World-wide, urbanisation has been the end product of socio-economic change. It is interesting to remember that it is this end product that most refer to as modernity or development of the human race. Only a few exalted philosophers may dare to disagree.
With urbanisation comes one constant – Money! Urbanisation burns money at a much faster pace than anything else. In this ‘modern or developed’ society of ours, you need money for anything you do or anywhere you go. Even to talk to someone, we need money for coffee, wine or an elaborate dinner. Money was required in the agricultural society only for ‘essentials’. Man was used to living a life that would fit more the lower part of his need hierarchy. That’s why our older generations with remnants of the habits of the agricultural society find our lives full of wasteful expenditure. The economic transition from an agricultural society to one based on the industrial and services sectors spawned urbanisation and the middle class with a natural thirst for money.
Urbanisation multiplies the functional requirement for man and as a result of this ever growing demand, supplies too multiply in the same society. Money, Material and Services get exchanged to the glee of both the buyer and the seller, but the pleasure is too short lived as the need that gets fulfilled does not remain a motivator anymore. Abraham Maslow was bang on with his explanation. With one need or wish fulfilled, man unleashes the next cycle of demand and supply. Another wallet load is burnt fueling a search for more to be earned to fund the next wave of demand and supply. When the buyer’s mind does not have any more idea for buying, the seller just offers recycled or new versions of old merchandise like the iPhone 6S and you see a multitude merrily following the pied piper.
Hence, urbanisation forces us to learn the art of making and spending money faster than developing new habits of life in a society that just scrambles for anything money can buy. A rapid pace of urbanisation puts the individual and the society through a wringer of frenetic learning and unlearning. The result is a churning of minds, ethics, values and quite a chaotic existence for man. We are sure of what we need and want but we are not sure what is the right thing to want and desire and even less sure of how to get the same.
The Individual acts or re-acts to the environment motivated by its un-fulfilled needs, desires, dreams and fantasies. Years back, ‘Neighbour’s Envy is Owner’s Pride’ was the most blatant but successful use of Maslow’s theory by a television brand in India. The social milieu we live in today maintains a perennial aspirational gap for almost everybody. There is always something available in the market that is better than what I have or my neighbour has. Our intrinsic motivation seems to be driven more by the extrinsic as we are steered mostly by what is outside us. But, reality does not allow the fructification of all our aspirations or desires in the short term. This results in the depletion of our ego. A depleted ego makes man feel smaller in his own private eye than what it wishes to be. As a result, the urban society cages a man to live in the present, craving for all those things that could fill the aspirational gap. How could anyone expect any ‘right’ thinking for the future when the present itself looks so alluring and available with just some more money?
The exponential growth of the so-called financial industry is based on this fundamental effect of urbanisation. ‘Cut your coat according to your Cloth’ as a maxim has been replaced by ‘Desire your home as per the builder’s desire to sell’. The finance industry makes Money and Money’s Worth available to anyone against the number of years of income or life you wish to mortgage to the lender. Every borrower has to earn more and at a faster rate than the lender’s rate of lending. In a fast growing urban society like India most are quite hopeful of matching up to this rat race (never saw a rat racing for more and more, like us humans). The urbanised manager today is rather special. He is heavily in demand due to the fast churn in the employment market caused by both the potential for industrial and services growth as well as the urgency to grow for enterprises; all due to and leading to increasing urbanisation. But the quality of this demand changes too rapidly to even rest a while on your inventory of Knowledge. The cycle of acquiring knowledge and its application gets shorter by the day while the possibilities, desires and dreams turns the mind into a turbine in crescendo. Ha! What a virtuous or vicious cycle depending on who is churning or getting churned.
The urbanised Manager whether freshly minted or not sees most material things within stretchable distance. Hence, he is naturally motivated primarily by the same. The future just gets postponed for future contemplation and action. Day after day, the mind slips deeper and deeper into a whirlpool of wanting and frustration, despite the Knowledge Armoury of the today’s manager. The only thing that could help in not getting sucked deeper in this catch-22 could be the Habits of Thinking and Action from our foundational edifice… if we were lucky enough!
But there are managers and people who have rather influenced the urban society and shown another way of leading their lives. This is demonstrated by those who are instead driven by their volitional engagement or passion for what they have chosen as their Purpose in life. Purpose is never met in the short term and it is in a different league when compared to any short term motivator. Purpose of life is linked to what you choose to work for and not what you get in exchange. Purposeful life is a journey towards the purpose and not about the hurdles or temptations strewn along the way. Purposeful Managers are leaders who lead their own life, their teams and organisations towards an organisational purpose or vision. They are also from the same urbanised society but not prisoners of the trap set by those selling dreams against a mortgage on your lives. Perhaps they have bigger dreams to realise and know that this takes a bit more than the short term. Perhaps it is their foundational sense of reverence and respect, right or wrong or value system that makes them less susceptible to the temptations of today.
It is all about a choice between being led by the forces of your environment or using the environment to lead your life and your organisation towards your chosen purpose. Some use the society as an excuse while a few leader managers choose to lead through the chaos of the contemporary society. Leadership or life for them begins with leading the Self and their convictions and actions impacts the contemporary society. They led and found their way. They all called it ‘My Way’ and danced their way out of their Chakravyus.
*From Mahabharata, the Indian epic. Chakravyu could be related to ‘complexity’. Abhimanyu, the capable fighter son of the great archer, Arjun had learnt from his illustrious father how to get into the Chakravyu but did not know how to manage it.