I fondly recall a leader from Tamil Nadu in fifties and sixties who rose from the lowest rungs of the society to the position of a Minister in the state in the Public Works Department. With a simple Khadhi Kurtha and dhothi he used to move around, travel in buses (even while he was a minister!) attending to the needs of every common man. When he breathed his last, he died in near poverty in a Government Hospital. He lived a low-profile life marked by love and service, didn’t let his wards use his position (his son possibly worked as a mechanic when he was a minister!). When he died a beeline of “Leaders” came to pay tributes. There is no statue for him (while many living personas have it now!) and he dissolved into the eternity of the political history. This raises a debate on what should be the profile of a leader.
There are many people who make a lot of sound and fury about their leadership, print names in all corners, get their names published in the newspapers, put their photographs at every possible space on the wall and get themselves seated on every front row (if it is not possible to occupy the podium), make observations and comments on every possible thing with which they have the least concern!
The true essence of leadership lies in the quality of work done by them. Mother Teresa was a great leader – never looked for any publicity nor patronage; Vinoba Bhave was a great leader – led the Bhoodan movement, never waited for any encomiums to be showered on him; - and the list goes on. A great leader always lives for others- to make the life of others happier, easier, worth living.
George Eliot writes:
What do we live for if not to make?
The world less difficult for each other?
Stephen covey commenting on the concept of charity writes in the book “Everyday Greatness”.“Too often the meaning of charity is reduced to the act of giving alms or donating sums of money to those who are economically disadvantaged. But charity in its purest forms involves so much more. It includes the giving of our hearts, our minds, and our talents in ways that enrich the lives of all people –regardless of whether they are poor or rich. Charity is selflessness. It is love in work clothes.”
Sometimes we eulogize leaders for their acts of philanthropy. (In most cases they take the money of the Government or Public funds and donate to other agencies, as if it is their own!). The word philanthropy raises from two words “Philos” (meaning love) and “anthropos” (meaning man) – It really means love for man; humankind. So, the process of philanthropy is giving us to others.
There are leaders who look for returns for what they do. They always ask: “What do I gain out of it?”
A teacher should never ask this question. A doctor never should ask this question. (Possibly this is why, their professions are called noble professions?) Well, please read what Gaylord Nelson writes in the New York Times:“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”
Friends, let us sit back and ponder for a minute, “how much of sound and fury we make about what we give?”