Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards
Chapter 17
Let’s Make ISKCON All It Can Be
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Part 2

Srila Prabhupada Has Given us Many, Many Guidelines and Advice for Leaders in His Books and Letters

Srila Prabhupada has given us many, many guidelines and advice for leaders in his books and letters. The essence is that our leaders should command respect and not demand it. This simple directive, if put into practice, would go a long way to bringing out the best in all of us. It would inspire the spirit of cooperation more than any other consideration, plan, or management method. We are all eager to follow, but not blindly. We want to follow leaders that lead by serving.

The book To Lead is to Serve gives us some eminently Krishna conscious advice and echoes both the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and his example in leading us:

If we want to lead, we must learn to serve. If we want people to follow us, we have to meet them where they are. Leading them means helping them to fulfil their needs. We have to meet them where they are and lead them to where we want them to go. In any area of our lives, if we want something to happen, we have to serve it. If we want grass to grow, we have to water it. Too often, leaders adopt the point of view that because they are in charge, they are supposed to get something from people. When we are in charge, we are the ones who must give. Anyone in a leader’s position must have the wisdom to attract people who are capable of directing others. This means selecting the right people and then allowing them to have a free hand. If we are too interfering, we will never attract competent people.

The entire earth runs on the principle of sacrifice. Everything that is created comes from the sacrifice of something else. Have you ever known a company or a project to succeed when there was no sacrifice? To accomplish anything, we must be willing to give. If we only focus on what we are going to get, nothing will grow.

One way to judge our effectiveness as a leader is the amount of honest feedback that we get…

If we do not listen to people, they think we do not value them. We do, so we must find time to listen to them. We cannot expect them to invest energy in our organization if we are not willing to invest our time in them. Listening is especially important when a person is upset. When something goes wrong, if there is a blow-up or feelings are hurt, it is easy for someone to say,” I am out here. I don’t need this.”

There is a story in the Talmud about a king and his son.

They loved each other very much but they could not get along, so the son left home and went far away. After a while, word reached the father that the son was not doing well. The king sent a message to the prince and said “Come home,” but the prince was too proud. He sent a message back to his father, “I cannot.”

Then the king sent another message saying “Just turn around and come as far you can, and I will meet you wherever you are.” This story expresses the essence of what it means to lead by serving.

So often, leaders expect people to be where the leaders are, the same level of commitment, the same level of interest. Sometimes we even expect them to know everything at the beginning. It does not work that way. We have to meet them where they are. People’s basic needs must be met before they can accomplish anything. We, the ones in charge, must give basic nourishment. We must look carefully at what people need in order to do a good service and we must serve them in all ways.

Stop worrying about, “What are they thinking of me? How am I doing? Instead, start asking, “What may I do for these people?”

Before we can attract new volunteers, we must be able to keep the ones we have by continually making them feel welcome.

Some can be told what to do and they do it. They go ahead on their own. While others need so much attention, so much coaxing, so much of our time to tell them what needs to be done. Others need a lot of praise. However, the result is that they all bloom. Volunteers are rare orchids. Each one needs something different and when we are in charge, we can serve them by giving them what they need.

Also, when you think about it, the things that are the hardest to grow sometimes end up being the most beautiful, if we are willing to put in our time and effort. One of the things that often happens in a busy organization is that the leaders get so involved in the work that they forget to do the watering. This is like the orchid man thinking his job was to bloom and look gorgeous. No! His job was taking care of the orchids so they could bloom. As the leaders, we can be the one who does the planting, watering, and background work to help other people bloom. We do not have to worry about blooming ourselves.

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