SRI M outlines the attributes of an ‘adhinayak’, a powerful leader, as someone who is tranquil, level-headed, and leads from the front
Leadership has special relevance in today’s world, given the varied areas of interest and the global connect. The Bhagwad Gita reveals many facets of leadership, relevant even today. As a scripture for humankind, its message is eternal. The fact that it was presented in the midst of a battlefield, beginning with Arjuna’s dissatisfaction, despondence or indecisiveness, shows that it’s for daily life rather than for people sitting isolated, in a cave.
The Gita starts with Arjuna putting his bow down and saying, ‘I am not going to fight this battle’. We all face battles in daily life — individually and collectively — this battle of not knowing what to do. We stand on a threshold and don’t know how to move forward. It’s something we fight every day. Leadership is an important part of our ancient wisdom and this wisdom is relevant in today’s world.
In the Gita, Krishna is mentoring Arjuna to become a perfect leader. He says, ‘Proceed in the path of unselfish karma, action for the sake of others and not for yourself.’ In my view, this is a very important aspect of leadership. The leader is not there for himself — the leader is there for the public, for others.
While the Gita does not get into the exact definition of a leader, it does address the question of what the attributes of a great yogi are. Krishna describes the greatest of yogis in ‘Chapter 12’, while talking about Bhakti Yoga. He explains that a yogi is one who is in the service of others and in the process, is improving his inner Self. So, the description applies not just to a ‘yogi’, but to all. Arjuna asks, ‘Who, according to you, is the greatest of leaders, the greatest of yogis? Can you give me a definition?’ Krishna answers, ‘One, a leader should be samyamyendriya gramam — he should be in control of his emotions, in control of his senses.’ A leader, according to the Gita, is someone who has his emotions under control. He uses them for the good of others and keeps them in abeyance when he has to be silent. But in today’s world, a leader is one who is either ‘selected’ or ‘elected.’
The second attribute desired in a leader is sarvatra sama buddhaya — ‘being level-headed, and tranquil, in all circumstances’. A leader’s job is to do the right thing and not get depressed by negative comments nor too elated by flattery. Even in daily life, if we need to work efficiently, we need to keep our minds tranquil in the midst of all circumstances.
The third attribute of a good leader is Sarva bhute hite ratha — meaning, one who has the concern of all living beings in his heart, one who is concerned about all who suffer and all who are in trouble. Swami Vivekananda gave a clear-cut and wonderful interpretation of the Gita’s Karma Yoga.
He said, ‘Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha’, meaning, moksha for the atman is alright, but hith, for the goodness of others, of service to the Lord and service to humankind, is important. So, it’s not only moksha for oneself, but also welfare of the world. True leadership would reflect all of this — and it is something we need today.
To quote from the Upanishads, Uttisthata jagrata prapya varannibodhat meaning ‘wake up and move, we have much to achieve in front (ahead).’ Leadership is about leading from the front, and blazing a trail for others to follow, tough as it may be.
– Sri M