As I sit down on the eve of my 40th birthday to write this editorial, I couldn’t have thought of writing on a more important aspect – as great political leadership is what India requires more than anything else today. And though I have written considerably on leadership, it has mainly been about corporate leadership. Leadership in corporations is massively different from political leadership, and therefore it requires a special model and a special line of thinking. While in corporations the final aim is profit maximization in most cases, in politics the final objective is necessarily social welfare maximization. While in corporations the best leaders are often the best marketing guys, in politics the best leaders necessarily have to be the people who are the sincerest and most hard working. While in business you can make do without the knowledge of economics, in politics that can be suicidal. While in business being unethical can harm you and at most your stake holders, in politics the lack of ethics ruins an entire nation’s future. And most importantly, while in corporations leadership is about commitment to the strongest and survival of the fittest, in political leadership, the focus always is about commitment to the weakest and survival of the weakest – concepts about which I wrote a few issues back in Business & Economy (a Daily Indian Media group publication), when I wrote about responsible leadership (please do log on to our website and check out the link for the same: http://www.businessandeconomy.org/27102011/storyd.asp?sid=6462&pageno=1). Thus, for me, political leadership is not just about having certain qualities but also simultaneously about not having various qualities. Rather, what is important is to ensure that one does not possess certain specific qualities first; if that is taken care of, the rest would then automatically fall in place.
Keeping all the above in mind, I believe the model of the 7 winning virtues of political leadership (viz Credibility, Compassion, Clairvoyance, Camaraderie, Commitment, Charisma and Competence) that I have developed is most suited for Politicians in general and Indian politicians in particular, keeping in mind the spate of massive corruption scandals of late! So what is so special about these 7 Cs of leadership that has not been read before? After all, is it not just another word play?
Well, the difference in this model and any other such model is that in this model, each element or virtue is actually the opposite of one of the 7 sins of life – the seven deadly sins that we are supposed to avoid; to a large extent, as normal human beings and to an almost extreme extent, as a political leader! The seven sins originally are Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Envy, Lust, Pride and Wrath! So how are these related, you must be wondering! Let’s go one by one!
The first sin that a leader must avoid is that of greed. This is what seems to be the biggest problem with political leaders in India. Greed. The reason behind all the lack of development in India at the cost of swelling Swiss bank accounts. Every politician looks at politics as a source of making quick money at the cost of the nation. And thus, instead of looking at the Commonwealth Games as a brilliant chance to develop the nation and its sports facilities – the way China looked at Olympics – they looked at the games as an opportunity to create a massive scam and looted the nation shamefully. So instead of looking at telecommunications as a big chance of taking the country towards better development, our leaders looked at it as a chance to loot and plunder. And this is where my first C of leadership gains importance. The virtue of credibility! Instead of greed, and dishonesty, political leadership is about credibility. That’s what defines a political leader’s true character. Once you lose credibility, you can still continue thanks to various reasons, but with no respect. That’s what most Indian politicians today suffer: the problem of credibility.
The second sin every politician needs to avoid is gluttony – the attitude of trying to gulp down everything by themselves, to eat, drink and make merry to satisfy their own bodily needs while millions of people die of hunger and lack of access to clean water. A political leader needs to be least bothered about good food and drinks for himself and instead should be thinking about how to give access to his people. One look at our unfit political leaders and their waist size will give an idea where their focus lies. That’s the shame we need to avoid. For real leadership was never about gluttony, but about the next C of leadership – Compassion. It’s the virtue of compassion for the hungry, malnutritioned that can make a great political leader forget about his own food and drink and fight for his people the way Mahatma Gandhi did.
The next sin a leader must avoid is the sin of sloth. Sloth is being spiritually and emotionally apathetic and being physically and emotionally inactive. That is what defines most of our politicians. Instead of actively thinking and planning for the future, they are inactive and lethargic. Their lack of any urge to do good for people makes them commit the sin of sloth. What they need in place of that is vision – a strong vision that can take the country forward. They need to be on the move. They need to be so active that they should almost possess the virtue of clairvoyance – the next C in my theory. They need to have the ability to visualize the future and take the country towards that vision. That’s what great leaders are made of.
The fourth sin that leaders must avoid is envy. It’s one thing that takes them down faster than anything else. They need to stop envying their colleagues, their opposition and anyone around. Envy in politics, leads to politics the way we know it: The game of pulling each other down instead of supporting each other for a common cause. Today we have political leaders who know that FDI in retail is an inevitable truth. But they are envious of other leaders who might walk away with the credit; so they don’t let the policy pass though it might be good for their own people. It brings us to the next C – the virtue of camaraderie. That’s what a leader, especially a political leader, needs to have. That’s the way you take people along. That’s the way you take colleagues along. And that’s the way you take the opposition along; instead of trying to enviously pull everyone down and in effect pull the country down.
The fifth sin to avoid is the sin of lust. In its actual sense, it refers to the way politicians of late have been doing things – from threats to hide their lust filled deeds to even murders. First, they can’t control their lust for women and they rampantly do the most unethical things; in effect, promoting what they were supposed to stop – prostitution. Then to cover up their deeds, they go to further extremes. And it’s not just about sex, crimes around which are rising rampantly, but lust for a better life too that they need to control. Lust is always invariably anti people. It’s the most non committed way of approaching any relationship , be it with a woman or your countrymen. Instead of lust, they need to develop the virtue of commitment – the next C. Commitment is what differentiates an act from being right and wrong.
The sixth sin that political leaders need to avoid is the sin of pride! It’s shameful that instead of having the next C – the virtue of charisma – politicians develop pride. It’s the reason for their fall. It’s pride which leads them to believe they are invincible and they can get away with everything. It’s pride that makes them take their people for granted and stop working. It’s pride that makes them ignore what people say and believe their own yes-men. It’s pride that destroys every politician eventually. The ones who never let it touch them are the ones who survive. They listen to their people and come down from their high pedestals. They have the natural charisma! Charisma brings them closer to their people. It brings them popularity and it takes them up. Pride takes them away from people, gives them negative publicity and pulls them down. So charisma is what political leaders need to develop instead of pride!
And that brings us to the final deadly sin that every political leader, much like they say in most religions, should avoid. The sin of wrath. As political leaders, they must realize that wrath is a waste of time. It destroys. Not just the person on whom you want to take out anger, but it also destroys yourself. Wrath is what the incompetent possess. The ones who are not confident of their own skills use wrath to try and destroy others. Those who are confident of their own competence – the virtue that represents the final C – would never use wrath. They would rather use their own competence to win the battle. They are not bothered about destroying others or focusing energies on negativity. They keep doing their work with their own competence and win the war.
That, my friends, is what political leadership all about – avoiding the 7 keys sins that most religions also talk about, and instead developing the seven winning virtues, or the 7Cs, to lead their countries towards a better future. That’s what great leaders like Gandhi, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro, George Washington, Lenin, Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara were all about. Their lives are a lesson in avoiding the 7 deadly sins and delivering on the 7 winning virtues! May a day come when Indian leaders are full of these 7 virtues and devoid of the 7 sins!
- 11 December 2011 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics