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21st Century Leadership

Some philosophies stand the test of time and when it comes to leadership,
Mahatma Gandhi's words- "You have to be the change that you want
to see" are as relevant today as they were 60 years ago when he
successfully mobilized millions of Indians at the grass root level to come out
of their homes and oppose the British oppression in India.

Gandhi faced a great challenge and overthrowing the British was not the
biggest one. His biggest challenge was to inspire Indians to feel and see
themselves as equals to the British despite the visible superiority of the
rulers. Mahatma Gandhi understood the intricacies of what is now labeled as
'situational leadership', very well. He was able to understand all the
factors in India's freedom struggle carefully - most importantly the
psychology of the people and he crafted a strategy that would not only
mobilize mass opinion in India and abroad against imperialism but would
also leave a lasting legacy, a philosophy that was later followed by many
around the world in their own struggle against oppression - from Martin
Luther King to Nelson Mandela.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose
sight of the shore. -Andre Gide

The 21st century is highly competitive and the way to survive is to reshape to
the needs of a rapidly changing world. Resistance to change is a dead-end
street. The truth is that the change that we seek begins with every single
one of us. We all have the power to 'shake the world in a gentle way' -
Mahatma Gandhi.

According to Whitman, Leadership entails painting a vision of where

you want to go, establishing priorities for getting there, building the
right team, aligning the organization, and holding people
accountable for results. It also requires an ability to communicate
effectively so that everyone is on the same page. In addition,
effective leaders create cultures where mistakes are acceptable.

The various leadership challenges India has to overcome in order become a

superpower started right from Mehrgarh (7000-3000 B.C.) through the
Golden age (Mauryan and Gupta period) to the Sikh empire which had a
glorious tradition of administration, scientific innovation and empire building.
A nation which had the largest city in the world, the best sanitation system,
people of high caliber and moral values. Indias greatness as a nation
emerged clearly.
During independence, the question raised was will India survive as a
nation, and today 60 years later the question being raised is will India
become a superpower.

The 21st century had somehow come to symbolize unprecedented hope and
promise. India's former Prime Minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi, was himself a
youthful icon, and the first leader to awaken these hopes by promising "to
take India into the 21st century". India today stands with legitimate
pride in what it has achieved so far. High rates of growth, sustained over
almost the entire course of the last decade, have made India one of the
main engines of growth for the world economy.

This change could not have come about without leadership. It happened
thanks to the era of economic reforms, which Manmohan Singh as finance
minister inaugurated in the early 1990s. The recent downturn in the global
economy, when India remained largely unscathed, is a strong testimonial to
the maturity of India's leadership. The current problems that India faces are
the lack of good governance, disunity towards National Issues and threats to
National Security.

Good governance implies an administration that is sensitive and responsive

to the needs of the people and is effective in coping with emerging
challenges in society by framing and implementing appropriate laws and
measures. It includes strict rules of accountability. Rulers must be strictly
bound by generally accepted norms and controlled by institutions to enforce

Lord Nolan has laid down seven principles of Public Life. These are:

Selflessness i.e., Holders of public office should take decisions solely in

terms of the public interest.

Integrity, i.e., Holders of public office should not place themselves under
any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations.

Objectivity i.e. In carrying out public business, holders of public office

should make choices on merit.

Accountability, i.e., Holders of public office is accountable for their decisions

and actions to the public and must submit them to whatever scrutiny

Honesty, i.e., Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private
interests relating to their public duties.
Leadership, i.e., Holders of public office should promote and support
principles by leadership and example.

In 1986, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was reported to have stated
that out of every rupee earmarked for the benefit of the citizen, only 15
paise reaches the beneficiary. So where does all the money go? The recent
impasse of the Parliament over the coal gate issue projected the
irresponsible nature of those who hold public office. While accepting the
CAG report, the elected representatives should protest for these issues, but
at the same time must not disrupt the Parliament, which has to take up so
many crucial decisions during its sessions. Through these disruptions, the
countrys exchequer is loosing crores, which are meant for the future
development of the country. The last time when the opposition blocked the
Parliament for 15 days, due to the 2G spectrum allocation, the national
exchequer wasted over Rs 95 crores. Holders of Public office should be
accountable for their decisions.

One of the elements of good governance is that the organizations should

follow the law of the land. The recent uprising of the civil society on the
garb of preventing corruption has been threatening the government to
change rules and law according to their whims and fancies. Even though the
government has constituted a machinery to enact new laws, civil society has
been threatening government to accept its own objectives. If every state or
organizations, take law into their hands, there is no room for the
government to enact laws and enforce them. Recently when a political
leader in Kerala was arrested for being a part of a conspiracy, the political
party created a total bandh in the state. This raises a question, Are political
leaders above the law of the land?

Threats to National security are yet another problem faced by the country.
The recent riots in Assam, Mumbai and Bangalore, have shown the
vulnerability of our national security. Electronic communication which is
considered to be the boon of the 20 th century has turned out to be a bane.
Wrong and distorted communication across the borders has created conflicts
among people. The communal forces also have also done their part in
creating havoc. Recently a political party created a hate campaign against
North Indians and non-Marathis, and the Supreme Court on Thursday struck
a patriotic note by saying that all of us are Indians and there is no
difference between people coming from various regions. Unless our leaders
create oneness in the minds of people, there is a constant threat to national
security which hangs like a Damocles sword in the country.
In a survey carried out as part of the study among cross sections of society,
poverty emerged as the biggest challenge followed by casteism, regionalism
and religious extremism, corruption, terrorism, and naxalsim, illiteracy and
disparity between the rich and poor emerged as major challenges. But
despite this, is there hope?

To impact as a leading power, India as a nation should address critical

leadership challenges:

Coordination, Integration and Implementation of Infra structure

projects to connect to the remotest part of the country, which would
pave way for development.
Improvement of functioning of monitoring agencies
Weed out corruption and bring in accountability at functional levels
Implement good governance

The principal task before leaders in government, business and civil society in
the next decade is to broad base India's Success Story. India will begin to
see miracle growth if it can rapidly transform agriculture and the rural sector
with enabling policies, infrastructure and institutional support, and
empowerment of local communities. Uneven growth of states like UP, West
Bengal should be addressed.

There are major new responsibilities beckoning India. The world economic
order is changing dramatically with the rise of Asia, especially the ascent of
India and China. China and India hold trillions of dollars in U.S. Treasury
bonds. While China is the largest holder with $1.1trillion as of March, 2011,
India follows with $39.8 billion dollars. When the economic order changes,
can the political order be far behind? And is India ready to play the
leadership role, regionally and internationally, as our country's growing
global profile becomes even more pronounced in the next decade. Our
political, governmental, business and civil society leaders will have to work
with a stronger spirit of partnership to enable India to assume leadership
responsibility on the global stage.

India can become a global leader in 21st century leadership styles and
approaches. To achieve this India needs to draw on the essence of its
spiritual cultural and teachings of yesteryears. While economic development,
reducing corruption and bringing the millions out of poverty are very high
priorities, it is also important that India learns from the errors of the
Western world and that fast economic development does not have to mean
materialism. If India can overcome the dangers of Materialism and "the
quick fix" it has the opportunity to show the world what 21st century
leadership is all about.
Finally to quote Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert
sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee to ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.