How to Identify a True Leader

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A true leader should be like Lord Ram.

Lord Ram was not just a God, but an ideal for all of humanity for not just millenniums, but for posterity.

I suggest the first book on leadership that should be taught in all schools, not just management schools, is the Shri Ramcharitamanas by Tulasidas.

I have the version that is translated and edited by RC Prasad and I recommend it since it has the original Avadhi text, Hindi translation and English translation.

There is also a very good website of the Shri Ramacharitamanas (http://www.ramcharitmanas.org/) that I found recently.

You can also download a PDF of the book from https://holybooks.com/sri-ram-charita-manas-the-ramayana-of-goswami-tulasidas-pdf/

Nobody can be completely like Lord Ram.  A divine being like Lord Ram is born only once as an ideal for humanity.  But if a person has even 60% of the main characteristics I have mentioned below, they will be good leaders.  A combination of many such leaders can restore Ram Rajya in the entire world.

Even if we cannot achieve Ram Rajya, let us identify  leaders who can at least help us achieve what Thomas Paine said:

When shall it be said in any country of the world,
My poor are happy, neither ignorance or distress is to be found among them;

My jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars;
The aged are not in want,

The taxes not oppressive;

The rational world is my friend because I am friend of its happiness.
When these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and government.

My main identification characteristics to identify True Leaders comes from reading our traditional scriptures of the Sanathan Dharma in Bharat, especially the Shri Ramcharitamanas, Mahabharat especially the Shanthi Parva and the Bhagavad Gita.

Another great article on Leadership from modern times is the speech in 1998 by Field Marshal SAM Manekshaw – SAM Manekshaw on Leadership and Discipline.

  1. A true leader will walk the talk.

Word and action should be one like Paravathi and Parameshwara(Shiva).

Above is a very famous saying from Kalidasa who was the greatest poet and playwright ever in the history of the world.

For a person to be truly united in word and action, they should have achieved समत्वम्ं (Samathvam) and this only comes from sincere and sustained practice of ध्यान Dhyan.

A true leader will walk the talk. If they declare war on another country, they will be the first to fight in the trenches along with the rest of their troops.  They will get their hands dirty.  They will not believe in remote control leadership.  If they want something done, they will do it themselves first as an example.

  1. Adherence to Dharma and its highest ideal of SEVA (Selfless Service) will matter more to a leader than money or adherence to GDP.

What  exactly is  Dharma?  The concept of Dharma is best explained in the various books of the  Sanathan Dharma .

There is no correct English translation of the word Dharma.  The closest meaning is a virtuous way of conduct and living but this is not even a 20% completely accurate nor comprehensive translation.

The Uttharkanda section of the Ram Charitra Manas has described Dharma in the most succinct manner that can be understood by all.

According to Lord Ram:

Brother, there is no greater Dharma than benevolence(परहित), no greater sin than oppressing others.

I have declared to you, dear brother, the verdict of all the Vedas and the Puranas, and the learned also know it.

Benevolence means altruism or selflessness and being always concerned about and working for the welfare of others.

परहित is a very complicated word.

A simpler meaning is निस्वार्थ सेवा or simply सेवा (SEVA).
सेवा (SEVA) means Selfless Service.

So the highest Dharma is सेवा (SEVA) or Selfless Service not just to humanity, but to the whole world.

Because the highest ideal of the Sanathan Dharma is:

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam)

The whole world is One Family.

There is another important definition of Dharma according to one of the greatest philosophers of modern times.

 What is Dharma?

If you understand hurting another man is adharma (violation of Dharma), pleasing another man is Dharma, you have performed Dharma.
S Radhakrishnan, 2nd President of India.

  1. A true leader will be spiritual, not moral.

Morality is like a laser light, powerful, focused and intense, which eventually blinds and disables you, and it mainly has darkness all outside its narrow and specialised area of focus.

While spirituality is like the light of a candle, soft, warm and spreading light all around it, even to the darkest of corners and you enjoy the warmth and glow of the candle.

  1. A true leader can be consistently trusted and consistently earns that trust only by their consistent and sincere actions, and not their words
  2. A true leader does not object to, and readily accepts verification of trust bestowed upon them.
  3. A true leader will be mainly inspired by sincere and humane ideals, and not mainly by monetary rewards or considerations.
  4. A true leader will not consider themselves indispensable nor will they regard others as indispensable, but they will recognise, honour, treasure and value loyalty, devotion, and sacrifice.
  5. A true leader will listen to learn. They accept criticism, have an open mind and can even pivot a 180 degrees from their original position if they see value in another’s opinion even if it is contrary to their own previously held opinion.
  6. A true leader will only make promises they can keep otherwise they will just say no.
  7. A true leader will not fight with violence (forcefully) unless they have exhausted all other options and absolutely have no other option.

According to the Sanathan Dharma there are four stages of fighting:

  • Sama(try to befriend or form alliance)
  • Dana(give gifts, presents and do favours)
  • Bheda(confuse, deceive, separate, divide and rule)
  • And finally when all else fails Dhand(military or physical force).
  1. A true leader will never consider themselves as superior to others, they will wear their humility and ordinariness lightly and always on their sleeve.
  2. A true leader will have समत्वम्ं (Samathvam). They will have empathy and treat all beings equally with love and kindness. I say all beings, not just human beings or living beings. Lord Ram gave justice and utmost respect even to a dog.
  3. A true leader will not exempt themselves or their family or loved ones from punishment if they have violated Dharma or the laws of the land.
  4. A true leader will realise that if you don’t first successfully invest in people, you will never be able to invest in anything successfully.

Investing in people is the most valuable investment a person can make.

To invest in people you do not need huge amounts of money.

In fact to invest in people, you do not need any money at all.

To invest in people you need the consistent practice of True Love,  Dharma, SEVA (Selfless Service) and the things I have figured out.

  1. A true leader will place the highest goal of the Arthasastra– SEVA to the old as the highest ideal of Dharma.

सुखस्य मूलं धर्मः 

धर्मस्य मूलं अर्थः ।

अर्थस्य मूलं राज्यं ।

राज्यस्य मूलं इन्द्रिय जयः ।

इन्द्रियाजयस्य मूलं विनयः ।

विनयस्य मूलं वृद्धोपसेवा॥

The root of happiness and well being is Dharma.
The root of Dharma is Artha (economy and statecraft)
The root of Artha is good governance.
The root of good governance is conquering by self control.
The root of conquering by self control is humility.
The root of humility is SEVA (selfless service) to the old.

  1. A true leader will recognise sacrifice and they will:
  • Be aware of who sacrificed what and how much.
  • Remain grateful for life towards those who sacrificed their well being for the well being of others.
  • Make serious attempts to offer compensation, support and a permanent replacement of income to those sacrificed themselves, for at least 3 generations of their families.
  1. A true leader will try to convince, not command into obedience.

After all the Gita was explained, Lord Krishna said:

I have given you my wisdom, it is for you to do as you think fit.

  1. Never make a money counter a leader, a money counter is just a monkey and monkeys are only to perform tricks and to be paid only in peanuts. Great things came not from counting money, but from passionate hearts and devotion to sincere ideals.
  1. Never make a smooth talker or “Brilliant Orator” a leader, a smooth talker usually does not walk their talk.