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The Leadership Odyssey

The Leadership Odyssey
From Darkness to Light

First Edition
  • Pritam Singh - former Director of IIM Lucknow, MDI Gurgaon and IMI Delhi
  • Asha Bhandarker - Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behaviour, IMI Delhi
  • Snigdha Rai - Assistant Professor, IMI, Delhi
Critical Acclaim

December 2015 | 364 pages | SAGE Response
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. This book provides a unique roadmap for leaders and office bearers in all walks of life, aspiring to become great leaders.
Foreword by Jagdish N. Sheth
Peaks and Valleys of Leadership
Toxic Leader Profile
Virtuous Leadership
Leading Consciously: A Road Map for Moving from Toxic to Virtuous Leadership

The book The Leadership Odyssey: From Darkness to Light has shed new light on management style and leadership. Case studies, coupled with interviews with senior business leaders from both private and public sectors and people from various sections of society, provide invaluable insights on the human experience and will greatly help understand what leadership is and how it is practised. I find the book very interesting, well written and contains practical and sound advice with emphasis on self-reflection and holistic understanding of the leader at the physical, intellectual and spiritual levels. I have no doubt this book will not only inspire the readers but will also serve as an important reference book for all aspiring to be virtuous leaders.

Harsh Pati Singhania,
Managing Director, JK Paper Ltd

The Leadership Odyssey: From Darkness to Light is a great book to be read by all those desirous of becoming virtuous leaders. It is a unique work in that it deals with the contours of both toxic and virtuous leaders. It powerfully highlights the road map which can enable toxic leaders to move towards virtuous leadership. Most importantly this book emphasizes the role of holistic leadership to become a virtuous leader and this can only be achieved by encompassing all the core elements—physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual—of leadership.

I.S. Jha,
Chairman, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited

The master thought leader Dr Pritam Singh and his co-authors Dr Asha Bhandarker and Dr Snigdha Rai have brought out a unique work that provides a beacon to leaders in all walks of life, on how to move from unconscious conspiracy and lead consciously, governing with conscience and deep empathy for humanity. In my opinion, the book rightly emphasizes the key role of spirituality to become a virtuous leader. The book has been written in a captivating style and brings out various nuances of toxic and virtuous leadership. A must read for leaders and leaders to be, today and tomorrow.

S.K. Acharya, Director (HR),
Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd, Chennai

This is a perfectly timed book to help the world community to address the existing global leadership crisis. The authors have beautifully blended their intellectual depth and rich experience in this work and have provided a simple ‘tool kit’ for us to identify and develop virtuous leaders.

Atul Sobti, Director (Power),
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL)

This book synthesizes research with narrative about real leaders. The authors have, for the first time in published literature, boldly profiled the dark characteristics of leaders. The toxic characteristics of leaders are vividly narrated for all of us to take serious note of. They have co-held this very well with the virtuous characteristics of leaders. They have chosen to distil both the dark and illuminating characteristics distinctively, as the dominant characteristics in their many protagonists. I am sure, they, while doing this, are also drawing our attention to the presence of both the illuminating and the dark characteristics of leadership, in all of us. All of us, including those the authors have profiled, have both the set of characteristics; while one of these two sets may be dominant. They have left it our choice on which ones, we would want to be dominant and deploy more often, given the consequences, we seek. They make it amply clear that to expect creating illuminating consequences with dominant dark characteristics is delusory. Overall a serious yet enjoyable read, with deep insights, if we choose to reflect about ourselves.

K. Ramkumar,
Executive Director, ICICI Bank Limited

In the contemporary world, all institutions—whether political, social or economic—are plagued by the severe crisis of leadership. There is a preponderance of toxic leaders over virtuous leaders. In this perspective, the book, The Leadership Odyssey: From Darkness to Light, is a landmark contribution. It deals with both the toxic and virtuous leadership phenomena which reside within us all, albeit in varying degrees. The challenge according to the authors lies in conquering the toxicity in us by increasing the power of virtuousness that lies within. The uniqueness of this book is the clear road map which leaders can follow, to move from toxicity to virtuousness. The book strongly brings out that it is possible to become a virtuous leader, only by integrating the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects, which constitute the core elements of leadership. This work is a great contribution in the domain of leadership. In my view, this book must be read by all who aspire to play virtuous leadership roles in their lives.

