All the educational institutions of the world have a leader by whatever name called – President, Provost, Principal, Rector, Director, Vice Chancellor, Dean, Director General – the titles vary. But Management Development Institute (MDI) is unique that one ex-leader has pocketed this institution. This unique situation gives rise to many questions; why one of its ex-leaders developed into a cult force instead of a leader-for-the-time-being? Why this ex-leader needs puppets to survive and thrive? What’s the relationship between this ex-leader and the employees of the Institution? Why every successor to this ex-leader, from Devi Singh to Atmanand, needs to pay obeisance to this ex-leader and his coterie to survive as a Director of MDI Gurgaon?
There were many geo-political, physical and administrative factors inherent in the inception of MDI which gave rise to the occupying force state of MDI. Industrial Finance Corporation of India as the promoter and financier which later morphed into IFCI Limited is the occupant. With bulk of members comprising the MDI Society and majority of constituents of the Governing body of the MDI Society being its representatives, IFCI has autocratic control over the affairs of MDI. To exacerbate the tyranny, the control by IFCI is effectively the control by Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of IFCI. This puts MDI under the despotic control of one individual who has no stakes in MDI but enjoys all the freedom to exploit the institution without any accountability. This command and control structure makes MDI extremely susceptible to the mischievous mechanics of someone who is neither qualified nor competent nor even answerable for the affairs of MDI.
However, here we want to exclusively see the relationship between the cult of this ex-leader and the occupant.
First we need to look at the defining characteristics of the word, “Cult.” The word cult is defined as “a forged religion,” “great devotion to a person or idea” as well as “persons united by devotion or allegiance to any movement or figure.”
Cults are mostly destructive in nature. Psychology tells us that the three most common features shared by destructive cults are:
- A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power. That is a living leader, who has no meaningful accountability and becomes the single most defining element of the group and its source of power and authority.
- A process [of indoctrination or education is in use that can be seen as] coercive persuasion or thought reform [commonly called “brainwashing”]. The culmination of this process can be seen by members of the group often doing things that are not in their own best interest, but consistently in the best interest of the group and its leader.
- Social, psychological, economic, physical, sexual or other exploitation of members of the group, by the leader and the ruling coterie.
There is a lot more common between the occupant and the cult of this ex-leader of MDI than what meets the eye.
By a stroke of luck, the cult-leader was on the selection committee of Executive Director in all public sector banks In India for a long time. He obliged candidates by ensuring their selection and then ensured that they become his personal followers and pets.
With such grip on the top-management of all banks, he did not hesitate in currying favours for MDI as well as for himself.
As Director of IIM Lucknow, he lobbied and hobnobbed with the politicians to bag the first Padma-Shri from the B-School fraternity in 2003.
Armed with the political and financial patronage, he started projecting himself as THE academic leader, fruits of which he continues to enjoy until today, even at the age of 77 years.
IFCI, the occupying force at MDI, always has leadership from the Banking sector. Influence of the Cult-leader over the leadership of IFCI ensures that it is his writ which runs large at MDI.
Any impartial seeker of truth will reach the conclusion that MDI is in the morbid grip of two destructive energies. Cult of this ex-leader and the occupation of IFCI are the double-helix strands in the DNA of MDI, with pliant directors, faculty, staff, bureaucracy, politicians, bankers and ex-bankers forming the rungs of the DNA ladder.
Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton’s seminal book “Thought Reform and Psychology of Totalism” explains this process in considerable detail.
There are a few warning signs of a potentially unsafe occupant or a cult.
- Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
- No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
- No meaningful financial disclosure.
- Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
- There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
- Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
- There are records, books, news articles, or broadcast reports that document the abuses of the occupier/cult-leader.
- Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
- The occupier/cult-leader is always right.
- The occupier/cult-leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
For MDI to flourish, bloom and soar high, it has to get rid of both, the cult and the occupant. Otherwise, it will over time, get dilapidated in terms of capabilities and reputation, the two essentials which attract opportunities.
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