Leadership’s Essence.

“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” — John Kenneth Galbraith, American economist, public servant & diplomat, 20th Century.


The outcome of the biggest democratic exercise the world has ever seen – the Indian Elections of 2014, is now known. After thirty years of coalition politics, the election has thrown up a decisive mandate this time with the main opposition party, BJP taking over. Come evening, the news channels continue to vie with each other as they analyse the underlying reasons which led to the 800 million eligible voters in the land vote the way they did.

The sense I get from the screen images and media language is of two contrasting approaches which found articulation in the campaigns.

Of the Ruling party, the Indian National Congress’ ad nauseam declaration of improving the lot of the dispossessed, the oppressed, the poverty stricken. Seeking the support of large swathes of people conditioned to portray and be portrayed as victims. People taken for granted as ‘vote blocks’ with the trigger in the hands of the political master.

Of the Opposition party BJP’s this time around targeting the emerging young, the first time voter, totally unencumbered of any baggage from the past. A very different kind of voter who is impatient, aspirational and keen to play a part in his / her own destiny. People who like to be engaged regarding their own development and creating new possibilities.

So what is it that has allowed the BJP gain such an impressive mandate and victory? As I think of this, I get the sense that the intrinsic thinking of people seems to have shifted. From a subsidy,’hand me down’ expectation to an aspirational mindset. From a passive, ‘I am a victim’ outlook to an active ‘I would take control of my destiny’ conviction. So how did BJP and its leader Narendra Modi harness this shift? I see two leadership aspects come into play.

Narendra Modi

First, the magic of a created future. A Future that excites both the Leader and the people. A future that beckons to all to come to live into. A future that is consistent with the leader and his past track record. A future that appears plausible to realise one’s dreams.

Second, that inner commitment to something bigger than oneself. A commitment that shapes the Leader’s thoughts and actions beyond any direct personal concern or payoff. A commitment that creates that certain ‘something’ in people around to which they themselves start to feel committed.

Could it be that Mr. Narendra Modi, the man who spearheaded the BJP campaign, was able to envision a future that wasn’t going to happen anyway? Could it be Mr. Modi emanated that aura of a higher commitment from which the aspiring masses could get the sense that their lives are indeed about something bigger than themselves?

In learning…….. Shakti Ghosal

Author: Shakti Ghosal

* A PCC Credentialed Leadership Coach. * A qualified engineer and a PGDM (Faculty Gold medalist) from IIM Bangalore. * More than three decades of industry experience spanning Engineering, Maintenance, Projects, Consumer durables, Supply Chains, Aviation and Tourism in the Gulf region and India. * Top level management positions to drive business development, strategy, alliances all around the globe. * A visiting faculty at the IIMs. *A passion to envision trends & disseminate Leadership incubation globally. * www.linkedin.com/in/Shaktighosal. shakti.ghosal@gmail.com . +91 - 9051787576

43 thoughts on “Leadership’s Essence.”

      1. My main take away was this: you are an observant, eager, and hopeful student of important political situations. Another take away was that John Kenneth Galbraith was probably the same. Thanks again!

      2. Thank you Dear Ann for your very generous acknowledgement. To bracket me with John Kenneth Galbraith… Wow! You surely have made my day!



    1. Judy,

      Thank you for your kind wishes.

      Having lived outside the country, for more than two decades, I am more of an observer and much less a participant in the created future of India. But overall trends and developments makes me remain hopeful of positive outcomes.

      Cheers and God bless!


  1. In continuation of my earlier observation I want to add further that a leader should be in a position to read the pulse of his followers and not the other way round.How many of us could thought that Pakistan PM will be invited by Mr.Modi. How many of us could guess what will be the fate of Mr.Joshi & Mr.Advani (another deciision of Mr. Modi)
    If followers could read the pulse of their
    leaders then he will surrounded by
    CHAMCHAS(yes men).These chamchas
    Will only pass thosr words which pleases the leader.Same thing has happend to congress leadership and that has caused its downfall.

    1. Dear Ashim,

      I would add that for true leadership to flourish, it needs to be built on the bedrock of Authenticity, Transparency and Integrity. I would venture to say therefore that just as the leader reads the pulse of his followers ( as you say), he needs to show up and act as he really is, allowing his followers to participate in the vision that he is holding.



  2. Once a group of studen in seventies visited china there they meet Chairman Mao Tsetung.During the course of the discussion he said that if possible then produce another GANDHI becuse he was the person who could read the pulse of his country man.(Heard in a university tea stall during my student days )
    Here is another Gujrati Bhai Mr. Modi who could read the pulse of his country man.

    1. Dear Ashim,

      Delighted to see you here and read your comment.

      You are right it does come down to “reading the pulse” of people on the ground. And this can happen when we are willing to come into the court and play the game rather than sit in the stands as an observer. Mahatma Gandhi was adept at doing that and we do hope so is Narendra Modi.

      Thank you once again.


  3. Hello!

    A very timely article it is. Media played a fantastic role in this election. Modi is a marketing genius. Apparently, Modi did a wonderful job in terms of development being the CM of Gujarat, and was able to sell his ideas to a great number of people who turned out to be his supporters. The slogan “ab ki baar modi sarkar” was everywhere.

    Rahul Gandhi did not portray himself as a good leader, and one of his interview, that was viewed by million of people, made it difficult for the Congress party to attain victory.
    Here is the link to that interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB_eWW5ttaM#t=225

    1. Hi Ramu,

      Thank you for the interview link. I of course had seen the interview earlier but other readers might find it of interest.

      You are right. I also believe that the core reason for Modi’s victory is the mindset shift from one of ‘getting hand-me downs’ to that of firing up of people’s aspirations.



