Leaders in any field of activity – be it politics, religion, business or any other sphere of life – have an important role to play in their respective areas of influence. Pioneers of the society blaze the trail and pave the way for others to follow. A leader motivates his adherents for realising their full potential ; and guides them in channelising their energies in the right direction. In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna has discussed in detail the role of a true leader.
Though as a whole, Gita is a work of inspiration and exhilaration, shlokas from 3.20 to 3.26 deal specifically with the subject of leadership. It has been stated that common people follow the great men in their footsteps. Whole of the world pursues the standards set by such respectable human beings, through their own behaviour. As the common people emulate the actions of the men of eminence, they have been urged to lead by example. A leader should set good example, through his own actions, for others to follow.
When virtuous people are in the forefront, there is natural moral and materialistic upliftment of the society. On the other hand, the absence of principled leadership results in societal degradation. The righteous people have a duty to instil a proper value system in the ordinary people. Krishna has, therefore, exhorted the men of wisdom to work for setting an ideal for the world at large. Instead of working for their selfish purpose, they should work for the welfare of the general public. As the unlearned work only from attachment to their work ; similarly, the learned should act without attachment, just for the benefit of the common masses.
It has also been advised that no wise man should snub an ignorant person who has as yet not realised his true nature ; and is, therefore, attached to his actions. Abrupt repudiation of the working of such an unrealised person can only cause confusion in his mind, inducing him to either stop work or move in an entirely wrong direction. If the belief of such people in the selfish action is shaken, without their having cultivated a firm faith in the higher principle of unselfish action ; then they shall have no support system to fall back upon. Hence, the mind of the common man should not be unsettled in any way. Instead of disrupting the normal activities of the common people, an enlightened person should himself work in such a selfless and diligent manner that the ignorant being is inclined to follow him, in his behaviour. In this way, the ignorant being elevates himself, bit by bit. A true leader thus demonstrates by his actions, how everyone can work towards a common and a shared purpose.
Even the ones who have achieved the pinnacle of success in the material as well as spiritual field must continue to perform their natural duties, to show the right path to others. In this regard, Sri Krishna has quoted the example of Janaka (the king of Mithila) who even after attainment of perfection, continued to discharge his worldly responsibilities sincerely, for the betterment of the world. Such leaders earn respect and trust of his people.
Krishna has further elucidated the concept of leadership by his own example. Being the Supreme Lord himself, neither is he in want of something, nor he has a need to obtain anything. Therefore, no duty is prescribed for him. He is not required to perform any work. Yet, he remains ever engaged in incessant activity ; because if he failed to engage himself in right action, even in that case people would in every way follow his path. If he ceases to work, whole of the world would be ruined. He would be at fault for creating such chaotic conditions. He would thus be responsible for destroying the peace of all beings.
Thus, it has been made very clear in the Bhagavad Gita that no one, howsoever high and mighty, is exempt from the doctrine of cause and effect, or other laws of nature. Even the Supreme Lord while appearing on the earth in his human form as Krishna had to perform duties appropriate to his position in the society. Even he could not escape from accountability for his non-action or any of his wrong actions.
The one at the helm of affairs has to be truthful to his people. He has to follow the rules created by himself. Any leader, thus, must work tirelessly, not for any selfish purpose but for the larger good. He must lead by example, by practice and not by mere preaching. Moreover, he must always be prepared to own up the results of his actions. He must not only be able to acknowledge but also take responsibility, for any failure.
To put it in the language of the corporate world, the team leader must always keep his team motivated. Instead of rebuffing the under-performers, he should guide them by his own behaviour and encourage them to improve slowly. Every effort must be made to achieve the targets fixed for himself and his team. At the same time, he must be prepared to apportion generously the credit for successes, and own up humbly the failures of the team he leads.