Swami Sarvalokananda addressing people from the Agriculture, Food & Nutrition Industry
It is strongly felt that there is a lack of leadership in politics, industry, corporates, society – even in the family. The progress, growth and long-term sustenance largely depends on the effective leadership and managerial skills.
The question arises: Who is a leader or who can be one? A leader must be a visionary. He or she must have a clear understanding and vision, and at the same time, must have the ability or capacity to translate that vision into reality..
It is great leaders that bring about transformation in the country
A leader undoubtedly makes a difference, brings about a change – in other words, transformation.
For example, in the past our country had a severe deficit of food grains. India had to import sub-standard wheat which used to be consumed by horses in America. Under the effective leadership of Dr. Swaminathan, there was a Green Revolution. And we are very happy that today India is self-sufficient in food. Not only that, it has surplus and is exporting food to other countries.
Similarly all of you know the great revolution brought about by Dr. Kurien in the production of milk. It was called the White Revolution. Mr. Manmohan Singh, the great economist – when he was the Finance Minister of India, brought about great transformation in India’s economic policy, the concept of liberalization and globalization. Sam Pitroda, the great scientist, also brought about a great change in telecommunication systems. All of you may remember that before this revolution, if you wanted to call someone from Mumbai to Delhi, it would take about one hour. You would have to book a trunk call! After this telecom revolution, within no time, you can contact any person all over the globe.
1. India needs leaders to afford its freedom
Swami Vivekananda, the great spiritual leader, brought about a spiritual renaissance by introducing the new concept – dynamic spirituality – in other words, practical Vedanta – not only for spiritual welfare, but also material welfare of the masses, particularly in India.
Swami Vivekananda was a patriot saint. Many freedom fighters were inspired by this patriot saint of India, from Mahatma Gandhi to Subhash Chandra Ghosh. Once some freedom fighters went to Swamiji and asked him – you are a great spiritual leader, you have tremendous spiritual power. If you want, you can make India free. Swamiji kept quiet for a while and then said – I can make India free, but where are the men?! Where are the leaders who can sustain this freedom, who can dedicate their life for the regeneration of India?
In many places Swamiji has said: “Men, men are wanted.”What type of men did he want? Men of character. Men of integrity. Men of purity – who can change the whole scenario, who can revolutionize the whole world, and who can bring about a change for the better. So what Swami Vivekananda said more than a 100 years ago, has come true after more than 70 years of the independence of India.
Undoubtedly India has made progress in some fields. But India could not fulfill its target of success. Even today 40% of people are under the poverty line. If you go to the villages, you find the real picture of India. Don’t judge India by the metropolitan or cosmopolitan cities. Leave Mumbai city and go 25 km away, you will find the hapless condition of the villagers.
Why is this so? Why could India not develop and prosper? This is because there is no effective leadership – there are no men. No leaders who can take the country forward. That is why Swami Vivekananda used to emphasize on man-making and character building education, particularly character. Swamiji said character has tremendous power which can cleave the adamantine walls of all difficulties. So Swamiji wanted the man of character, integrity and purity. And he wanted enlightened citizens who can dedicate their lives for the regeneration of India.
2. Human Excellence lies in character
In this context, I would like to tell you about one incident in the life of Swami Vivekananda. All of you know that Swamiji went to Chicago to attend the Parliament of Religions. He stayed there for about 5 years. One day he was walking on the street of America with his ochre dress and an ochre turban on his head. Some Americans were watching him and discussing among themselves what a peculiar dress that man has put on. Out of curiosity they came to Swamiji and asked which country he was from. Swamiji replied – I am Indian and I am from India. They remarked that India seems to be an uncivilized country, and the clothes you have put on are looking very uncivilized. You are not a gentleman. Swamiji gave a befitting reply – look in your Western culture and tradition, the dress and tailor make a person great and civilized. But in my country – in India, its culture and tradition, it is not the dress or tailor, but character that makes a man great and civilized.
Dear friends, we talk about human excellence. This is not only in dress, appearance and intellectual knowledge, but in character.
3. Dedication and devotion – for able leadership
See how Swamiji founded the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. It has now become a global spiritual organization. When I was traveling in the United States of America, I used to address many American devotees. Some would ask – Swami, you are not technically qualified, you are not a technocrat or a bureaucrat, you are not even an MBA or CA. How do you run this huge global Ramakrishna Mission? What is the secret behind it? I said look, we are not technically qualified to run this huge Ramakrishna Mission organization. But the secret of this success is nothing but dedication and devotion.
In many places, Swamiji talked about leadership. He was writing to his Gurubhai – Swami Akhandanandaji: “Can a leader be made my brother? A leader is born. Do you understand? And it is a very difficult task to take on the role of a leader. — One must be दासस्यदास: — a servant of servants, and must accommodate a thousand minds. There must not be a shade of jealousy or selfishness, then you are a leader”
A leader must have absence of jealousy and suspicion. If a leader is jealous, he cannot be a true leader. That is why he has emphasized on these two points. He has also emphasized on unselfishness. Unselfishness is nothing but a different dimension of character. A selfish person cannot be a true leader.
4. A leader gives his head
Another time on who is a true leader, Swamiji said “sirdar to sardar” – you have to sacrifice your head. Then you can become a leader. Sacrifice of your head means you sacrifice your ego, your selfishness, your vanity. Then only you can be a true leader. In the life of Swami Vivekananda we find how he possessed these traits of servant leadership.
दासस्यदास: – this must be the attitude – the servant of servants. Then only can you serve people, not otherwise.
For India to move forward, we need to think beyond ourselves
In this context, I would like to tell you about one incident All of us know that Germany is an industrialized country and rich country. Behind this we find that there is wonderful mindset in the German people.
Two Indians went to Germany for some work. They were hungry and went to a restaurant and found that most of the tables were empty. Some old ladies were having food, and the waiters were serving. They consumed every bit of the food, and the plate was completely clean. These two Indians ordered a huge quantity of food because they were hungry. They consumed 1/4th of their food and left 3/4th on the plate. When they were on the verge of leaving, a lady came and remarked how much they had left. The two Indians were annoyed and said – it is none of your business. We have paid for it. The lady took her handphone and called somebody. The security officer came to know of the dispute. He gave a € 50 fine to them! He told them – you have paid money for the food, there is no doubt about that. But there is no reason to waste food. The money is yours, but the resources belong to the country! The nation! Not to you. So you don’t have the right to waste food like this.
This is our Indian attitude. We have to reflect on this. We also have to change our mindset – our bad habits.
So if we want to have sustained business, commerce and trade, then we must have effective leadership. Only then can we take the country forward.
The three essentials for the development of an individual and corporate
So there are three things very essential for any individual or corporate: transparency, accountability and credibility.
You must be transparent in transactions, communications – everything. Not only that, you must be accountable to your customers. Without this you cannot satisfy them. Credibility is also very important. You must earn it. Take the example of the Tata products. When you go to a mall and purchase a Tata product, we do not question whether the quality is good or not. We buy it with good faith. This is because Tata has earned goodwill and credibility.
I end with Swami Vivekananda’s quote. Once he wrote a letter to the Maharaja of Mysore. He wrote: “My noble Prince, this life is short, the vanities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.”
So dear friends we have to live for others. Only then can we take the country forward.