Diwali Re-interpreted For Leaders

What does Diwali mean to you? I have always been fascinated by the deeper symbolic meanings that are there hidden in our festivals if we just care to look for them. Today, I'm going to share five such ideas that are very closely associated with the Festival of Diwali and how they can be interpreted in the context of Leadership.

The Festival of Lights

On Diwali, we light diyas, we buy strings of lights and decorate our homes so that we welcome prosperity into our lives. Light is symbolic of our inner divine self, the pure essence of who we are.

Leaders can take away two key messages from this.

One is to remind oneself that all of us have that same divine light. When you look at your team, can you acknowledge their light, their divine self? Can you look at them deeper than the role they play in your team or their personality and flaws?

If a leader is able to see we all have the same Divine Light, then it becomes easier to drop your biases and the lens through which you look at different people differently. There is a chance for deeper bonding with each of the team members at a core human level. Such connections are full of respect for the inherent value of each being and lead to greater engagement.

Secondly, leaders need to connect to their own inner light first, to be able to see the inner light in others. This calls for forming a deeper connection with self, inquiring into your own true nature, conditioning, habits and being able to see THE SELF that is beyond the worldly interpretation of personality.

Time for Cleansing

All across the country, Diwali is a time to clean- up. We prepare our house, get rid of all the dust, all accumulated junk and we bring in something new. We wear new clothes; we buy new things for our house, we get the walls painted.

If we interpret this symbolically, then it is a great time for Leaders (and everyone else) to reflect on their inner most house – the mind. Time to find out what behaviors that need to be gotten rid of; what mental models are not serving the leader and their team.

However, many leaders don’t know how to do this. It becomes easier if leaders seek periodic stakeholder feedback and identify their strengths and blind spots. This helps them to clean up. Cleaning up behaviors is much more difficult than cleaning up your house because it requires courage, humility, discipline and time.

Once leaders get rid of habits that are no longer serving them or their organization, it becomes easier to create space for new behaviors. It is challenging, no doubt, but just as we feel good after cleaning up one messy drawer in one cupboard, so goes for the mind. Start small, but start nevertheless.

Giving Gifts

An important tradition of Diwali is giving gifts to your near and dear ones. We put a lot of thought to buying gifts for those we care for and try to imagine what they may need and appreciate.

As a Leader, you give so much to your team members. You give them direction, you give them support, you give resources, you give them your time as and when they need it.

On Diwali, leaders can consciously think about the spirit of giving and how they would like to practice that. They can reflect on their team members and reflect on what each one might need and appreciate receiving from them. For some it could be a word of appreciation, for some just a quality conversation, for another it could be an act of support in front of another department or just a check-in about their family. How would it feel, if in addition to a Diwali gift from the company, your team also got a special gift of your care, tailormade for them?

Inviting Abundance

Diwali is above all a festival of abundance, prosperity, Lakshmi. Let us look at this in a limitless way. Bringing Goddess Lakshmi into your house, praying to her is not just about material wealth, but it is also about a mindset of abundance.

A mindset of abundance absolutely shifts how a leader operates in the corporate world. A leader who practices abundance mindset will not generate scarcity consciousness. We will not pitch one person against the other rather help everyone to thrive, to feel joyful.

That leader will not lead by fear. They will lead through inspiration and with a belief that we can all co-exist and thrive because there's enough for all. It is a dramatic mindset shift and it requires a sense of gratitude in life. Leaders and organizations who practice abundance are able to do away with the bell-curve, they are able to convert performance reviews into coaching conversations.

A natural fallout of the abundance mindset is to foster a more inclusive, collaborative and harmonious culture in the team, organization as well as within self. It is a more free-flowing, grateful and joyful way to be. It is truly worth trying.

Returning Home

Ultimately, I think Diwali, because it is about Ram returning to Ayodhya. It is the time many of us take time off work and travel to our homeland. The return of Ram to Ayodhya is symbolic of the good winning in the ultimate battle against evil and restoration of Ram Rajya or the right order.

In the leadership context, we can interpret this aspect of Diwali as returning to our universal human values and establishing a fearless culture in our teams and organizations . Leaders who lead with high integrity, do not get sucked into dirty office politics. They uphold basic human and organizational values that make people feel “at home”. They establish a kingdom of purpose, optimism and truth so that together teams thrive and reach their true potential. What more prosperity do we need?

I hope you enjoyed reading this interpretation of the timeless themes of Diwali. Do write in with your comments. Would love to add to this list of symbolism from your perspective.

Let me take a moment to wish you, your teams and your dear ones a truly happy Diwali and a Brighter Life!


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