raised.

Mental Fitness

My cousin sister developed a habit of solving puzzles as a kid and when I was buying guns as toys, she was well into solving mathematical puzzles. Not only did she do fabulously well in her school, she also aced all the entrance exams she chose to appear in. Even after her studies, she is considered to be a valuable “solution” person in a huge financial MNC. And that ladies and gentlemen is getting her a salary which is ten times mine! It is very common knowledge that what is not used for long will rust and our mind is no exception. Try solving jumbled words, Sudoku or whatever you can lay you r hands on for a month regularly and you will see that not only will you get better at that but you will actually start “seeing patterns” in almost any problem you come across and if patterns begin to emerge, you have developed the great ability to “visualize” problems, mathematical or not! No problem is too difficult if you can visualize it.

Emotional Fitness

Emotional fitness of an individual according to me is the ability of an individual to exert control over her emotions and minimize deviations from the mean. In other words emotional intelligence will allow you to control the amplitude of your reactions to external emotional stimuli. How high are you highs and how low are your lows? Emotional highs and lows make good fodder for stories, poems and songs but when it comes to get the job done, calmer and the “in control’ are far more valuable.

Spiritual Fitness

Spirituality is at best confusing to most and surprising embarrassing to many. Many actually make a mistake of consider being spiritual same as being religious. Of course there are people who can be both but I most definitely would like to consider the two different. For me spiritual fitness would amount t two things; having faith in the higher power and the ability to let go. The term “higher power” is very vague. In fact it is this vagueness that motivates the quest many undertake. He quest may or may not clarify the identity of the higher power but it most certainly reveals you to yourself. The result would be a common man living in the real world, pursuing his worldly responsibilities but all the while and in the middle of al the chaos they would remain calm. This higher state of consciousness reveals the ephemeral and temporary nature of all things and makes it very easy to let go of anything. And if you can let go, can anything ever make you sad, or angry or excited or upset or can the fear of loosing something make you scared, or tense?

Of course the spiritual aspect of fitness for society sounds philosophical ramblings of an over imaginative teacher but I am sure deep inside all of you know that this is as true as say and night!!


Our actions are influenced by the society and its pressures. It is also however true that our actions determine what that society is and what kind of pressures exist because of it. You see. . . . . it is an open system and all the players are influenced by the environment and the environment affects the players.


I sincerely hope that the business school actually aims to do what it claimed and I do believe that as academicians it is the humble duty of people like me and my dear colleagues to consider whether our actions in our workplaces are based on a consideration for the end result or not.

1 comment:

Satindra said...

Leadership to me is nothing more or less than one's ability to influence. Leaders communicate with peole at many levels and most of that communication is non verbal. If communication was nothing more than oratory I would omit it too from my list of 'abilities' required for success either in the industry or society. I might even consider it to be a disability because oratory can sometimes lead you rather than you leading others with your oratory. You call it getting carried away. It can though not always, take you in the direction you did'nt want to go in the first place. Communication especially when its multidirectional dimensions are understood, I feel, is important for sucess in any field in life. Imagine an army going to war without having its communication lines in place.