To Serve is to Lead
As I find myself in various conversations in my community revolving around the arts, the role of the artist, the yogic lifestyle, and how to inspire all to take some sort of step deeper into service, I see the great need for more conversations about leadership. Real leadership. Leadership that stems from a genuine desire to be a servant of the community, the whole community. How do we inspire, cultivate and encourage this type of servant perspective in our artistic and spiritual communities? What does an Artist or Yogic leader even look like? We see examples around us. Some more aware of their efforts and roles, and some unconsciously or unfocusedly doing the work needing done.
There is effort to build leaders from the business sector, which is important, but If we want to be a society that truly thrives and is adaptable, then this sort of artistic and spiritual leadership is imperative!
Studying several spiritual leaders such as Gandhi and Swami Krishnapada, and through discussions with local artistic several points have been coming up again and again. Perhaps it would be helpful to list a few of these traits common to the sort of servant leader a community needs to thrive. (in no particular order)
1. Servant Leadership
2. Often and continuous self-reflection
4. Encouraging the best in others
What is meant by a servant leader? A person who truly views their role as a servant to the community, and sees their strengths as service for the community, with the community is a servant leader. These persons realize that you don’t need to be the one out front to be leading, that you can be leading within, or even from behind the group. To keep the needs and dreams of the community always in sight when undertaking action, events, collaborations is absolutely necessary. Servant leaders always seek to inspire and cultivate more leaders, knowing that we can move beyond competition into abundance when others are empowered.
Often and Continuous Self-Reflection.
True leadership comes from living your life. Actions, words and lifestyle can all be in harmony through rigorous self-reflection. We must not be afraid to question our motives, our ideals, even our deepest held beliefs. Little is more powerful for a leader than to know when we are getting in our own way, or when our ego is shutting down opportunities, communication or honest growth. Self-realization should be a large goal for any leader. As it is said, to know oneself is true wisdom. When we look at our actions, reactions, and thoughts, fears, and hesitancies we learn invaluable information about ourselves which we can understand and work with. This effort helps our words to become clearer, our passions and actions to be pure and in step with our ideals and philosophy. The best leaders really live their message, as Gandhi repeated, “My life is my message.” With this process comes the ability also to actively be the changes one wishes to see. This sort of leader should never ask someone to do anything they would not themselves do, or that they are not already doing.
Giving thanks for the many blessings in our daily lives helps us to find the positive in any situation, i.e. a wider perspective. This allows us to put less stress on succeeding, per se, allowing a space to fail – a space to try, to learn, to get up again. As we realize the amazing progress being made in and by our community, we can appreciate all those who are playing their supportive and other leadership roles. Giving thanks and opportunity to those around us doing good works is more than just good teambuilding, but how a community is supposed to support and encourage itself! A daily gratitude practice gives us the strength to continue and get up again when challenges arise. It also helps the broader community to be inspired to keep working for the goal you have all outlined.
Encouraging the Best in Others
Everyone has a super special skill. Some people know their skills and have offered how they can be helpful. Others need some help finding it or being encouraged to bring that skill to the table. Servant leaders see the potential in others, and know that we are all made of the same Divine star-stuff. Clearly, we must do what we can to bring out the best of those around us. Sometimes this can be done simply through example, or by conversations. Sometimes it’s much more difficult. Regardless, a leader acts from a place of compassion and desire to understand and meet others where they are. When the community awakens to the idea that each member holds a piece of the puzzle, and that with all those pieces put together their goals will be clarified and made manifest. This helps people to feel genuinely appreciated and involved in the work that is being done. People will be invested in that which they have a hand in creatively building.
I cannot stress this attribute enough. Listening is loving. To listen to the community is imperative in finding out how you can serve them. Deep listening involves hearing the needs not being met. Without this effort, any leadership efforts are self-driven and ego-based, which can lead to power over people, instead of with people. It also leads to separation from the rest of the community. The servant leader knows the immense worth of each member, and that he must respect and honor the best in each of us. Listening is one of the most important skills for figuring out what is working and what is not, and how the genuine progress of a mission is going. It can allow for further self-reflection, and give a deeper understanding of how you be helpful to others.
These are just a few jumping off points to meditate upon and begin implementing in yourself, organization, community, or in any role you play. These attributes connected with a deep Love and carried out in the spirit of compassion can greatly transform all of us.