In 1965, a frail 69-year-old man boarded a cargo ship from Calcutta and set sail for New York. He carried $8.00, an umbrella, a supply of cereal, books he had published – and an unflinching faith and clear vision for spreading Krishna Consciousness in the West. During the journey, he suffered two heart attacks, endured severe sea sickness and on arrival at New York Harbour he was completely alone.
When he passed on twelve years later he left a legacy of over 100 temples, restaurants, schools and farm communities around the globe, the distribution of 60 million books worldwide and thousands of followers. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, fondly addressed as Srila Prabhupada by his followers, the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness was the embodiment of leadership. Some would call him a serial entrepreneur.
When he arrived in New York he encountered discontent, waves of anti-establishment, feelings of being rudderless and the hippie culture. People hankered for something other than the decadence of surfeit, the meaningless of material acquisition, the ephemerality of a quick fix. Sound familiar? Our world today is filled with individuals and groups that feel asunder, whether it is in our personal lives or our work roles. We are searching for leaders who can show us the way.
‘’Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues’’ (Bhagavad Gita)
5 reasons we need leaders more than ever:
1. Leaders show us the way. They are Acaryas, they lead by example. Srila Prabhupada was the quintessential Acarya. He led by example, whether it was crowd funding, addressing millions across the globe, writing, hosting festivals, cooking, budgeting or building Krishna’s temples and farm communities.
2. True leaders want to serve their followers. Srila Prabhupada lived the principles of servant leadership long before it came into vogue. He was the consummate trailblazer, writer, motivational speaker, team builder.
3. Leaders are resilient and their example encourages us to dig deep to find the strength and perseverance to keep going even when things seem impossible. Their resilience also harks back to our childhood fairy tales where good always overcomes evil, the hero/heroine triumphs over the plotting of the villain and the hero/heroine travels the rags to riches route despite overwhelming odds. In addition, the digital age enables us to live vicariously through our leaders’ triumphs and tragedies.
4. Leaders inspire us. They ask us to be true to our core values, to find our passion and to work and live only so that we can focus on our true north. For example, we no longer see any value in collecting the gold watch by serving the same employer for 25 years, the way our grandfathers and fathers did.
5. Leaders Imbue us with hope. They overcome almost insurmountable challenges and turn these into solutions that benefit millions. Read your LinkedIn profile and look again to see who you are ‘following’. The chances are that these leaders give you hope, inspiration and direction in an age of high debt, uncertainty, austerity, unemployment and discontent with corporate and social values that no longer resonate with your core beliefs.
Which leader do you wish you could meet and what would you thank them for?
Photograph of Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, England, taken in November 2015. This estate was donated to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness by George Harrison and established in 1973 by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Sudhana Singh is the Director at Imbue, a coaching and training company based in London. Her coaching niche is Your First 100 Days.