Programme PGP Term IV Academic Year 2021-22

Course title Leadership, Vision, Meaning and Reality Area Strategy Credits 1.25

Prof. S. Manikutty (VF)

Course Description & Objectives
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 will lead to a “right” solution. These decisions are partly resolved through logic, and partly emotions. The decisions often involves questions of ethics, compromises and choices that can be questioned later on; they cannot be clearly compartmentalized or categorized as “right” or “wrong”, only better or worse decisions, decisions appropriate or inappropriate under the circumstances.

As a manager, you too will face similar situations when you have to take tough decisions. These are not decisions that call for complex mathematical calculations, but rather, judgment. The situations present themselves unexpectedly, leaving you with little time for adequate, leisurely thought, but call for answers then and there. There will decisions that are to be taken 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 need to have a vision? Does a leader need to share a vision? What is meant by vision? Is dreaming (rather than being “practical”) a component of leadership? 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 for 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 selfdevelopment. Classics in literature are classics not because they tell a thrilling story, but they pose before you life’s dilemmas and force you to discuss them, reflect on them. Ultimately, issues of leadership are issues of life, and humanities in general, and literature in particular, present these issues in multiple ways. They thus enable you not only to expand your horizons, but also help you to become better leaders by gaining insights on the issues of life itself.

  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. 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. 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 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. 

For the second time, this course is being offered on line. I have taught this course on line for PGP at IIMB and PGPX at IIMA. I have learnt from my experience of on line teaching from last year, and you, of course, have done your entire first year courses on line. So for me as well as you, it has now become old hat. The dynamics of the class room and interactions are going to be different, quite different. We shall try to keep as much of the essentials of the course in tact as possible, but we would need to adjust and fine tune as we go along.

In this course, students will form study groups and each group will take up one work and analyse it fully, reflect over it and present their understandings to the class. This has been the way all through for this course, and we shall keep it essentially the same way. In the past, before the class presentation, the members of the group presenting the reading would meet the instructor (me), as a group, at least one day prior to the class and discuss what they proposed to present in the class. We shall still meet, but of course, on line, and discuss the proposed presentation for about 30 mins. In the past, we used to meet one section group at a time, first the A section group and then B section group. We shall retain this format. You are of course, no strangers for on line group meetings. 

The class presentations will be for about 20 to 30 minutes, followed by discussions and supplementary inputs by the instructor. All this will be on line.

The class discussions tended to become quite interesting, with novel ideas and points of view presented with a new perspective. Interestingly, most students attending the course would be 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. We hope this continues to be so.

Two films, titled “The Making of the Mahatma” and “Lincoln” will form a part of the course. We shall screen them also on line. In addition, films on the following readings are available, free, on line and students are encouraged to view them on their own. The films suggested are: Don Quixote, Joan of Arc, All My Sons, and Sidhartha. There are other great films that are relevant for the themes of the course, such as Othello, Les Miserables, To Kill A Mocking Bird, Lord of the Flies and Good Bye, Mr. Chips, which do not form a part of the course, but the students could view them to enrich their perspectives on leadership issues. The feedback on these films from the earlier batches has been that they enhanced the learning from the main readings tremendously.