When I was asked to write a portrait of someone who portrays UN values, someone who works with Millennials, someone who innovates and disrupts the world we live in, I instantly came up with His name, H H Sri Sri Ravishankar. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, a spiritual teacher, and an ambassador of peace. His vision of a stress-free, violence-free society has united millions of people in the world over through service projects and the courses he has developed.
In 1981, he started the Art of Living Foundation, an international nonprofit educational and humanitarian organization with a presence in over 152 countries. He developed a powerful breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya that makes use of the relation between breath and emotions by including specific rhythms of breath that harmonize the body, mind and emotions and help individuals find relief from stress. In 1997, he founded the International Association for Human Values(IAHV), a humanitarian organization that advances human values in political, economic, and social spheres. He is also an author of several books on how to live a life of greater happiness and contentment and have numerous doctorates, honors and awards to his name.
Sri Sri has been a leading proponent of integrating ethics and integrity in business and government through major international initiatives and keynote addresses in international symposiums. A leading activist in human development and social transformation, Sri Sri’s initiatives include conflict resolution, disaster and trauma relief, environmental conservation, prisoner rehabilitation programs, youth leadership, women’s empowerment, campaigns against female foeticide and child labor, and education. Sri Sri has revived ancient techniques that were traditionally kept exclusive, and made them available to the world. Through personal interactions, teachings and humanitarian initiatives, Sri Sri has reached out to millions of people worldwide.
Three years ago, I attended a Leadership workshop called Management Development Program. The very first question asked of us was, who is your Leadership idol? I distinctly remember my answer being Sri Sri Ravi Shankar !
At that time, I had just had an opportunity to see Him twice. I didn't know much about the organization or its projects. Yet it was so clear and obvious to me that he was a stellar example of being a global leader, my idol ! Over these last 3 years, I have had the good fortune of being associated closely with the international efforts of the Art of Living Foundation and its sister organizations. I have been observing with overwhelming wonder how Sri Sri is inspiring millions of people globally to contribute to their surroundings while finding personal peace & joy. His effortless manner of helping people find a bigger life goal, to guide them to excel beyond their boundaries and to rejoice in the means as much as the end, has never ceased to amaze me enough!
Watching him lead, has helped me get profound insights into qualities of a good leader. The lessons are learnt every day and the learnings countless. Some of these have left a deep imprint on my mind. Based on these life lessons, enclosed are my 5 firsts of Leadership
Aglass of water is either half full or half empty. Or, it can be half filled with water and half filled with air!!!It is very easy to slip into a cynical mode of seeing the half empty side of everything. The more you see of life, the more you deal with different types of people, the'not possible' sometimes overrides the'possible'. As a leader one of the most important qualities is how optimistic you are. The leader’s optimism influences that of his followers and team. It can bring enthusiasm to handle the most difficult challenges and build perseverance to achieve the goal. An optimistic mind is a positive and productive mind. An optimistic leader inspires confidence in his team. I have experienced that working under optimistic bosses has made me more charged up to achieve my goals.
In his global service projects, Sri Sri and his international teams have encountered so many challenges. I have seen that no matter how big the challenge or uncertainty, Sri Sri is always so optimistic. His advice is to move ahead, things will work out. During the World Culture Festival in Berlin in 2011, when the efforts required were mind boggling and resources available so limited, he was the only one optimistic and sure of success. And what a success it was! This optimism has made the impossible possible and helped the organization reach out to & transform lives of millions of people around the world in just 3 decades.
Power of A+
Every team comprises diverse people with diverse qualities. Some of these qualities support the goal of the team, some of these don't. Every leader has faced moments of utter frustration where he felt that his team is not good enough ! Well, the truth is that it is almost impossible to ever get a team that will be "perfect". A good leader focuses on the"good " and "positive" aspects of his team and helps accentuate them. I call it giving the Power of A+. Identifying what are the good qualities in the person, nurturing them and exaggerating them. This will help every team member blossom to his utmost potential and contribute to the team goal in his/her unique way .
Again, I can think of no better example than Sri Sri who practices the Power of A+ . It could be a simple village woman, an unskilled youth, a person of any nationality/religion, an urban sophisticated executive or even a prison inmate- everyone is part of his team ! He finds something unique and good in each of them & they contribute in their own special way to his big vision. With infinite patience and perseverance he keeps gently coaching everyone to continue their efforts. Never once has he lost his cool or his faith in his team ! With this rehabilitated prison inmates have become social leaders, shy village girls have become ministers, uneducated youth have become successful entrepreneurs ! The stories are many- all due to the Power of his A + !
A leader cannot achieve his vision on his own. The bigger the vision, the bigger needs to be his team. A big team brings with it, its own set of complexities. It gets spread across geographies, time zones, cultures and sensitivities.
Different people with varying levels of abilities start becoming part of the team. An important aspect of being a good leader is his ability to trust his team. Trusting can bring deep rest to the mind and free it for more creative and innovative pursuits.
If a leader trusts his team, it can raise their level of contribution and commitment. It also fosters an atmosphere of trust within the team. A leader who cannot trust his team, will find that his time is squandered away in duplicating work & tracking his team not to mention spoiling his own sanity and the atmosphere within the team
Around the world people have experienced that Sri Sri places implicit trust in them. Sometimes more than they trust their own abilities !
A weak leader is so uninspiring. A leader who has the courage to stand up for what he believes in, back his team up and speak his mind can create a lasting impact. We have countless examples in the world where even heads of states get relegated to a mere position whereas a common man on the street can become a leader – the key differentiator could be their quotient of courage ! The courage of the leader can invoke unbelievably transformative behavior from his team. It can make them into leaders !
I have never seen Sri Sri hesitate to take a stand or fear speaking out his mind. He has disregarded the safety of his own life in visiting war or terror struck areas. Even when the whole world was dissuading him from going to Iraq, he went and met people there – that also in the red zone !
How committed a leader is to his vision and to his teams can be a key determinant of his success. A leader who keeps wavering or gives up efforts half way can never inspire confidence. Commitment is also a sign of a mature, serving mind set. A leader who can stay committed to his goal despite challenges and roadblocks reaches his summit chiseling his own persona along the way! A committed leader also sends a strong message to his team that they will be taken care of- no matter what. Sri Sri’s commitment to making this world a violence free, stress free society has lead to millions of people living a happy, peaceful life. Nothing has shaken this commitment !
This list of leadership qualities can be pretty long. These are my 5 firsts !
Its Sri Sri's
Ø Optimism - that I will continue doing good ,
Ø Power of A+-that makes me excel more than I can imagine,
Ø Trust – that I won't mess up !,
Ø Courage-to face the many challenges of our work
Ø Commitment -that he gave me a new life.
that keeps me going towards my life goal !