WATCH Method of Transformational Leadership – Part 1

[Note: This Article is based on the Discourses given by Sri Sathya Sai Baba on various occasions. This is not a direct excerpt from any Discourse, but an essay based on His Message on Management and Leadership.] 

Recent business scandals, global crises, the emergence of e-commerce, learning organisations, virtual teams, globalisation, knowledge work, work-life balance and other on-going transformations place new demands on leaders, far beyond the topics traditionally taught in courses on Management or Organisational Behaviour. The experiences of academicians and the practicing managers concerned with leadership for organisational change affirmed the value of traditional leadership concepts, while highlighting the importance of new ideas, methods, tools and applications. Sri Sathya Sai Baba, in many of his spiritual discourses, uses the noun ‘WATCH’ as an acronym to explain the significance of a method in influencing human behaviour [i].  It is a method, which provides people interested in ‘Self-Development’, with a device and means to observe their own individual behaviour, and, if motivated thereafter, to take steps and initiate changes in personal behaviour. 

Every individual wears a wristwatch and whenever one consults one’s watch to know the time, one is reminded of the five letters of the word ‘WATCH’. This reminder creates the initial awareness needed to mould one’s behaviour. This awareness, through repetitive behaviour, progressively becomes a habit; as Aristotle said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do’. 

The life of people in the present-day organisations has become complex. People have to work under pressure and achieve the continually shifting targets. Altogether, too many people feel defeated by everyday problems of life. They go struggling, perhaps, even whining, through their days, with a sense of dull resentment at what they consider the ‘bad breaks’ in life. It is a pity that people should let themselves be defeated by the problems and difficulties of human existence. Baba says, “Life of people in the modern world is full of hurry, worry and curry”. People are not able to wriggle out of the highly-paced accelerated life, and it seems to have become burdensome for them. However, there is a method by which one can control, and even determine those breaks. Today, conflicts among family members, groups, communities, regions, religions, states, and nations occur because of unlimited desires, greed, tunnel vision, etc. All this again boils down to basic restlessness and turbulence in the human mind, and the dissonance, which people experience. 

Transformational Leadership 

Traditionally, leadership is considered a process wherein one person influences others to achieve a purpose. There are about four generally accepted approaches to leadership: traits, behaviour, contingency and modern theoretical models. Modern leadership models, which comprise approaches such as charismatic, transactional, transformational, etc., focus on symbolism, emotional appeal and extraordinary follower commitment. Transformational leadership is characterised by the ability to bring about significant change, and relies on referent and personal sources of power in order to arouse intense feelings that can motivate employees. 

Transformational leadership is based on the personal values, beliefs, and qualities of the leader. The influence of transformational leaders is proportional to the followers’ personal acceptance of the leaders’ values. Therefore, it all begins with personal change and individual transformation. In this context, ‘WATCH’ becomes a very important aid to bring about sustained self-development. Values provide guidance in decision-making and behaving, and as such, the followers, who share the leader’s values, do not merely depend on the leader’s orders. It upgrades the needs of followers from lower-order physical needs to higher-order psychological needs as explained by Maslow in his ‘Need Hierarchy Theory’. 

Self-Management and Effective Leadership 

A person who’s ‘thoughts, words and deeds’ are socially acceptable, and are in harmony with one another, can become a good and effective leader. The entire distillate of the leadership process can be summed up in just four phrases. 

       Sri Sathya Sai's Mahavakya on Leadership
Management is fundamentally ‘Man Management’ and ‘Man Management’ (which could be interpreted in the current context as equivalent to leadership) is ‘Self-Management’. [ii] From the above analysis, one can infer that an effective leader is one who influences oneself (meaning one’s own words, actions, thoughts, character, and heart) first before influencing others. Therefore, ‘Self-Management’, becomes an important pre-requisite of effective leadership. Firstly, ‘To Be’ is a trait of leadership steeped in the leader’s personal values, qualities and knowledge. ‘To Do’ is leadership based on practicing what one preaches. ‘To See’ and ‘To Tell’ are the functions, tools and techniques of leadership. ‘To See’ implies that a leader must be in complete touch with the realities of the environment in which the leader works. ‘To Tell’ means conveying to others what the leader wants them to do.


[I] Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol.VI, 1996, pp. 218-219, p.338 and VII, 1996, p.106

[ii] At the time of inauguration of the Management programme at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning on 21st August 1986, Baba made this statement and explained at length about the meaning and scope of management.

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