By Rohit C.
Real-life leaders have always fascinated us, such as the “Father of a Nation” - Mahatma Gandhi, “I have a dream”- Martin Luther King Jr, “Hero of South Africa”- Nelson Mandela, “The Greatest Statesman” - Winston Churchill, to name a few.
As legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.” What sets them apart is their character, creativity, competence, and charisma to be great leaders.
Leading by Example
The foremost quality of a leader is that they practice what they preach. They lead others by doing all of the things they advise others to do. The shining example in human history is of Mahatma Gandhi, who led the largest democracy of the world, India, to its freedom from British rule. Gandhi was the epitome of simplicity; his simple life attracted millions of Indians irrespective of their status and beliefs to join hands to fight for a common goal. He led a life of a poor Indian, dressing with bare minimum clothes with no material possessions, setting an example for people to live a simple and meaningful life.
Empathy towards others builds a culture of trust and makes people feel comfortable. They are willing to share their concerns without fear. All it needs is an ability to listen attentively to those around and by doing this, leaders have a greater awareness of the people. “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Respect for others comes from self-respect. If we have a feeling of pride and confidence in ourselves, it becomes our nature to respect others. Treating others with care and compassion is the only honest way to gain the respect of people around us. “I don’t care if you’re black, white, short, tall, skinny, rich, or poor. If you respect me, I’ll respect you.” – Adele
A true leader believes in the power of love and not muscle power. They can use their great influence to push people to take the path of violence and hatred as a means of achieving their goals. History shows us many examples of leaders who thought it was right to force people to take up violence and the subsequent fatal results of their actions.
Leaders like Nelson Mandela advocated peace over violence and are a source of great inspiration for many in the world and South Africa. As a great leader, his actions and belief in non-violence transformed a country by breaking the shackles of apartheid to attain freedom for all based on principles of democracy. Black people rallied behind Mandela as he gave a message of peace and that the way forward was a path of reconciliation and acceptance between white and black communities. It shows the true strength of a leader that they can convince people to follow a path of justice with their hearts and their honest actions.
Be the Change you Want to See
If we desire changes in our world, we have to start with remaking ourselves. We can spend hours trying to change people around us, our friends, relatives, and colleagues if we feel they are impolite, hostile, selfish, and so forth. But we face denial, resistance, and stress as no one likes to listen to the hard truth. We think that if a person becomes nice to us, we will also show goodness towards them. But that does not happen. Why? Because we miss an important understanding that if we change how we behave with others, it acts as a strong catalyst for them to change their behavior towards us. By changing ourselves, we become a new person with a fresh pair of eyes and the change within allows us to take actions we were afraid of or never thought of while stuck in our old ways. More importantly, we can see other people's perspectives which helps us in getting a better understanding of the situation and accordingly taking actions to support them.
We can all see how little actions can lead to bigger changes that we never imagined in the first place. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, has done what many of us only think about or felt; how can we be the change that we want to see?
Climate change is real and happening at this moment as we breathe, still many in the world community see it as a showstopper to their country’s progress or an issue that is not so alarming and should be left for future generations to take care of! It was in May of 2018 that young Greta decided to raise her voice against climate change that was causing large-scale changes in weather patterns, a result of relentless human-driven emission of greenhouse gasses. What started as her solo protest in front of the Swedish parliament grew into a worldwide movement and became viral with the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. She has been able to inspire millions of students worldwide about the urgent need to address climate change and has received support from a wide spectrum of the global community. The world is now united in its focus and efforts to reduce carbon emissions to fight climate change. Greta has achieved significant success in raising greater awareness to address climate change urgently because of her strong inner belief that she can be the change! Greta was prepared to undergo hardships, face resistance, but never for a moment thought of backing down.
Time for us to introspect and decide as to how we can be the change we want to see. There are many ways we can do our bit for society. If we care for our planet and want to reduce global warming, we can find ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, like putting up solar panels, planting trees, eating seasonal veggies, driving less, conserving water, reducing waste, and so on.
The onus is on us for the change we want to see in the world and not the public institutions or political leadership. We do not need massive changes, but small consistent steps. To become good citizens, we just need to follow the norms of the society that is meant for the well-being of us all. If we want to build a community of happy and caring people, it should start from us and our homes where we live and spend most of our lives.