Leadership and Communication in the Bhagavad Gita: Unity, Duty, and Equanimity

  • Jon RadwanEmail author
Part of the Management, Change, Strategy and Positive Leadership book series (MACHSTPOLE)


Organizations and communication are fundamental facts of human life. As social animals and relational beings we must collaborate across all planes of our existence, from the micro levels of family and neighborhood all the way up through macro levels of state, nation, and our global community. At each level these groups require a sense of direction and focus to maintain themselves and grow. Without focus and shared meaning groups can develop dysfunctional interaction patterns that harm their own members and drag the whole toward disintegration. Meaning is thus a vital resource for all organizations, and humanity is blessed with many ancient wisdom traditions that can shed the light we all need to flourish and grow together. In Western management theory the Hindu tradition is a relatively unknown source of meaning and light, and the ideas it shares can offer valuable perspective on the perennial challenges facing all leaders. This essay looks to a Hindu spiritual masterpiece, the Bhagavad Gita, to draw lessons for contemporary leaders. Themes of Unity, Duty, and Equanimity are explored via direct textual quotations to suggest ways to communicate light and meaning that can strengthen and motivate our organizations. Using Yukl’s (Leadership in organizations, 2000) ten leadership functions, a set of application principles is developed to show how the Gita’s values can help frame practical management challenges.


Bhagavad Gita and communication Communication and leadership Management ethics Organizational communication Values centered leadership Hindu wisdom tradition and communication Communication and religion 


  1. Adhia, H., Nagendra, H., & Mahadevan, B. (2010). Impact of adoption of yoga way of life on the emotional intelligence of managers. IIMB Management Review, 22, 32–41. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashokkumar, S. (2014). Thoughts on business ethics and corporate social responsibility from Vedic literature. Procedia Economics and Finance, 11, 15–22. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beer, S. (1994). May the whole earth be happy: Loka Samastat Sukhino Bhavantu. Interfaces, 24(4), 83–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burke, K. (1969). A rhetoric of motives. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Burke, K. (1970). The rhetoric of religion: Studies in logology. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  6. Burton, S. (n.d.). Leadership and the Bhagavad Gita. Los Gatos, CA: The Forbes Group. Retrieved from
  7. Chow Hoi Hee, C. (2007). A holistic approach to business management: Perspectives from the Bhagavad Gita. Singapore Management Review, 29(1), 73–84.Google Scholar
  8. Dhiman, S. (2013). The universal message of the Bhagavad Gita. Business Renaissance Quarterly, 8(1), 37–48.Google Scholar
  9. Ekmekçi, A. K., Teraman, S. S., & Acar, P. (2014). Wisdom and management: A conceptual study on wisdom management. Procedia—Social And Behavioral Sciences, 150, 1199–1204. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Engardio, P., & McGregor, J. (2006). Karma capitalism. Businessweek, 4007, 84–91.Google Scholar
  11. Finding. (2006). Finding the leader within. New Zealand Management, 53(8), 14.Google Scholar
  12. Galleway, W. (1997). The inner game of tennis. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  13. Gandhi, M. K., & Strohmeier, J. (2000). The Bhagavad Gītā according to Gandhi. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Hills Books.Google Scholar
  14. Hawley, J. (1995). Dharmic management: A concept-based paper on inner truth at work. Journal of Human Values, 1(2), 239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Herrick, J. (2013). The history and theory of rhetoric (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  16. Kerns, C. D. (2005). Value-centered ethics: A proactive system to shape ethical behavior. Amherst, Mass: HRD Press.Google Scholar
  17. Küpers, W., & Pauleen, D. J. (2013). A handbook of practical wisdom: Leadership, organization and integral business practice. Burlington: Gower.Google Scholar
  18. Lounsbury, M., Phillips, N., & Tracey, P. (2014). Religion and organization theory. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.Google Scholar
  19. MacFarquhar, L. (2007). Stressbuster. New Yorker, 83(31), 37.Google Scholar
  20. Mishra, S., & Sharma, V. (2015). Excellence driven sustainability in business through the prism of Vedanta. Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 189, 351–355. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mitchell, S. (Trans.). (2000). Bhagavad Gita. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  22. Nikhilananda, S. (2004). The Bhagavad Gita: Translated from the Sanskrit, with notes, comments, and introduction. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center.Google Scholar
  23. Palmer, P. (n.d.). Leading from within. Center for Courage and Renewal. Retrieved from
  24. Paul, P. VI. (1965). Declaration on the relation of the Church to Non-Christian religions: Nostra Aetate. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from
  25. Plato. (1989). Gorgias. In H. Cairns (Ed.), The collected dialogues of Plato: Including the letters. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Ramachandran, P., & Sharma, R. (2013). Are you a Kaurava or a Pandava at work?: Management lessons from the Mahabharata. IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 7(2), 55–68.Google Scholar
  27. Reave, L. (2005). Spiritual values and practices related to leadership effectiveness. The Leadership Quarterly, 16, 655–687. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Reddy, C. M., & Srinivasan, V. (2015). Interview: Dialogue on leadership development. IIMB Management Review, 27, 44–55. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Roka, P. (2015). Uncovering the leadership lessons of the Bhagavad Gita. Conscious Manager. Retrieved from
  30. Sankaracarya, S.. (2012). Bhagavad Gita: With the commentary of Sankaracarya. Ghambirananda, S. (Trans.). Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama.Google Scholar
  31. Saraswat, S. (2005). Reflections on spiritual foundations of human values for global business management. Vision: The Journal of Business Perspective, 9(3), 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Smith, G. (2012, March). Why I am leaving Goldman Sachs. The New York Times. A27. Retrieved from
  33. Stewart, J. (2012). Bridges not walls (11th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  34. Swarupananda. (1996). Srimad Bhagavad-Gita: With text, word-for-word translation, English rendering, comments and index. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama.Google Scholar
  35. Wilmot, W., & Hocker, J. (1998). Interpersonal conflict. Boston: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  36. Wulf, J. (n.d.) Leadership lessons from Bhagavad Gita: A commentary on chapter one of Bhagavad Gita. Retrieved July 12, 2018 from
  37. Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seton Hall UniversitySouth OrangeUSA

Personalised recommendations