Free Press Journal

The Leadership Odyssey 


The Odyssey of Leadership is filled with great uncertainty and is taken by only a few. It takes an exceptional effort to rise from being a good leader to a great leader.

The Leadership Odyssey: From Darkness to Light 

Pritam Singh, Asha Bhandarker and Snigdha Rai

Publisher: Sage Publications

Pages: 322; Price: Rs 975

This book has been written by three “Thought Leaders” of our country. Pritam Singh who was the first person to be conferred a Padma Shri in the field of management education and was declared “Global Thought Leader” by the Russian School of Business. He has bagged several other awards and is the CEO of LEAD Centre in Gurgaon. He is the author of seven books. His Co-Editor Asha Bhandarker is Distinguished Professor OB at IMI-New Delhi and has seven books to her credit. Snigdha Rai is Assistant Professor in IMI, New Delhi and is a Ph.D from BHU. She is an authority on Leadership.

The volume has been prepared by world-class thinkers and educators who have at once conceptualized and clinically studied hundreds of business leaders, public sector executives. They have presented to us the distilled essence of their immense experience. The response obtained in the quantitative survey of more than 700 respondents is enhanced by an in-depth analysis of leaders from public sector enterprises as also NGOs. It is concluded that an inspiring leader transforms the organization that has turned docile or has got caught in the web of an unfriendly eco-system.

In igniting the human talent lays the real competence of all great and genuine leaders. What matters is not financialbook review capital or technology but the culture of an organization as embodied in its human capital.

India ranks 94 out of the 148 nations in the competitiveness of corporate governance. The Chief of the IMFMs Christine Lagarde declared that the richest 85 persons in the world own the same amount of wealth as the better half (50 per cent) of the world’s population – proof of stark inequity. Toxic leaders, greedy corporations and growth models focused mainly on wealth creation and economic development resulting in people experiencing powerlessness, meaninglessness and de-humanisation. Inequity inevitably leads to revolt, rebellion and revolution. History teems with countless examples.

The authors offer a cogent analysis of the malaise and they review global developments. The technological innovations and knowledge explosion in the last half a century is unparalleled in human history. But there has not been a simultaneous growth in value systems, attitudes and philosophy of life of the people. There has been no enhancement of emotional and spiritual power. Fortunately there has been a growing awareness of the need to inculcate ethical — spiritual — value systems while grooming leaders.

The book has been written to enable leaders to undertake journeys moving from Darkness to Light—how to lead morally dignified lives. The focus of the book is to delve deeper and throw light on a leader’s odyssey from unconscious to conscious living and leading as well as tapping the positive potential which lies in the unconscious self.

The first chapter deals with the peaks and valleys of leadership. It offers a panoramic view of leadership across the range from toxic to virtuous leadership. The quest for leadership has been a perennial fascination through the ages aimed at the welfare and upliftment of humanity. We have leaders like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, Azim Premji, Narayana Murthy and others.

The next chapter is devoted to the authors’ empirical findings on toxic leadership and the impact on followers. The harsh reality is that people grow by rank in the organizational hierarchy but do not mature with respect to their attitude and competencies. This chapter enables position holders to develop awareness and appreciation about their negative behavioural traits vis-a-vis unconscious trapping in toxic attitude.

The third chapter is a detailed profile of virtuous leadership. We are provided the salient behaviours of virtuous leaders—such as being humble and empowering, respecting the dignity of others, being a good listener, providing clear sense of direction for performance and approachable.

The concluding chapter is a road map for moving from toxic to virtuous leadership. There are a number of tables and an impressive list of references. This is a highly enlightening approach to leadership and is a guide to the emerging leaders of tomorrow. Jagdish N Sheth of Emory University in his lucid “Foreword” praises the book for its insights and declares that it is a great checklist of self-diagnostics to assess whether one is a toxic or enlightened leader.