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The real leader does not need followers
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): What is leadership?

Questioner (Q): The quality to lead others.

AP: Why must I be interested in leading somebody? Don’t I have my own life to live? Why must somebody be interested in following me? Doesn’t he have his own intelligence?

Q: Sir, leadership is also taking initiative.

AP: Taking, Initiative, you take initiative. For example, you take initiative to speak right now, showing leadership, right? Which is wonderful. Where are followers in this? But yes, looking at you, others may know that this is possible. One person is asking a question, and that may open up the possibility for others as well. Now you didn’t want followers, did you? When you spoke these words, did you want followers? But your words may just happen to inspire somebody.

Leader doesn’t care about followers. Followers come on their own if they have to.

The leader is happy living his own life. However, they may be another condition, where the followers may be necessary. For example, I want to wage a freedom struggle and it becomes meaningful only when lot of people participate in it, only when there is a huge crowd. Here, I may look to mobilize public opinion. Here, I may want that others may know what I am trying to say. So that there is a great mass of people who are crying out for freedom. In that case, yes, I will look at other people, I will try to say a few things to them.

But even there, I will not become dependent on them. Even there, leadership will not become dependent on followers. What happens if the followers don’t listen to me? Will I give up? No, I will continue on my own. Solo. The common perception of leadership that we have is nothing but ego- that I am superior, I am enlightened, I have something to give and you all follow me. And not only that, there is a great competition as to who will have more followers. So, time and again, you keep looking back over your shoulder, counting the number of followers you have. 400, very good, how many more can you have. You know, just as you count Facebook likes and all. Wonderful, 42 likes. So, leaders keep counting their followers. Don’t you see? Religions keep counting- how many people we have. Political parties keep counting, how many votes we get. There is a race.

This is not leadership. This is some rotten thing. Do not think of it as leadership.

And when these leaders, so called political leaders, when they have their rallies, they book entire trains to get their followers. And from remote villages, entire truckloads of followers are coming. And why are they coming? One small bottle of desi alcohol is sufficient. Come, we will give you Rs.20, and they will come. You know followers are so important, they must be there at any cost. Spend some money, you will get followers.

The real leader is essentially Self-centred. He does not look at followers. Followers may be there but they are incidental. Do you understand ‘incidental’? Essentially Self-centred, incidentally with people. Even if followers are not there, he will be a leader. I write a book today, which nobody understands. I am a scientist, doing research in my remote laboratory and nobody understands my research. Am I not a leader? If leadership is taking initiative, am I not a leader? It doesn’t matter whether you have followers or not.

Leadership is doing what you must. Also see the trick in this. If a leader must have ten followers, then in a group of eleven how many leaders can be there? If a leader must have ten followers, if you are a leader only when you have followers, then in a group of eleven at max, how many leaders can be there?

Q: One. (everyone)

AP: One. Then you are condemning the other 10 to remain perpetual followers. That only one can be leader, and the others will be like—you have seen these mice, running after that Pied Piper of Hamelin? You remember that image? So, he is going in the front and he has his pipe, and he plays his pipe and there is this long train of mice who are coming after him. This is our conditional model of leadership. So, there is one leader and there are so many mice behind him. You want to be mice?

Q: No sir.

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