On October 2nd, India celebrates the 146th birthday of its great leader Mahatma Gandhi, a champion of India’s independence after the second world war. Although the culture of India is very different from that of the Netherlands, in his policy we can nonetheless find important fundamental values that are familiar to Nyenrodians as well. Nyenrode Business Universiteit was set up after the war as a business school to help rebuild the war-ravaged Netherlands.
The students were inspired by an ideal of helping build up the Netherlands with their expertise. They had a dream and aspired to become experts. Without idealism, you cannot make the Netherlands into something great and without expertise, you cannot achieve anything. That is why the education of Nyenrode students was also focused on expertise in combination with inspiration and good cooperation. The school sought to build character and encourage cooperation in the context of the campus. Nyenrode’s fundamental values were concisely formulated as entrepreneurship, leadership and stewardship. These fundamental values also tie in clearly with Gandhi’s dream of rebuilding India as an independent state after the war.
Leaders with expert insight and inspiring strength is a fundamental value for Nyenrode. It is about service through effective cooperation and certainly not through the use of force. Gandhi puts the emphasis here on the great importance of good relationships: “Relationships are based on four principles: respect, understanding, acceptance and appreciation… The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others ”
Good leadership requires not only clear vision, but also the strength to give that vision substance. Gandhi dreamed of an independent India. He wanted to rebuild that nation after the war. He only succeeded in part, unfortunately, because Pakistan became partitioned from India. Like a good leader, he showed his strength here as well. “Strength does not come from winning. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength”. Gandhi was deeply religious and led with a strong spiritual strength, without violence: “I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions are true and that all had some error in them. While I hold my own religion, I should hold other religions as dear as Hinduism”.
Nyenrode educates entrepreneurs as inspired and expert doers, because without inspiration and expertise, you cannot achieve anything. Gandhi clearly pointed this out as well.
“There are two days in the year that we cannot do anything, yesterday and tomorrow”.
“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing there will be no results”.
“Your future depends on what you do today. Our greatest ability as humans is not to change the world, but to change ourselves”.
“A man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning”.
Gandhi also actually got down to work and helped rebuild economic activity. He had his people make their own clothing and demanded that his leaders wear clothing they had made themselves as well. Ensuring the customer was happy was very important to Gandhi. “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so”.
Nyenrodians realize that an entrepreneur needs this kind of education as well. Gandhi is clear about this too: ”Carefully watch your thoughts for they become your words. Manage and catch your words, for they become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits for they become your values. Understand and embrace your values for they become your destiny”.
Stewardship is also a fundamental value of Nyenrode. This involves hospitality and service based on a spiritual vision of doing business. Gandhi also spoke unambiguously about this from the basis of his Indian culture. “We won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering”.
Gandhi was a formidable leader who can also inspire Nyenrodians to deepen and enrich their fundamental values of Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Stewardship. The use of force is certainly excluded in this context.
Paul de Blot SJ (1924), professor of business spirituality, started his career at Nyenrode in 1979, when he was appointed campus moderator. He received his doctorate in 2004 and was appointed professor two years later.
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