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“Essentially, followership is the willingness of people to adhere to a leader's direction and path. People will follow those leaders who, they perceive, provide them a means of achieving their own desires and wants.”


The Nature of Leadership (ISKCON Leadership - Part II)
By Yugala Kishora dasa

All glories to Srila Prabhupada. This essay is presented at the lotus feet of the devotees for their consideration and review. My attempt is to provide some help in obtaining a better understanding of leadership issues and to improve the relationships among ourselves.

The Nature of Leadership

In our previous essay (ISKCON Leadership Part I), we briefly mentioned the issue of followership. In this second part, we will somewhat expand this rather most important aspect of leadership. We can not help it but to emphasize that the most basic and invariable nature of leadership is followership. Evidently, a leader without followers is not a leader.

What is followership? How can we define it? Essentially, followership is the willingness of people to adhere to a leader's direction and path. People will follow those leaders who, they perceive, provide them a means of achieving their own desires and wants. This relationship between leadership and followership is an intricate one and is substantially related to motivational theory. By understanding individual and group motivation theories, leaders/managers can better understand their subordinates' wants or needs and why do they act as they do within organizational settings.

The relationship between effective leadership and followership is directly proportional. Therefore, since what makes a leader is the existence of followers, a leader should be impartially judged by his ability to attract, train, educate, coach, inspire and retain followers. Moreover, the most important job of a true leader doesn't end at this stage: he ought to be able to turn followers into future leaders. Srila Prabhupada built the International Society for Krishna Consciousness using this approach. He trained devotees who later on became leaders of other devotees. This is what preaching Krishna consciousness is all about. Prabhupada's leadership is certainly shown by his expertise in making devotees, who could make other devotees. Not only he had the sakti to attract followers, but he also expert in turning them into preachers themselves. Owing to his ability to make other leaders, the Society has been functioning after his disappearance. And this job now belongs to the current leaders. They will demonstrate their ability as full-fledged leaders when - upon retiring or otherwise - they will be able to leave a host of capable leaders who will carry on the mission of our founder-acarya. Our current leaders will have done a great service by the quality and expertise of the leaders they presently forming.Management versus Leadership

Theorist have studied management as a process which is composed of planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling. I have isolated the leading component from the other four elements, which are beyond the scope of this essay.

Oftentimes we see that some individuals are regarded as leaders, even though they are not managers. This implies that a leader is not necessarily an appointed manager, but rather emerges from the organization in which he works. Nonetheless, managing and leading an organization are entwined, and therefore understanding both systems of behaviors is necessary for the effective running of an organization.

ISKCON devotees who are in charge of administering the Society, from GBC members down to the first-line supervisors, ought to become effective managers and effective leaders, simultaneously.

Some may ask how do we distinguish between management and leadership? The simplest way to put is as follows: Management involves using various resources such as financial, informational, organizational and other assets that ISKCON possesses. Leadership focuses on getting the mission's objectives accomplished through other devotees. In other words, you manage things (programs, festivals, temple buildings, budgets, procedures), but you lead people.

From another viewpoint, management can be understood as a broader concept than leadership. Managers must - among different things - assess complex organizational problems, set goals, and develop strategies for accomplishing these goals based on available resources. On the other hand, leaders focus narrowly on interacting with people and influencing them to accomplish those goals, out of their own volition.

Clearly the managerial element of leading is substantially more complex and challenging than the other phases of the management process, for it involves human beings with tendencies, emotions, feelings, complex problems, traumas, differing needs, and myriad of other factors that are quite difficult to predict and work with. Our ISKCON leaders need to realize this important challenge and be ready to deal it.Leadership as a Skill

It can be said that leadership is a skill which seems to be a blend of two elements: (1) the capability to comprehend that ISKCON members are human beings who have differing motivating forces at different times, and (2) the capability to provide inspiration.

The first element refers to being aware of the motivation theories, the nature and strength of human needs. This enables the leader to define and design ways of satisfying them and to administer a system that will get the desired responses.

The second element refers to animate or to enliven followers to apply their full capabilities to their respective devotional services. While the use of motivators seem to center about subordinates and their needs, inspiration emanates from group leaders. They have - to some extent - a charismatic element that induce loyalty on the part of the followers.

The strength of motivation depends, among other things, on expectancies, perceived rewards, the amount of effort required, the task to be done, and other factors which are a part of the environment of performance. Organizational climate also has a significant impact on motivation. This awareness has led to considerable research on, and theories of, leadership behavior. Some scholars approach leadership as a psychological study of interpersonal relationships, and they tend to see the primary task of managers as the design and maintenance of an environment for performance.