S.Y. Siddiqui,
Chief Mentor, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd

This book is a significant contribution to understanding the crisis of leadership in the contemporary world and the need for spiritual and ethical values; it then highlights what needs to be done to restore the confidence in our leaders in the corporate world. 

The authors draw from the ancient Indian wisdom, from empirical research and case studies to illustrate the two extreme styles of leadership: that of toxic leaders and that of virtuous leaders. A model-based comparison of their attributes enables readers to understand the differences between the two and how to make a successful transformation from toxic leader to virtuous leader. The empirical research is very convincing. I think this book is a must for all aspiring managers who intend to transform their companies in the modern competitive world. What I like about the book is its positive approach to leadership; it explains in very clear terms how one can make a successful journey from a toxic leader to a virtuous leader.

It was a great pleasure for me to read the book and I would recommend that not only all aspiring managers should read it, but it should also be a guide for the senior management.

Jyoti Gupta,
Professor, ESCP Europe

In the ‘New Normal’ characterized by a perennial VUCA gale and countervailing pushback by stakeholders, organizations need to show sustained outperformance while simultaneously showing extreme care for all stakeholders. This is not possible unless leaders combine competence with values and purpose, and the real source of such leadership is the deep inner space, the mother font from which everything else emanates. 

Those who are not connected with their true inner self are unlikely to be successful transformational leaders in the Brave New World. 

This well-researched book explores these issues, is a powerful exposition of the journey from unconscious to conscious living, and explores how we can train our energy to consciously move from the toxic to the virtuous state by getting clarity about the meaning and purpose of existence through continued self-reflection and mindfulness. I am sure that the combination of insightful analysis and powerful stories in this outstanding book will inspire and guide those leaders who are committed to making a positive difference by unleashing the potential of the people and the organizations they are associated with.

Rajeev Dubey,
Group President (HR & Corporate Services)and CEO (After-Market Sector), Member of the Group Executive Board, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd

Pritam Singh and Asha Bhandarker have done it again. This time, with the contribution of Snigdha Rai, they have written an excellent management book on a very important and highly sensitive subject: toxic versus virtuous leadership. On one hand, toxic leadership is a major source for the dismal picture in many businesses, as well as of the corruption and inequity in the world today. On the other hand, virtuous leadership, coming under the forms of transformational, inspirational or charismatic leadership has long been recognized as a major source for bringing the best out of people, and therefore a major source for prosperity at both the corporate and national level. How do we eliminate toxic behaviour, and how do we transform toxic leadership to a virtuous one? This is the question that the authors address, and they do so very successfully.

Through rigorous and objective analysis, and by combining existing knowledge on leadership, of which they are masters, the authors come up with new knowledge about the characteristics of toxic and of virtuous leaders, analyze the impact of these behaviours at the individual and organizational level, present thorough case studies of toxic and of virtuous leaders that could serve as role models to avoid (in the case of toxic leaders) or to follow (in the case of virtuous leaders), and outline a detailed roadmap for the ‘odyssey to leadership’ i.e. for moving from toxic to virtuous.

A very enjoyable and useful book, that should be in the library of every academic or leader, whether in business or in politics.

Gregory Prastacos,
Dean, School of Business, Stevens Institute of Technology, USA

The potential of an organization is often limited by its leaders; which is why we need great leaders but the unfortunate reality is that they are in short supply. This book is a very timely and important piece of work because it identifies profiles of toxic and virtuous leaders and provides a roadmap for becoming a virtuous leader. The author team of Dr Pritam Singh, Dr Asha Bhandarker and Dr Snigdha Rai draws on its rich real-world experience in leading and transforming organizations coupled with systematic research to provide insights that should help all managers and students of leadership to move towards a better version of themselves. The book’s insights apply universally and it should be a must-read for everyone who wants to understand and nurture virtuous leadership skills.

Sunil Mithas,
Professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland and author of Making the Elephant Dance: The Tata Way to Innovate, Transform and Globalize

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ISBN: 9789351507369