What could a US business school have learnt from Modi?

Whenever an educational institution invites a person from the social and political world, the purpose is to further contribute to the educational processes of the institute.

That Wharton Business School invited Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is not so much important as to why did they invite him. The reasons for inviting Modi were clear. For the third successive term Modi had won elections in his state and may become a national leader if the BJP announces his candidature for the office of the prime minister in the next elections.

The economic growth of the state is attributed to his efficient rule. The state has had no communal riots since 2002. He has welcomed investment to his state and projected a picture of a man who has turned Gujarat into a land flowing with milk and honey with less corruption than many other states. His image in the west has improved. However what surprises is the way one of the world’s prestigious business schools takes its decision, first to invite and then to disinvite. Decision-making is an important skill that is imparted in business schools. All decisions are made after placing all the reasons for and against a proposal. It would be interesting to know the new information that the school gathered to reverse its earlier decision of inviting Modi for the summit.

The jarring part of Modi’s story is universally known. Modi remains a divisive figure. He is a ‘Hindutva icon.’ Secular India associates him with communal politics. His failure to stop anti-Muslim violence during deadly communal rioting in his state in 2002 is not forgotten. He was denied visa to the USA in 2005 on the grounds that he violated religious freedoms. Not all within the Sangh Parivar would like to have him as the candidate for the prime ministership. Among the NDA allies the Janata Dal (United) has previously opposed his candidature citing his alleged links to 2002 riots. And yet Wharton Business School decided to invite him for the keynote address.

   No one denies that Modi is a strong and determined leader. But can he be a model for business schools? In democracies, society and industry expect totally different kinds of leaders to emerge from business schools than the liked of Modi. Business schools are expected to be democratic, make decisions as a result of discussions, debates and consensus. Modi is known for his authoritarian style.
Honesty and ethics
Ethical behaviour is a key value for leaders in business. They are expected to be honest and learn to work as team members. Delegating tasks to right individuals and appropriate departments is one of the most important skills that business managers need. A business leader is expected to be a good communicator. Being able to clearly and succinctly describe what the leader wants done is extremely important. Making oneself available to discuss issues is vital. It is the responsibility of the leader to instill a positive energy. Leaders have to cultivate humour for making the office where those who work look forward to working in, rather than dreading it. Other than being a good communicator, Modi has none of the above qualities. 

 Leaders in business are to lead by example and are expected to be fair and impartial. Good business leaders think outside the box and even turn to the team for guidance. Though, the tough decisions will be up to the leader to take learning to trust is as important as the team learning to trust the leader. The leader has to provide a vision of the successes to come. While focusing on the future goals, it is the responsibility of the leader to keep spirits up, and that begins with an appreciation for the hard work done members.

Modi has a vision, but a twisted one. He had refused to implement the special scholarship scheme for Muslims till the high court intervened and ordered his government. Leader of opposition Shaktisinh Gohil had alleged the rights of scheduled caste and schedule tribe were not being protected in Gujarat. “Despite a provision in the Act that the committee to review the implementation of law relating to protection of rights of SC/ST should meet twice a year, it met after a gap of over two years in 2012,” he claimed.

 In 2011 out of 822 cases of atrocities on SCs in Gujarat, only 47 persons got punished, while 755 were acquitted. That would mean his governance has not been impartial.

Senior RSS leader M G Vaidya had alleged that Narendra Modi was behind the campaign against BJP president Nitin Gadkari to oust him. There are others in the party and in the affiliates who have blamed Modi for dissension when his will is not implemented. Towards those who have not toed his line of thought, he has been oppressive. His style of governance has not allowed anybody else to emerge as a leader. When he does not delegate and does not trust, forget about appreciating the work of his team members. One wonders what is it a business school like Wharton has to learn from a leader who is not known to build or inspire a team.

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