When Alexandra the Great lead his men through the Gedrosian Desert, the loss of life was colossal. He sent phalanxes of his army in search of water. After many hours they came back with just enough to fill a helmet. The parched army handed over the precious liquid to their commander. He clasp the helmet in both hands and to the dismay of his troops, poured it’s contents onto the sand. Alexandra proclaimed, “ If the men don’t drink, then I don’t drink”. This selfless act forever forged an impenetrable bond between the commander-in-chief and his men. He inspired them to live and die for him, not by what he said, rather, by what he did.
Alexandra lived and lead with integrity and honour. This got me thinking of current political leadership, locally and globally. Such a depressing thought it turned out to be. So to cajole my spirits from the doldrums of despair I composed a list of people I thought would be better than contemporary political leaders. The list was long. Coming in at number seven on my list is my neighbour and friend (name omitted). I concede that he suffers from slight cognitive issue. It’s not uncommon for him to call me and forget the reason he did so. He once asked me if the city of London has bridges and directed our driver to the wrong university ( a route he’s taken twice a week for months ). Yet, he is honest, compassionate and righteous. I have also personally seen him read and comprehend entire paragraphs. Which is more than I can say for some heads of states.
The Vedic paradigm explains, us common folk are influenced and affected by the actions and behaviours of distinguished persons. If the masses bear witness to gross lawlessness by the powers that be, then they too will emulate such atrocities. The converse is also true. If the monarchs, prime-ministers, and presidents inculcate spiritual practices, their activities and consciousness become purified. This is enhanced by consultation with sacred texts and individuals who have realised spiritual wisdom. In so doing they relinquish the lower natures and govern themselves and others by divine principles. There is power in divine sound and intelligent leaders know how to harness it. Saintly leaders armed with spiritual science expand their vision of leadership, resulting in a moral and harmonious society. In this way leaders also empower others righteously and not simply beget a blind following.
A leader should be like salt. The quantity of salt in a dish needs to be just right, too little or too much results in culinary disaster. Like salt in a preparation, leaders should be balanced. They should have a balanced approach to work, spiritual practice, and recreation. Balance is crucial when dealing with challenges. When one is equipoised, he is neither disturbed by elation or distress. This state of mind allows for decision grounded to a foundation of stability.
Another attribute of salt is that it remains hidden in a dish even though it adds flavour. A leader should see himself as the protector and servitor of others and like salt, serves without the need for recognition or praise. Have you ever heard anyone say, “The salt in this entree is scrumptious.” Yet so often we admire other spices and or vegetables. A leader empowers his followers and allows for them to receive glorification. His reward is selfless service. He should let those in his care resolve problems without micromanaging. When there is extreme calamity then he should step in otherwise he should be invisible.
Have ever volunteered at an organisation? If you have, perhaps you can testify to an interesting dynamic. When people receive a salary they bring their minds to work, but when they are valued they give their heart and soul to a mission. Those serving in a spiritual organisation — by large — do so without financial renumeration. Thus inspiration is required, to attract people and keep them motivated, which can be cultivated through empathy — sensitivity to the needs of others. Thus subordinates are not perceived as pawns for our pleasure. Rather, they are family — as we all share the one Supreme Father. We are sentient beings with feelings, hopes, dreams, and emotions. As a result, members feel nurtured and valued.
Leadership is not easy. It is said for one who wants to lead an orchestra, he must turn his back to the crowd. Leadership entails sacrifice of time, energy, and often, relationships. Your grit and character will be tested. Like it or not, you will be placed in the limelight resulting in fair and unjust critique. A virtuous leader is the servant of others, externally he may be perceived as just another manager or CEO. However he serves not simply for economic gain, adoration or prestige. His focus is the upliftment of those in his care, a process enhanced by a God centred approach to management.
At the core of genuine leadership is inspiration activated by empathy, love, and grace. True leadership reigns over the hearts of those in their care as they become conquered by sensitivity and compassion.