Introducing Dharma and Management
My name is Dilip Goswami. I'm an engineer turned entrepreneur and I've built my career on solving massive real world problems with deep technological solutions. In 2014 I left my studies at Stanford to found Molekule - using photoelectrochemical oxidation technology to destroy the widest range of pollutants in the air, including viruses and chemicals. Over five years as CEO I took this technology from lab bench to the market, raised hundreds of millions in funding, and built a company serving hundreds of thousands of customers around the world.
While building Molekule, I learned a lot about building and managing teams. I had some major successes, and many, many failures to learn from. I got to work with and learn from some of the best in Silicon Valley.
I also learned that oftentimes some of the most valuable insights came from outside startup culture. And that some of the people I admired within startup culture were pushing back against the growth at all costs mentality, and bringing more sustainable models of management and leadership into practice.
One important thing I learned is that effective leadership is authentic to the person leading. My style of leadership stems from my own values and beliefs. These values and beliefs have been shaped by the Vedic tradition and philosophy.
This lead me to realize that though management and leadership have been studied from time immemorial, most of the modern thought in this field comes from the western perspective. The dharmic worldview embodies diverse thoughts and practices, and has something unique to say about management and leadership.
It was then that I began thinking more deeply of the concepts I had grown up with - the meaning of Dharma: 'dharyate iti dharma' "that which sustains is dharma" and I began to relate it to business and economic cycles of boom and bust. These cycles stem from short-term & narrow thinking. Prioritizing quarters and shareholders rather than decades and stakeholders. The accumulated cost of these decisions over time drives the economic boom and bust cycles of expansion and recession. This lack of sustainability is not just economic, but environmental as well.
This leads us as a society to a position where we have historically great prosperity, but also low security, and a historically great crisis in climate change to face.
The driving force behind this endeavor is to look at the dharmic perspective and values, and take lessons on how to lead and govern leading to sustainable growth and prosperity - in both the long and short term.
This means looking at macro concepts like sustainability and economic cycles through a dharmic lens. But it also means looking at practical day-to-day challenges like how to meet the challenges of rapid growth, how to deal with threats to your business, how to run effective performance management, and how to manage yourself as well.
As we dig in, you will find that the ancient wisdom from dharmic traditions has a lot to say about how to be an effective leader today. And you'll have the advantage of learning from my mistakes, successes, and the access I've been provided on my journey.
What does ‘dharmic’ perspective mean?
I defined Dharma from a Sanskrit phrase above, but let me talk a little more about its meaning, and what perspective that lends us in understanding leadership and management. Sometimes in modern discourse, the term is erroneously taken as meaning religion, but this is not the context under which it was introduced or used here. The phrase "dharyate iti dharma" means "that which sustains is dharma". Here it is meant as a sort of cosmic law of nature - the laws that sustain both nature and society. In the Vedic culture, these laws are discovered by the Rishis, not established but existent in nature waiting to be discovered - and evident. This concept of Dharma is shared among the various religions originating in India - Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, etc. It is also found in other cultures and religions, for example, as the Dao in Daoism or Logos to Heraclitus and the ancient Greeks and later Stoics.
My background is primarily from the Vedic tradition, but while that may be the primary focus, we will look at lessons from other cultures as well.