Marjan Bolmeijer, a world-famous executive leadership consultant and author of an article, “What It Takes to Be a CEO” in the famous book, 1000 CEOs, focuses on one very important aspect – Get Your Senior Team Right. In this book, he emphasizes on the fact that a CEO must work to understand the importance of the senior team in his organization. According to him, if a team works well together, no matter how diverse its members are, it has a beneficial effect on the operational performance of the organization. Furthermore, he also discusses the importance of managing personal emotions while dealing in the professional sphere. As an organizational leader, the CEO must be in an emotionally right place and right frame of mind so that the employees can take their Emotional Quotient (EQ) from their leader.
These principles were reflected in Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s actions in the toughest of times. On 24 September 2002, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was in Sarangpur when two terrorists attacked Akshardham in Gandhinagar. Akshardham was very dear to Swamishri as it was built purely because of Yogiji Maharaj’s wish. No one in their wildest dreams could have imagined such an act of horror on this epitome of Indian culture. Everyone was deeply shocked to the core at the attack, and all eyes were on how Swamishri would respond to this heinous act. Swamishri, in spite of being grieved, maintained calm and immediately prayed that no further lives were lost and the situation be quickly brought under control. Then, Swamishri sent a group of swamis to Gandhinagar to help and guide the police and commandoes to defuse the situation. He also appealed for peace to the whole of Gujarat and for no backlash to occur. After the attack was neutralized, Swamishri immediately went to Ahmedabad to meet the injured at the Civil Hospital. He visited the places in Akshardham where the terrorists had unleashed mayhem and prayed for the solace of those who had lost their lives or were injured. Swamishri also visited the spot where the terrorists had died and prayed for their souls and that no one would ever think of committing such a horrific act anywhere in the world. Swamishri’s compassionate act became popularly known as the ‘Akshardham Response’.
Bolmeijer opines that a successful leader needs to stock up on emotional intelligence. The diagram on the next page further breaks down the important aspects of emotional intelligence.
We shall try to understand some of these aspects with context to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj possessed the highest level of emotional intelligence which was evident from his works and services to others. To elucidate on his personal competencies, we learn about his compassion while he was participating in a tree plantation programme. He gently removed a large ant in the pit before planting a sapling, regardless of the possibility of the ant biting him or of what others would think of him. In 1985, Ahmedabad was in the midst of a raging communal protest and rounds of violence, and a severe drought. Many prominent personalities advised Swamishri to cancel the 59-day Bicentenary Celebrations of Gunatitanand Swami, but Swamishri remained firm and confident in celebrating it. Eventually, with his prayers and efforts, the communal protests and drought were resolved, and the celebration was held with great success.
It would not be wrong to say that Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a synonym of commitment and hard work. Even in his old age and ailing health, he continued his untiring vicharan. When asked to rest and stay in one place, he would say that when his gurus Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj did vicharan till their last breath, then how could he remain seated and not follow his gurus’ footsteps. It was his unremitting commitment and effort that inspired his disciples to endeavour and promote the message of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and BAPS.
In the context of empathy towards fellow beings, Swamishri’s actions spoke louder than anything else. One such instance occurred in Sarangpur on 21 March 2009, when Swamishri phoned Atmaswarup Swami in New Delhi to know about the hospital treatment report of Dr K.C. Patel’s son. Not only did he ask about the well-being and arrangement of Dr Patel’s son but he also enquired about the arrangements made by the mandir for his domestic needs and other things. Such was Swamishri’s heart, full of love and service for others.
Another aspect about social competency is the idea of developing others – to think and work in the direction of developing others.
On 13 December 2007, during the BAPS Centenary Celebrations in Ahmedabad, IPS officer Yashwant Jethva acknowledged Swamishri’s contribution and blessings for the success he had attained to an audience of 300,000 devotees. He narrated that being of poor means he stayed in a hutment area during his childhood years in Malad, Mumbai. His father passed away when he was a child. Thereafter, Swamishri sponsored his educational expenses and inspired values and talents in him through the weekly satsang sabhas and services. Then, Swamishri encouraged and supported him to study for the UPSC (Union Public Services Commission) exams and serve the country. He passed and got selected into the Indian Police Services (IPS). Thereafter, with the blessings of Swamishri he was selected to attend a training course at the International Peacekeeping Police Force Summit in Italy. There, from amongst 150 officers from around the world, Yashwant stood first in the training examinations.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired and blessed others to develop spiritual values. In 1974, Swamishri blessed a small group of swamis in Sarangpur, “Tamne badhane Bhagatji jeva taiyar karva chhe. Brahmi sthiti prapta karavavi chhe. Tocho j na lage” , – “I wish to make you all ready like Bhagatji and attain the brahmi (divine) state; and that nothing worldly disturbs you.”
On analyzing the working style and behaviour of Pramukh Swami Maharaj through the lens of organizational principles, we also come to learn about his expertise in the areas of conflict management, influencing others and servant leadership. His conflict management skills came into focus during the ‘Anamat Andolan’ (students’ anti-reservation agitation) that took place in Ahmedabad, 1985. It soon turned violent. Swamishri strived to reestablish peace and security. He participated in talks with the students’ group, trying to convince them to stop their violent agitation and solve the issue amicably. Swamishri’s words had the desired effect and the agitation was called off.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj could inspire social reforms, fulfil societal needs and influence human behaviour for the ultimate betterment of the individual and mankind.
In 1996, Swamishri was in Surendranagar. Gujarat was reeling under a severe water shortage due to the unfinished Narmada dam project.
At that time, during Swamishri’s 76th birthday celebration assembly, he appealed to a large number of devotees to save a rupee a day and contribute to the government to enable it to complete the project. Swamishri’s appeal had the desired effect and people started saving and contributing for the successful completion of the dam. The dam was inaugurated in September 2017.
Another instance of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s impact was seen during his birthday celebration in 1989 in Bharuch, when he urged the mammoth gathering of youths to pledge not to take dowry as part of their marriage custom. Thus, Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s impact, with reference to social reforms, societal needs and transforming human behaviour, is evident from the incidents mentioned.
In Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf writes that servant leadership is “a journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness”. He further states that “in leadership philosophy, the main goal of the leader is to serve and that in turn helps the leader to find his true power and moral authority”. In all his acts and activities, Swamishri epitomised this quality. Be it on ‘Pramukh Varni Din’ on 21 May 1950, when he washed utensils after being appointed as the president of BAPS or in 1995 during his Amrut Mahotsav in Mumbai, during which he himself opened and shut the doors of his car in spite of the numerous attendants present. In addition, in 1980, in spite of being the guru, Swamishri quietly obeyed the orders of a junior swami, who had scheduled his vicharan schedule during the bicentennial year celebrations of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Marshall Goldsmith, a globally renowned professional, mentored senior executives of multinational corporates for more than three decades. He also authored numerous bestsellers like Leaders of the Future, Triggers, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. Goldsmith states, “In my vast experience of working with more than 100 CEOs and their management teams, I have learnt that business is more than strategy, competency and ROI (Return on Investment). A large part of it is about soft skills like relationship management, personal growth and feelings.” When we understand this statement in the context of Swamishri’s life, he excelled on all these fronts. It was because of his understanding of the human virtues of care, compassion and consideration that he was able to create a mammoth force of youth volunteers and sadhus.
Thus, the way in which Swamishri executed and managed the BAPS can be assessed from multiple management viewpoints. Swamishri’s life included three main aspects: to worship Bhagwan Swaminarayan, to obey the orders of his gurus Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj, and to work for the betterment of society.