General M.L. Chibber on leadership (Sai Baba’s ‘mahavakyas’)
Posted by robertpriddy on September 13, 2011
In his book Sai Baba’s Mahavakya on Leadership, Education in Human Values (M&M International Publishers, New Delhi, 1994) the ex-Indian army officer, Lieutenant- General M.L. Chibber, who resided in Prashanthi Nilayam as a close devotee of Sathya Sai Baba, wrote some of the most backward-looking, uninformed and incompetent views on matters relating to leadership. His model, Sathya Sai Baba’s diverse ideas, is parroted and further interpreted in a typically traditional proto-military top-down and no-questions-asked fashion.
Chibber holds that determination and persistence are wholly superior to any talent or skill, and character is 90% of leadership, while knowledge rates only 10% (p.79)! Chibber praises the supposed selfless excellence of the generals of the German General Staff during WWII, apparently blind to the fact that the same High Command simply carried out the orders of a violent murderer and megalomaniac, Adolf Hitler and itself also committed war crimes on a huge scale, quite independently of the SS. For the considerable percentage of the Indian populace who are still evidently badly misinformed about the 2nd WW and fascism see War Crimes and the Wehrmacht
Endorsing the German Wehrmacht staff of the 2nd World War years as a model of objectivity and determination is completely absurd, of course, since the Wehrmacht soon became nothing but an obedient tool for one of the worst fanatical war criminals in history, forced into subservience to the SS, the Nazi Party and even the Gestapo. Chibber’s book was much blessed by Baba, not least with a foreword and an afterword, was followed up by a world tour by Chibber giving what he called ‘workshops on leadership’. This undertaking was apparently also blessed by Sai Baba.Ex-army man Chibber projected a quasi-military mentality of the sort known to be operative in Sai Baba colleges, ashrams and the Sai Organization. The workshops were based on his much-flawed tract, which is full of vague ideas superficially discussed, numerous glaring factual errors, a host of unsubstantiated statements and not least misspelled names of famous men etc.. The book also contains a largely ambiguous and amateurish questionnaire on leadership qualities (pps.74-9) applied willy-nilly by Chibber and his wife to participants. The questionnaire was allegedly issued by Harvard University Business School, which was doubtful due to it being such a poorly constructed questionnaire, with repetition of contents and many ambiguous terms and phrases (non-starters in any questionnaire which would reflect actual attitudes). General Chibber defends a retrogressive tradition of leadership, as exemplified more by military organization rather than valid human values. However, Chibber wants to extend his interpretation of Sai Baba’s ideas on leadership to every area of social life, evidently not excluding religious organization (as his activity in the Sathya Sai Organization proves). Some of his statements are most unbalanced and lacking in intellectual perception and clear articulation. His book is an attempt to extend those modern forms of pseudo-leadership culture to the Sathya Sai Organization (which incidentally already had long been a super-authoritarian and top-down closed sect). One of his neighbours in Prashanthi Nilayam at the time of writing was Mr. Ratan Lal, a better educated person, who Chibber was ever getting to correct his writings, until Chibber gave up as being too hopeless a task for such amateurish work). This was told me by a good friend, Anne-Irene, who worked helping Ratan Lal with his own sub-standard writings at that time!).
See the following few examples of Chibber’s opus:-.
“It is well-known that in every human activity a leader is needed to guide a group of people.” (Ch. 1: Introduction p.1)
Far too general and imprecise a statement! This is evidently narrowly based on Chibber’s Indian experience, where autocracy and top-down bossing is the rule throughout most of the country. The need for leadership is general, but what kind of leadership is genuinely effective is hotly contested too in many areas of life. Not all human activities by far involve leading groups of people, but there are many who try to impose themselves as leaders of people to form groups that run on pseudo-military or other authoritarian lines, especially in religions and where supposedly ‘wise’ gurus are involved. Groups which actually share, co-operate without conflict about aims or means and act only upon general consensus (grass-root ‘democracy’ through stake-holding etc.) would reject Chibber’s views? A better ideal for coherent functioning is to find common purpose through mutual contribution and feedback. Unison in aim and effort of otherwise unequal partners is possible, and in most institutions ‘shared leadership’ through committees, boards, advisory councils, presidia, ombudsmenn and other actors occurs increasingly today.
“Self-interest is the most powerful factor in the life of everyone. No one is dear to another unless there is some gain involved. (p.4)
This claim is too universal and extreme to be true. The word ‘everyone’ should be replaced by ‘someone’ and ‘no one is dear to another’ without gain being involved is extraordinarily crude… only an expression of the value Chibber himself holds.
“Ninety percent of leadership depends on our character.” (p.7)
No measurement like 90% can be made of the role of character, even though a person’s character will affect the kind of leadership and its effectiveness. To illustrate this, how did Stalin, Mao, Hitler succeed so greatly and for so long when they were of extremely bad character with psychopathic personalities? Chibber is largely echoing what Sathya Sai Baba wrongly believed on this matter. Extraordinarily, Chibber includes the brutish and self-centered despot of death ‘Mao Tse Dong’ as a model of leadership along with a long list of others including Zarathustra or Zoroaster. Confucius. Adi Shankara) Galileo, Galilei – Rousseau. Nils Bohr (all of whose names he managed to spell wrongly!)
“Twelve percent of ‘effective management’ is knowledge and eighty-eight percent is dealing appropriately with people.” (p.8))
More badly misplaced concreteness. There simply have been no social scientific methods developed which can reliably measure such vaguely stated imponderables as ‘knowledge’ or ‘dealing appropriately with people’, important though I also believe this to be. Why exactly 12% for the role of knowledge? Knowledge can be more important than just convincing and handling people in very many enterprises.
Quote (p. 39) about the German Army: “Even up to the bitter end of World War II in 1945, it did not lose its cohesive balance, fighting spirit and dedicated efficiency.”
Wrong again, some telling facts are that
1) German forces were demoralised before Moscow when Hitler abandoned them without reinforcement and ‘fight to death’ orders when they were freezing to death
2) the crack force – the 6th Army – was totally demoralised by Stalingrad, when von Paulus even refused to take his own life on Hitler’s orders. There are many other examples of military crisis: Rommel’s enforced suicide, the assassination attempt on Hitler etc. by von Stauffenberg , the C-in-C of Paris’ refusal to demolish on Hitler’s orders, the Gauleiters who ignored central directives to protect their fiefdoms from Allied reprisal, the recruitment of children below 16 yrs. in the forces at the end etc.
Absence of ambition as a criterion for selection to the General Staff is not necessarily the same as selflessness. In short, how can the leadership qualities of the German General Staff be reconciled to the fact that, in most things, they largely slavishly followed the Nazi scum of the earth – Hitler, Himmler and so on (as long as the war went well) and themselves committed war crimes from the start like strafing and bombing civilians, refugees etc.?
On p. 43 Chibber holds that Japan is the ‘most powerful economic nation in the world’. However, no figures support this, for the U.S. economy has always been and still is by far the largest globally, even though Japan has surpassed the U.S. in exports and balance of payment status.
On p.58 Chibber states that determination is the deciding factor in leadership. This is absurd, for sheer determination cannot alone take the place of talent, education and many other human qualities and skills necessary to social organizations. Chibber constantly overstates his case, like an enthusiastic but unreflecting student.
A (superfluous) diagram presents the view that “Habits have to be changed” without specifying further. (p. 122. Figure 8.1) Obviously, there are both effective and fruitless habits, good and bad habits. Not distinguishing which are which is the kind of elementary error in thought or expression that plague Chibber’s presumptious book throughout