During the recent Insight – The DNA of Success program with Sadhguru and Dr. Ram Charan, Bloomberg TV India Editor Vivek Law spoke with Sadhguru about what’s need from the business and political leaders of India today, and their role in these times of financial downturn.

Vivek Law: Let’s talk about leadership. You told me once that the true test of a leader comes when the chips are down. How do you see the leadership of India at this point of time – do you think they are steering the country in the right direction?

Sadhguru: No, I don’t think anyone is steering the country in any particular direction. We are a free nation – free to go to our doom. This happened when the global recession was just setting in. At the World Economic Forum, the business leaders of the developed nations were all in a depressed mood, and the Indian team was campaigning “India Everywhere.” Lots of great things were being said about India by Indian officials, while the business leaders were quiet.

I said, “It is really great that we are sitting at the threshold of a possibility. Don’t think of the possibility in terms of monetary figures. The important thing is, if we handle things right, in the next 5 to 10 years, we can bring 500 to 600 million people from one level of living to another. Hardly any other nation has done this in 5 to 10 years’ time. China managed to do so, but only with enormous force. It would be phenomenal if we could achieve this without employing force. Never before, 500 million people have moved forward economically in one generation, just like that.

We are on the right track in many ways, but especially when you are on the right track, if you sit there for too long without moving ahead, you will get run over. I have said this before – “Do not underestimate our ability to goof things. We have a history of that.”

Vivek Law: And we goofed up again.

Sadhguru: As Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi used to say, “We have a talent to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Vivek Law: And you are saying we have succeeded in doing that?

Sadhguru: We have not yet succeeded – we are heading there. Unless we take the necessary corrective steps right now, we could unfortunately go there.

What about lay-offs?

Vivek Law: Sadhguru, in the last one year, most business leaders of India have had to grapple with enormous cost-cuts because of our falling economy. They have had to let go a lot of people. Many jobs were lost – some documented, a lot undocumented. I am sure this time around at INSIGHT, you found far more people with drooping shoulders than last year. What would you tell business leaders who are going through this process right now where things are not really very good?

Sadhguru: Particularly about dropping people – I know this may sound like an ashram-like solution, but I don’t see why industries and businesses should not function like this. If you have 1000 people working for you and things are not going well, instead of laying off 100 people to keep the company going, you cut everyone’s salaries by 10%, and keep these 100 people. This is the time when, instead of retrenching people, you could re-orient and train your human resources to take on a different challenge, but we are too bound by all kinds of laws.

I am sure if someone communicates this properly, the workforce, out of sheer solidarity with their colleagues would agree to a 10% salary cut rather than axing 10% of the workforce. These 10% may not be productive right now, but you can reinvent your business if you train them to a different level of capability, which is very much possible.

Whatever happens to you, you can either come out stronger and wiser, or you can come out depressed and broken. I wish the Indian business sector reinvents itself. These times when business is slowing down are an opportunity to sit back, look at things and innovate. When business is in full swing, you neither have the time nor the energy to do that. This is not to console yourself when things are bad. Things will not remain bad for too long – things will change. But when things change to the positive, it should not take you another two years to catch up. If you make use of this time to reinvent yourself in different ways, you are ready to go when the train picks up speed again, and you will be the first one to latch on.

What India needs from its political leaders

Vivek Law: Let me ask you about the role of political leaders. There is so much public discourse right now. What is your message to the political leaders of India?

Sadhguru: The political leaders need to understand that the people of India are not interested in your grandmothers and grandfathers. What the people of India are interested in is, “In what way are you going to empower me as an individual citizen? In what way is my life and that of the people around me going to change? In what way will our children’s lives be better tomorrow?” I have barely heard anything like that in the political discourse. The campaign is going on as if the elections were day after tomorrow, but we don’t even know the date yet. I think they should get back to work. A month or a month-and-a-half before election, they can start their campaign.

Editor’s Note: Follow INSIGHT on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This article is based on an excerpt from the January 2014 issue of Forest Flower. Pay what you want and download. (set ‘0’ for free). Print subscriptions are also available.