Leaders must always exist in social life. Within ISKCON, those leaders who make the organizational roles more satisfying to participants and more productive for the Society are in fact effective leaders. Their effectiveness lies in that they can help the followers to fulfill - among other things - their desires for sense of accomplishment. Devotees need to feel that they are contributors to the mission of Srila Prabhupada. They need to be given some credit that makes them feel productive and effective participants, that they are making a difference, that they are part of the solution.

Probably the most fundamental principle of leadership is in understanding and identifying the motivational forces or drivers that propel followers' to higher levels of personal satisfaction in their services. The actions of leaders must necessarily reflect this understanding.

There are other approaches to the nature of leadership. One of the interesting descriptions related to this topic is the identification of at least three approaches to understand leadership. It has been viewed as (1) an attribute of position, (2) a trait or characteristic of a person, and (3) a category of behavior. From the point of ISKCON as an organization, leadership is regarded as a category of behavior, as something a leader does to influence the followers. Leadership regarded as an attribute of position and trait approach to leadership will be discussed in future essays.

ISKCON managers or administrators may have sound managerial skills, but may lack effective leadership. It is therefore imperative that they become aware of this difference. This will enable them to realize whether or not they possess the necessary traits, skills and characteristics of a leader. And if not, how they will acquire them. Being a good manager does not necessarily mean being a leader. Why? Because being good at managing resources of ISKCON does not mean being good at dealing with its human aspect, i.e., the devotees. For our societal relationships to be healthier, leaders have the obligation to be satisfactorily good at both, managing and leading.Effective Leadership Guidelines

Attitudes towards Followers:

1) Integrity. A leader places high priority on moral standards and himself and on those he is leading. This is so much needed in our Society. We represent the highest ethical values in any philosophical system known to mankind. We ought to live up to the expectations of our founder-acarya.

2) Fairness. He treats his followers with fairness. More often than not, people develop deep respect for those who treat them with fairness. Leaders ought to recognize that devotees in our movement do have a myriad of needs, and in order to help them fulfill their needs, they must be addressed with all fairness.

3) Confidence. A leader has confidence in his people and conveys it to their subordinates when delegating power or authority.

4) Reachable. Being approachable and friendly is a very important element in the communication process between leaders and followers. Communication is not a one way street. Leaders will not be able to lead unless they listen to their followers. Only then, leaders will understand their concerns, needs, problems; and subsequently on these basis, device programs or services for the community of devotees.

5) Assistance. He is eager to help subordinates to be more effective and works at removing obstacles to goal achievement. This item plainly indicates that politics has no place in the agenda of a leader. A leader's expertise should be sufficient to offer assistance to those he leads without any trace of political oriented decisions.

6) Supportive. In dealing with subordinates, leaders avoid as much as possible, ego-threatening behavior, and are emotionally supportive.

7) Participation. Leaders encourage subordinates to have participation in the solution of problems, where the subordinates' ingenuity can result in gains. Leader/managers should urge devotees to participate in decision-making, as long as they want to be part of the solution and are genuine in providing constructive suggestions or recommendations and only where subordinates perceive their participation is needed.

Planning and Selecting:

1) A leader has to be an effective and efficient planner of both short-range and long-range goals and their related contingencies. (More of this in future essays).

2) He/she selects subordinates with appropriate qualifications for the different services. For example, there is no point in pushing some individuals to do certain type of services, when they do not have the inclination to do so. This will avoid getting devotees fried and frustrated. As much as possible, leaders should match the right devotee with the right service.

Performance Standards and Appraisals:

1) Leaders work with devotees to help them establish attainable goals or performance standards in their different services and even their in own devotional lives, consistent with the mission of ISKCON.

2) Being objective when assessing or appraising the results of devotees' services. Leaders should make compensation allowances and/or promotion to higher levels of services, on the basis of performance and competence, rather than on personal preferences or power politics.

3) Leaders give recognition for good work. It is sometimes said that we must learn how to be humble and not to accept praise. However, this should not mean that leaders should be dry and never give recognition to devotees for their contributions in pushing on the Krishna consciousness movement. Small things like celebrating a devotee's service achievements (e.g., book distribution, hours of kitchen service or pujari service) will make them feel valued and will create an atmosphere of appreciation.

4) Whenever the circumstances allow it, leaders use others' mistakes as educational tools or as opportunities for learning; rather than opportunities for punishment.

© CHAKRA 02-September-2000

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