Inspired leaders develop compassion for others even when they don't have enough for themselves
Compassion is an inborn instinct in human beings. We all are interconnected and have the same ‘goodness' -- the life giving force within us
Albert Einstein once said: ‘A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty’.
The language of one’s heart is hundred times more powerful than that of his/her head (read mind). Organizations, communities and nations make progress when their hearts get aroused and they get inspired by their vision and goals.
Leaders with the beautiful ability to listen to what is said make for effective communicators. When they learn to step out of their own shoes to step into others’, they master empathy. When they feel what is unspoken, they understand others in deep ways that is special and creates lasting trust. When they are moved to alleviate the suffering of those in need, they truly become compassionate. Compassion is the highest form of emotional intelligence. And the practice of compassion requires us to be in touch with who we are and what we deeply care for. It calls upon us to break away from our need to be the ‘centre’ of the universe. For most of us, a large part of our life is spent on creating what we consider ‘enough’ for ourselves -- money, power, fame, et al. It is only after we have crossed this threshold that we begin to genuinely feel for others.
Inspired leaders develop compassion for others even when they do not have enough for themselves. They decide early what ‘enough’ for them is and do not make it a ‘moving target’. They always create opportunities to serve and help others even as they are looking after themselves.
Compassion is an inborn instinct in human beings. We all are interconnected and have the same ‘goodness’ -- the life giving force within us. When we see someone in need, our natural instinct is to reach out and help. I once went to a poor villager’s house and found he barely had enough food for his family, and yet he offered it to us as he considered guests as messengers of God. In India, we call guests Atithi that is someone who is an unexpected visitor and was not scheduled to show up on a particular date. Guests are God, as is said in Sanskrit “Atithi devo bhava.” This poor man was richer than many of the richest people of the world as he had the compassion to share even when he struggled to make two ends meet for himself.
Why do we lose touch with this goodness, which is within all of us? Why do we become selfish and disconnected with this force? This maybe because we did not get the right mentoring and upbringing at an early age. Those of us who were fortunate to get role models and who were truly compassionate, however, cannot help but be reminded of our being part of the larger ecosystem. My father was a civilian officer with the armed forces. We were six children and he struggled to look after all our needs with his modest income and yet he always donated 10% of his income to charity. This was a great example for us to emulate. All of us try and follow his example today.
And here, our educational system too has an important role to play. If we emphasize the power of ’giving’ and have projects in which students belonging to different stages of educational level, that is, from nursery to PhD, are encouraged to participate in such activities; they would develop their own emotional quotient (EQ) and ability to feel for others.
Organizations who know that community is as important a stakeholder as customers, their employees and owners make conscious attempts to set a discipline of the practice of compassion. They invest a certain percentage of their income towards serving the community and encourage their employees to participate in activities of community service. Some enlightened ones even have programs such as “Employee Social options program” or ESOPs, which encourage employees to invest designated number of days in working with NGOs.
The biggest gain of having a practice of compassion is the benefit that accuses those who serve and give. The tremendous feelings of well being that such actions generate make us feel good about ourselves. This makes us develop the ‘aura’ of positive energy which we take forward to all our encounters and relationships. The practice of compassion makes us better spouses, children, siblings, citizens, employees, followers and leaders.
And as Einstein said, this planet needs a conscious practice of compassion. It’s time that we made the work of leaders like Mother Teresa, His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Chinmayanandaji a part of our leadership responsibility. It is only then that we would become truly inspired leaders.