Narayanamurthy’s Leadership Institute
Can leaders be “produced”?

There is one good news. That is about Mr. Narayanamurthy of the famed Infosys. He has set up a 250 acre campus in his birth place, Mysore, as part of Infosys initiative to develop what he calls` leaders of tomorrow’. I am not precise in quoting his words, but this is what he says, as I understand.It is a huge campus, modelled on the US corporate giant, GE’s own such campus at Cottonvale, near New York. I am no great admirer of everything America or American. However, in beating the American high technology, IT, in its own game, Narayanamurthy earned the gratitude of Indians.
So, when he sets up a leadership training campus, modelled on the giant American GE, we salute him. Mr. Murthy is much admired for what he had achieved. Single-handedly (literally!) he had come up and demonstrated what one Indian, however humble he might have been born could stand up, dream and work at his vision and draw up plans and create wealth that had dazzled his countrymen and the outside world alike. This is no mean achievement. Indians are given to so much despondency, for advancing so many excuses, some plainly silly and some plainly unrelated to our history or belief-systems and yet would be couched in some high blown language for not getting things done in this country!

I am here just referring to Infosys campus in Mysore and the many successes and also the hurdles faced by the Institute. Three directors in three years. That’s not Narayanamurthy. He knows this well. Nor his mid-life blues are unknown outside the inner circle at Infosys. Yes, problems have come up, problems are always there in any endeavour. More problems, if more ambitious is the dreams and the projects. What I want to say here is that at least here is a man who dared to dream big and do big and achieve big things that are transforming India and impacting on the wonder world. That is what matters. Here I want to put forward some thoughts.

In India, we haven’t made much success in changing our persisting mindset. The Indian mindset is still caught in the small things! Bureaucrats in Delhi had made other Indians, outside the administrative jungle believe that India is making great progress. We are not! Public opinion must say that! Our education hadn’t transformed India or the average Indian. I see that even the giants of the past like Dr.S. Radhakrishnan and other great educationists didn’t tackle fundamental issues facing the country.

They were preoccupied with India’s freedom. They might have thought of education but had no time to apply in any detail. Basic education didn’t take off. Nehru’s rambling thoughts (as he used to articulate in his talks, in particular in my four years when I was at Santiniketan and when Nehru, as Chancellor took his duty seriously) he put forward many positive ideas. They of course never got translated into concrete projects. The time is right now. In this change of mindset, this optimistic world outlook, IT companies like Infosys and others have given Indians this new found confidence. Before IT industry revolution in India there was this lack of confidence.

So, now we have to give what I would call some ideological orientation to Indian education philoso- phy. Indian education has to be rooted not in power but in persuasion. Our democracy must give an education that should inspire Indians in our traditions, our ancient wisdom and calmness of mind and a sort of Oriental quiet confidence in man and in the world. The debate about the virtues of Orientalism and Occidentalism must be rekindled, after Edward Said.

Indian educators must go beyond the day to day controversies of textbooks and the Left-Right divide. we have to have the big picture of our education vision. We have to draw our inspiration from Raja Ram Mohan Roy and as he did them, now too we have to give the English language proficiency primacy of place. But how to raise the status of our common education, the status of government schools, how to address the Millenium Goals? How to bring education to all?
Can leaders be made or trained? Or, are leaders born and nurtured by education and the environment?

As I see these are big questions, philosophical questions development strategic questions that impinge on philosophy, ethics and much of humanities education traditions. One such is the leadership in business too. Here too, we have warnings. George Bush and the Enron’s ex-chief were products of Harvard Business school, so much applauded so for being just that! See the disasters!
Even within Infosys, there are instances where the supposed leaders deserted the ship! So, the larger and fundamental question remains: who become leaders? What are leadership qualities? Questions for which there are no simple and simplistic answers! As one who come from the humanities studies, I have my own take!

It is the core values we derive by studying classics or a having a classical education that only give the necessary foundations for great leaders, great minds to emerge.

 

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