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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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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