Leading with Love
We may not realize it, but we are all leaders in some form in our own circle of influence: professionally, socially or personally.
How one handles even the simplest of tasks reveals the leadership skills of a person. Visiting the supermarket, organizing a house-warming gathering, arranging a birthday party, raising children or working with others, and other such tasks reflect one’s leadership skills.
To be a successful leader in any aspect of life requires the ability to communicate well, listen to feedback, be flexible, motivate others, plan effectively and, crucially, lead by example. Put simply, do what you say.
Parents are leaders of their households. They inspire their children to work hard, do well, carry out important chores, and live with noble values.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj, guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha between 1971 and 2016, was a leader like no other. He inspired hundreds of thousands of people to lead moral, spiritual and pious lives. He inspired the building of more than 1,200 mandirs across the globe and initiated over 1,000 sadhus. His teachings and practices continue to transform people and societies everywhere.
This is due to his unique leadership style. The way he connected with people was peerless, because he would lead with love.
A Loving Servant Leader
Looking at leaders who have shaped world history, we may think that here’s a huge difference between them and us.
Well, is there? We’re all made of flesh and blood, and have the same number of hours in a day. Successful leaders have dreamt big, worked hard, made decisions and had courage. This is something that we can all do.
John Maxwell, a leadership thinker, said, “Leadership is about how one’s life influences another.” How we do this depends on the choices we make and the way we choose to undertake tasks.
Leadership is about having an impact on the people within our circle of influence. This could be our family, friends or co-workers, and might be just a handful of people or many hundreds.
Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, put it very simply, “Leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could do.”
Great leaders throughout history have done just that. They have stamped their mark on the world and influenced generations that have followed.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj was such a leader. He did not go to war, but he showed the way to fight wars with our internal enemies of anger, greed, lust, jealousy and other base instincts that torture us every day.
This is what sets Pramukh Swami Maharaj apart from other leaders. With his unique and loving style, he inspired innumerable people to lead pure and pious lives, to work on improving themselves and their inner nature, to give up damaging lifestyles dominated by addictions, and to keep God at the centre of everything. He transformed people through love. And this was one of his defining leadership features.
With his credo, ‘In the joy of others, lies our own’, Pramukh Swami Maharaj helped people to change and improve, and taught them to be selfless and put others first.
Ronald Reagan, former president of the USA, once said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets people to do the greatest things.”
This is exactly what Pramukh Swami Maharaj did; he inspired people to do great things. He did this in a number of ways, primarily leading from the front, but as a servant.
President Washes Utensils
In 1950, at the young age of 28, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was appointed as president of BAPS by guru Shastriji Maharaj. On this day, he made a pledge: “Today, O Guruji, before you and this gathering, I pledge that I shall sincerely uphold my duties, without caring for my body, and in every way remain loyal to the Sanstha and faithful to you.”
All the senior sadhus and elderly devotees wholeheartedly supported Shastriji Maharaj’s decision in appointing him as the president.
After the memorable function was over, the devotees had dinner before departing. But Pramukh Swami, the newly appointed president noticed the pile of used dishes, cups, bowls, pots, pans and cooking utensils and washed them all – without a fuss and without asking anyone for help.
As the president, he could have asked someone else to do it; however, he didn’t do that. Nor did he complain to anyone. He simply did the seva himself, as per his pledge. Such humble service was a hallmark of his unique personality.