In the article “The Making of a Corporate Athlete”; Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (henceforth as “author”) in HBR January 2001 proposed “Integrated theory of performance management” which addressed “The body, the emotions, the mind, and the spirit”. They called this hierarchy the “performance pyramid”. Each of its levels profoundly influences the others, and failure to address any one of them compromises performance.
After working with world-class athletes for two decades, the authors realised that even the corporate executives are like “Corporate Athletes” and if they were to perform at high levels over the long haul, they posited, they would have to train in the same systematic, multi-level way that world-class athletes do. They tested the model on thousands of executives. Their dramatically improved work performance and their enhanced health and happiness confirm author’s initial hypothesis.
The scene with politicians is no different. Even they are expected to perform at a high level over a long haul. Just like corporate, political parties have their own way of functioning; while like corporate executives, politicians too have their own way of functioning. They are Political Athlete and they have to perform like world class athlete.
In the following paragraph, I have benchmarked two politicians performance during the Lok Sabha Election 2014 on the model proposed in the “Corporate Athlete”. The two politicians are Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi.
Political athletes have to use the full range of their capacities to thrive in the most difficult circumstances and to emerge from stressful periods stronger, healthier, and eager for the next challenge.
Energy can be defined most simply as the capacity to do work. And body is our fundamental source of energy—the foundation of the performance pyramid. The enemy is not stress, its linearity—the failure to oscillate between energy expenditure and recovery. The mental and emotional effects of precise between point routines are equally significant. They allow players to avoid negative feelings, focus their minds, and prepare for the next point. Rahul Gandhi is not known to follow any physical regime, though young; compared to Narendra Modi, a Yoga practitioner. The practice continuously practised by Modi even during elections. This effect is visible on both the politicians.
Not only Modi has covered 450 plus election campaign, he has also micro-managed his election to a great extent. While Rahul has not only addressed less than one third the rallies as compared to Modi, he has often goofed up on many issues. Not one example, there are many which happened to Rahul when he has got Sonia and Priyanka to fall back on. Throughout the campaigns Rahul has come across someone who is choked.
The next building block is emotional capacity – the internal climate that supports peak performance. Sprinter Marion Jones, after winning Gold Medal in Sydney Olympics said “I am out here having a ball. This is not a stressful time in my life. This is a very happy time.”
Just as positive emotions ignite the energy that drives high performance, negative emotions – frustrations, impatience, anger, fear, resentment and sadness – drain energy. Anxious, fear ridden athletes are far more likely to choke in competition, for example, while anger and frustration sabotage their capacity for calm focus.
Close relationships are perhaps the most powerful means for promoting positive emotions and effective recovery. In case of Rahul Gandhi, it has worked in an opposite manner. The charges of corruption against brother-in-law Robert Vadra have disturbed his calmness. It was visible when in a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi publicly castigated the UPA government for issuing an ordinance to negate the Supreme Court order on disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs, terming it as “complete nonsense” that should be “torn and thrown out”.
While Narendra Modi, has emotional calmness, because he considers 125 crore Indians as a family and has no corruption to hide or defend. This keeps him ever ready to fight politicians of all kind of ideologies, from all over India, single headedly. Elections are “Happy Time” for Modi.
Visualisation is another ritual that produces positive energy and has palpable performance results. Neuroscientists, Ian Robertson of Trinity College, Dublin and Author of Mind Sculpture has found the neural circuitry of the brain directly improving performance. It is hard to imagine a better illustration than diver Laura Wilkinson. Six months before the summer Olympics in Syndey, Wilkinson broke three toes on her right foot while training. Unable to go in water because of her cast, she instead spent hours a day on the diving platform, visualising each of her dives. With only a few weeks to actually practice before the Olympics, she pulled off a huge upset, winning the gold medal on ten-meter platform.
Rahul Gandhi, whom everyone visualised as a default PM candidate came across as mentally reluctant candidate for PM”s post. While Narendra Modi pitched himself as a leader who is willing to bear the burden and take the country out of mess created by 10 years misrule by Congress-led UPA.
By Spiritual authors mean the energy that is unleashed by tapping into one”s deepest values and defining a strong sense of purpose as a powerful source of motivation, focus, determination and resilience.
This was visible in Amethi; when Priyanka Vadra, who just in her capacity of being sister of Rahul Gandhi questioned the identity of Smriti Irani, an Honourable Member of Rajya Sabha, which is also called as the House of Elders. (I am not bringing the issues of one women”s disrespect towards another woman, that too in full glare of media). Priyanka Vadra was coordinating the campaign on behalf of and for Rahul Gandhi.
Narendra Modi, breaking all his general convention, of not identifying any one individual as his family; called Smriti Irani her sister and took the responsibility of asking her to contest from Amethi. By tapping into a deeper sense of purpose Narendra Modi found a powerful new source of energy for both his work and party. This is identified as being Spiritual.
Example of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi has demonstrated that politicians can”t afford to address only cognitive capacity while ignoring physical, emotional and spiritual well being. Narendra Modi has emerged as the true “Political Athlete”. When politician are strong and resilient – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – they perform better, with more passion, for longer. They win, their party wins and the countries they serve, also win.
Sandeep Singh, (The Italic phrases are from the book “The Making of a Corporate Athlete”) www.swastik.net.in