It was wonderful to listen to some leadership practitioners and people who are trying to ‘disrupt’ the discourse on leadership over three days in New Delhi. The story of Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarathi, a dedicated and selfless activist, had a lot to teach. Shiv Khemka, Executive Chairman of The Global Education and Leadership Foundation, has taken up the cause of creating future leaders by setting aside resources from his global businesses. In the next 30 years, he feels that the world will need 500-600 Gandhis who should work together to bring about change. He believes in the four pillars of leadership, ie, the ability to lead, ethics, altruism and decisive action. He is in search of young people who he wants to invest in. As a member of Global Agenda Council on Education of the World Economic Forum, he is getting global practitioners to collaborate on how the transformation can be made especially at the bottom of the pyramid. It is inspiring to see people involved in various innovations in education and leadership, whether it be creating gaming apps to provide education to people who have been denied access, or work on the science of the brain to understand leadership.
What was most inspiring was the presence over 100 young people in the room who were curious to learn and hungry to be that person who will bring about change. These young people came from different social, economic and geographical backgrounds, but their common goal was to grow up to lead change.
Leaders and Followers
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati made an interesting comparison between a Global Positioning System (GPS) device and a leader. Like GPS devices, if leaders are not updated, they can regularly lead people to dead ends. The device might tell you to turn left and proceed but in reality you could be driving down a cliff. This really made me think about Nepal as to where our leaders are taking us. For instance, Nepal bandas have been a time-tested tool to put pressure on anything and everything, creating much trouble for citizens and huge economic losses. The fact that leaders of business organisation themselves indulge in it is best explained by the their comparison of the GPS devices and leaders.
Still, Nepal had its own moment of glory as Anuradha Koirala’s organisation Maiti Nepal was felicitated in the programme. Additionally, it was heartening to see young Nepali thought leaders like Pukar Malla speak of the Daayitwa Fellowship, which is not only helping young leaders to transform themselves, but also pushing the leaders they work for to transform different fields within politics and the bureaucracy. The story of Prakash Bista was very inspiring. As a young boy from Kalikot, he was dislocated by the Maoist insurgency, and lost both parents. But he went on to build schools and is now working with global partners to bring about change in education in the villages in Nepal. By the time he finished speaking he had all of us in tears.
Leadership discourses seem to have been globally recalibrated as young crusaders in new age organisations are drawing global attention to various issues in new ways. For instance, Wei Soo, the co-founder of Global Poverty Project, uses popular culture and music to put pressure on leaders to push for policies. The Global Citizen Festival in New York coincides with the UN General Assembly and the concert at Central Park draws hundreds of thousands of people and global leaders. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also used this platform to reach out to the global youth sometime back. The organisation was able to push the agenda of the Millennium Development Goals earlier, and is now focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Going by the way such organisations function, many organisations like the Rotary International will be forced to recalibrate themselves if they are to stay relevant.
The proliferation of technology has distanced us from human interactions. This has had an impact on human behaviour. The young are getting more and more aware of this phenomenon and are looking within themselves as they march forward in their quest to be change agents. The world of science and ancient spiritual practices are converging to help us understand ourselves better. While technology is helping people track the activity of brains and emotions, the age-old practices of meditation is allowing scientists to interpret brain activity better. With a little bit of investment, Nepal can have a competitive advantage by blending the spiritual and the scientific and can give its youth an edge in the global arena.
Until now, Nepali leadership discourse has been a one way communication between the leaders and the populace whose trust, belief and interest in the leaders have eroded. If only we could make our leaders stay silent for a while and listen the global discourse. It would definitely be a transformative experience.