The Dharma & Karma of Leadership

The Dharma & Karma of Leadership

November 10, 2013

If you read the newspapers, watch the news, consume information on the web, you are quickly besieged by a sea of pessimism.  We carry this over in our workplaces, our communities and unfortunately in our personal lives as well.


Everyday at work, we struggle with what seems like an insurmountable obstacle – a feeling of being handcuffed, a feeling of being victimized.  There are no leaders worth their salt here, we say.  We are not getting the proper direction!  The leaders are just selfish, they look after their own interests…..and where does that leave us, we lament.

Of course there is a leadership vacuum today – in business, in politics and in our personal lives.  What are we going to do about it?  As Superman said – “You’ve got to look inside; you can’t expect some leader to take you anywhere.” – Christopher Reeve, 17th April 1997.

Consider for a moment:


That by 2020, 3 Billion new minds will be using the Internet is some fashion. That the average per-capita has tripled over the past 100 years.  That cost of transportation has decreased by 100 ties in the past 100 years.  And that the average human lifespan has increased by 2 times over the same 100 years.  (Source: Peter Diamandis, TED talks).


What a universe of opportunity! How do we leverage this?  How do we then, become leaders at work and in our lives?  I have worked both as an employee and an entrepreneur in my career.  I have scoured the leadership literature in search of the magic bullet.  And I have worked with some exceptional leaders throughout my work life.  And you know what I found?  That leadership has nothing to do with who you are, but everything to do with what you do and how you do it.  That leadership is not reserved for the “C-Suite” but is available to all of us!  This introspection and exploration led me to develop a framework around leadership I call “Leadership Dharma.”   What is Leadership Dharma?  Dharma is nothing but a way of life – and for those of you who choose to accept it – leadership can be a way of life at work.  Quite simply it is a set of daily sustainable behaviors that I modeled based on observing how the leaders I worked with made their way to exceptional results and fulfillment.  It is based on 2 core tenets that align with dharma and karma:  (a) leadership as a way of life – based on behaviors can be associated with what ancient Indians referred to as dharma and (b) leadership focused on doing something rather on being someone, which can be associated with the concept of karma.


True leaders in everyday life accept leadership as a duty in daily behavior, and begin to break the shackles of this crisis.  As a framework for change – let’s commit to one tenet of leadership dharma – “Minimum acceptable is no longer acceptable”!  A variety of reasons make us settle for what is “mimimally acceptable” (I abhor that term!) so that we deem our obligations complete.  Make a move from that.  The only realistic result of minimally acceptable work (whether that is in your projects, in your product’s quality, in your behavior with your teams, peers and managers) is mediocrity.  And mediocrity is a synonym for irrelevance.  Most of us are striving for relevance in this turbulent world and it is an attribute of daily leadership.  So, cast off the “normal” mode of working – even if you feel shackled by the “lack of leadership” out there – accept that responsibility yourself and start making the journey towards being exceptional.


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