Indian Culture: Human Nature Orientation

In India, people believe that their present situation, be it their personality or their socioeconomic condition, is a direct consequence of their actions in previous births (the concept of karma) and they cannot be changed.

Also, unlike the Western belief of having control over one’s destiny, Indians believe that the future is uncertain and is governed by natural forces and the forces of destiny, which are beyond their realm of control. Hence, they accept their fate, often reverting to inaction. Less effort is expended to improve one’s present situation relative to Western cultures. Such a disposition can adversely impact overall levels of persistence, ambition, and work ethic. These beliefs undermine the behavioral theories of leadership which assert that leadership is not only some quality or characteristic that one possesses; it is also how one behaves. The assumption that a person who may not posses a given set of characteristics but may be trained or instructed towards a certain set of behaviors that would make him/her an effective leader, may not be given much credence in the Indian context. Dealing with this mindset, which is not very open to change, may pose a challenge to leaders. The trait theories of leadership find greater applicability in the Indian scenario, as the social system that was founded on the basis of caste supports the idea that qualities and personality traits possessed by individuals are ascribed to the particular caste or the family into which they are born. Therefore, a person?s inherent traits, determined by his/her caste, would dictate the role he/she would assume. To illustrate this point, a person born into the trader class would be expected to possess attributes that would lead to business success or a person born into a family that has had one or several generations of leaders may be looked upon as a leader by default.

In general, Indians have viewed human nature as bad or evil; consequently, socialization practices favor coercion and punishment. As a result, Indian managers may revert to control and punishment in order to manage. This distrust of human nature may prevent them from creating high performance expectations for their subordinates, and from showing confidence in their abilities. Therefore, the negative Pygmalion effect may be at work here, which means that these low expectations would lead to low productivity.


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