"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." (1)
True Leadership is a great Art, one that I find extremely fascinating. Over the years, I have often asked myself, "What is true Leadership?" When entrusted with the role of Temple President for ISKCON Zurich in 2007, I had not a very clear idea what it would mean to be a leader. Today, I know a little more, but I am still learning.
Even after resigning from the Temple President position two years ago, my journey in leadership has continued. Currently, I serve as the president of the legal society of ISKCON Zurich, lead meetings for the National Councils of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and fulfil the role of Zonal Supervisor for ISKCON Switzerland. Additionally, this year, I served as the Chairman for the Euro RGB.
Did I actively seek leadership? Not necessarily. I am more of an introverted person and I am happy with studying and teaching. But somehow, I always end up with Leadership services. Could it be linked to destiny or celestial alignments like the Sun and Mars coming together in the ninth house of my astrological chart? Perhaps.
But one thing I know, I certainly gained substantial insights through these years of leadership services. Today, I view leadership as a wonderful opportunity to serve devotees and cultivate personal growth. As Srila Prabhupada once wrote to a disciple: "So as President, now you will be forced to advance in Krishna Consciousness because you must always set the highest example yourself, and I think that this is Krishna's special favoring you." (2)
Understanding that in the near future I am meant to take up more responsibilities within our institution, I recently underwent a leadership training. It lasted nine months from January till September this year. Every Monday, I spent the entire day in a Leadership course together with a group of other leaders in the making. This training covered diverse aspects such as leadership competencies, leadership styles, group dynamics, communication models and techniques, self-management, time management, and conflict management. All the topics were really interesting and helpful. I learned a lot and I am really grateful for the insights I got.
What I liked the most was the module on Self-awareness. This course encouraged us to analyse personality types, self-image, strengths, weaknesses, values, behavioral dynamics, resilience, and frustration tolerance. For the exam, I had to write a lengthy essay on my own inner journey of transformation on all of these aspects of self-awareness. I find it remarkable that a secular leadership training program emphasizes these aspects of inner life and character building, underscoring the intrinsic connection between leadership and life itself.
We are all leaders in various forms. If you are a mother or a father, you are a leader. If you are an elder brother or sister, you are a leader. If you happen to have more know-how than someone in your field of activities, you are a leader. If you have more life experience than others, you are a leader. Especially as devotees, we are meant to lead others to a more meaningful way of life, so everyone of us is a kind of a leader in his own environment.
Having successfully completed this leadership training, I seek the blessings of all Vaishnavs to become a worthy instrument in the hands of the Lord—a true Leader who inspires others to become leaders themselves, in alignment with the wisdom shared at the beginning of this text: "Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."
1 - John Francis Welch Jr. (1935-2020)
2 - Letter to Hrdayananda, Bombay 4 February, 1972