Times change. Situations change. Realities change…But there’s one thing that never changes – an ever-present and an ever-pressing need for good leaders. No society is capable of attaining its true potential without great leaders leading the way.
There are many myths when it comes to leaders and leadership. The biggest and the most common of them all is that a leader is someone in a position of authority, i.e. someone with a title. That is a fallacy! For a leader is neither anointed nor appointed. A leader is someone who holds a dominant or superior position within his/her field [and which not necessarily stems from the title he/she wears], and exercises a high degree of control over others. However, this dominant position does not imply that a leader “dominates” his/her followers. Leadership stands for due influence, not undue power. In fact, the former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower often joked: ‘You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.’ A leader, therefore, is someone who “inspires” others to follow in his/her path…someone who guides us, motivates us, and mentors us.
A leader is a powerful force. He has the power to inspire humanity to its highest glory and the power to flung humanity to its most deplorable depths. In fact, as history bears witness, leaders have often held the key for both the society’s progress and its regress. In other words, while a leader like Hitler led one race to commit unspeakable crimes against the other race, leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi inspired the masses to stand in solidarity with all men – irrespective of their caste, colour, or creed. In other words, while one inspired violence, the other(s) inspired peace. These leaders, therefore, are each other’s perfect antonyms.
As is obvious, a leader – depending on his own personal convictions – can either show us the way or lead us astray. Hence, all societies – irrespective of circumstances – crave good leaders. Individuals who can be trusted and who can inspire a nation to rally behind them.
And that brings me to the second myth concerning leadership, that is: ‘Leaders are born.’ When one hears of names like Gandhi, Mandela, King, etc. it makes us believe that these individuals were ‘destined’ to be leaders. That is not just a fallacy, it’s an inexcusable excuse. Truth is, leaders – whether it was King or Gandhi or Mandela – were not “born” leaders. Their circumstances and personal convictions led them down the path of leadership. Hence, all of us have the power of transforming ourselves into good and great leaders. Through that, we have the power of becoming effective agents of positive change – in our own lives, in our own organisations, in our own families, in our own communities, and in our own countries.
And in a young democracy like India, this dearth of young leaders (atop the leadership ladder) is a serious concern. This is because for a country like India to grow, we need our young Turks to step forwards and take the reins – be it Business or Politics or Arts or Sports. Although, when it comes to Business, things are indeed looking bright since many young guns are taking charge, which is evident from the numerous start-ups that are making news. Be it the Bansals of Flipkart or the Bansals of Snapdeal, young entrepreneurs are making their presence felt and not just locally, but internationally as well. In fact, Forbes – in 2014 – included over 20 Indian-origin young entrepreneurs in its annual list of the world’s “brightest young stars” under the age of 30, who were described as “prodigies reinventing the world right now.”
In fact, according to Forbes: “This is an exhilarating time to be young and ambitious. Never before has youth been such an advantage. These founders and funders, brand builders and do-gooders aren’t waiting around for a proper career bump up the establishment ladder. Their ambitions are way bigger…and who are doing exemplary work like founding learning enters in India, or establishing a software company that helps teachers track classroom behaviour.”
It is this momentum that India aspires for in all realms, especially politics. This is because while 70 per cent of India’s population is below 40 years of age, 80 per cent of India’s politicians are over 70 years. In fact, most retire from politics only when death declares their demise. After all, how can these ageing and ailing relics understand the issues faced by the youth. After all, only the one who wears the shoe knows where it bites.
Similarly, we need young leaders from all walks of life. This is because as members of the human race, we are social animals who need to stay in a large group. And as soon as we begin to stay in groups, we need a structure to survive. It is leaders who provide this much-needed structural support to society, which in turn is the prerequisite for all societal progress. Hence, a country that lacks good leaders is dissatisfied at best, and at worst it’s staring at a state of anarchy.