As we enter the third millennium, humanity stands at the edge of a precipice. Humanity is faced by a range of seemingly insurmountable problems; uncontrolled population growth, diminishing resources, nuclear proliferation, racial antagonism, religious based terrorism, ethnic and territorial ambition, and the destruction of the environment. More importantly, our significant intellectual and scientific gains have failed to bring us any closer to achieving true civilization in which the inner human and spiritual needs of humanity have been fulfilled. Martin Luther King summed it best when he said, “We have guided missiles but misguided men.” We have achieved outer scientific and material progress at the cost of inner true lasting peace and spiritual fulfillment.
If we are to change the direction in which humanity is going, we will need a new kind of leader and a new vision of leadership to overcome these seemingly insolvable problems. That new vision of leadership must recognize that the real problems of humanity are not due to lack of intellectual, technological or scientific advancement but are spiritual and moral in nature. Albert Einstein who revealed theory of relativity and who made this nuclear age possible, once remarked, “I assert that the cosmic religious experience is the strongest and the noblest driving force behind scientific research.” The outer problems facing humanity are secondary or derivative problems—mere symptoms of a great disease. The cause of this disease is the illusion of separation, the notion that we are unconnected, independent beings whose particular welfare can be achieved at the expense of the general good. How can we avert and change the course of history if we do not change the fundamentals of our vision.
Leaders today must recognize that while it is important to make a profit in business we must align our actions with the long term principles of sustainability, integrity and non-injury. To put it more succinctly we should invest in our principles and not just our interests. What will the new leader look like? He or she will first seek to be the change he seeks in the world. He will embody in practice the principles he preaches. A true leader must lead by example and not precept. Second, he or she will reorganize that true leadership is not about being tough or soft, assertive or sensitive but about a set of characteristics first and foremost is character. It is not a matter of simply doing a thing right but about doing the right thing. Understanding the right thing to do requires we put aside our personal interests and do what is best for everyone. Simply having a position of authority does not qualify us as leaders. The true leader is a servant first. It is by serving others that we earn the right to lead others.
The true challenge of leadership today whether in the field of business, education, medicine, science or politics is to bring the greatest good to greatest number of people. It means we have developed through deep ongoing self-analysis and self-awareness the human attributes of humility, integrity, service and compassion. Such a leader will always act in accordance with the highest and noblest interests of all.
Singh, Rajinder, Discover the Divine Within You, Penguin Books, India, 2006, p 17.