  4. Congress leaders were so disconnected with the youth of the country who were dismayed with the state of affairs. Today, people are very demanding and India, as a nation, deserve a chance to make things better. As much as I disagree ideologically with BJP and Mr Modi, credit goes to them for making a resounding campaign on social media that tapped young voters. What matters is all-inclusive growth for a better India. The campaign serves a lesson: If you don’t perform, you’ll be booted out of power and it applies to the BJP also. I hope change happens from within!

    1. Dear Vishal,

      You use the word ‘Deserve’ in the context of what India and all Indians are looking for.I believe there is a significant mind shift, mostly in the aspiring young, to become a stakeholder in the process of making things better.They have therefore supported the individual and the political party who, they believe, can usher in an environment which would enable them to do so. This enablement would allow access to what people believe they deserve.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.


  5. You give me hope Shakti that we ARE able to see our way out of the darkness at long last! I pray for the same results over here in 2016…Out with the old establishment and in with the fresh energy of the new. The great mother is asking us for change to save the world. It is up to us to deliver. So glad you guys have made the first step! Blessings to you….VK

    1. Hi VK,

      To be truthful, I have been a mere observer to the change that India has been witnessing in its political landscape. Can I be certain that the Change that has occurred would usher in a better situation? Certain NO, Hopeful YES.

      My post was really about certain aspects of Leadership that I could see unfolding which, to my mind, contributed to the election results.

      Thank you VK for taking the time to comment here ( as you always do my friend!). I reaaly appreciate.


  6. Well I think MEDIA helped a lot tooo .. with the MODI mania all over and if you see there is a vast majority of people in our nation who (how do i say are basically SHEEP).. and i say that without any ill thoughts .. they will vote for anyone and since it was modi mania .. they all voted for Modi..

    secondly people were tired of congress so that helped BJP too .. as there is hardly another national party other than congress and bjp.. and it was this ANTI congress Movement that helped BJP more .. if congress had performed just a bit more , then bjp would have had less chance to win.. that is a fact..

    COmmon man doesnot know how to vote.. end of the day even if the court has declared Modi innocent we all know what all goes behind the scenes .. so if we look we have again voted for a TAINTED person and made him the PM… I dont care if MODI is good or great and what not , a tainted person is a tainted person .. we made him the pm ..

    so thats how we are .. even if Modi had been proven guitly he would have still won this election ..

    1. Hi Bikramjit,

      In a complex and multifaceted event like the Indian elections, I remain certain that myriad aspects, influences and perceptions would have contributed to the result that was finally obtained. And yes, there does exist the widely -held view that MODI is a tainted individual.

      To my mind however, what mainly supported Modi was the way he occurred to large swathes of voters in terms of his ability to create an empowering future and displaying a selfless commitment to something bigger. These are two core essences of what Leadership is all about. This is also what I have articulated in my post. As to whether MODI and BJP would deliver on these aspects, only time will tell. However, in the interest of our land and people, I remain hopeful that he will.

      Thank you for your very considered opinion here. I appreciate.


  7. Its interesting isn’t it Shakti, how elections are taking place all over the world at the moment and how radically the swing has been to parties not considered in the running before.. I do not know enough about the history of your own countries parties, but can see how people are obviously discontent with the way things are run..
    France was a shock and also here in the local EU elections people are seeing that those who hold so much power and rules are no always for the good of the little person.. So using the vote is a way of expressing CHANGE..
    We are seeing Change happening now so much more quickly, and yet as we sit amongst it we are not taking an overview of what is happening world wide..
    Its good.. All good.. for it shows we are thinking beyond .. You used this word.. ‘Shift’ ed’ in your sentence here
    “I get the sense that the intrinsic thinking of people seems to have shifted. “…

    Yes it has and its going to gain momentum, People are gradually seeing things from a different perspective, and when we all ‘Shift’ our way of thinking, then we embark upon a New Chapter in how we run our countries and how we start to encompass and bridge the gap between Prosperity and Poverty…
    I pray that day is around the corner..

    I enjoyed reading as always your posts make you think!

    1. Dear Sue,

      I too believe that technology is playing a hugely enabling role to improve consciousness and possibilities. This is what is accelerating the ‘shift’ in the societal thinking. Technology also breeds transparency which leads to more accountability and the consequences thereof.

      Thank you for your kind acknowledgement and the lovely comment. I appreciate.


    1. Dear Monu,

      Thank you for the comment.

      Beyond ‘hoping’ for the best, how else could we stand in the cause of the matter? This is but a declaration and has less to do with becoming responsible. But it does allow us to shift out of the ‘victim’ mentality we frequently find ourselves in when confronted with situations not within our control.

      So Monu, how could YOU stand in the cause of the matter?


      Shakti Ghosal

      1. Kaku….. from a political angle, general public has very less scope of being a “player”….whatever the politicians decide for the public , we have to follow….there is nothing much one can do…But yes i do feel that as citizens we do need to be aware of our rights and duties like paying taxes on time, not bribing ,following govt. rules and stuff like that is what the general public can do….

        I do all the above mentioned things honestly…..

        Hope i have understood it right???


      2. Dear Monu,

        It is really not about how much of scope each one of us has of being a ‘player’. Success belongs to those who ‘play’ the game as a natural self expression and based on fundamental values that they hold. Such people choose to be “cause in the matter” as they focus on all possibilities of ‘Being’ and action.They do not allow themselves to be constrained by how much scope or control they may have or not have in a situation.

        Monu, what could you do to shift your mindset to be such a person?



      3. Kaku….the answer to the question put up in the last para lies in the second para….and i do agree with u as what all u have mentioned resonates with me……but this kind of psychological state comes with loads of experience and maturity which cannot be found in people who follow the HERD MENTALITY……once in a lifetime comes a politician …rather a statesman…who lives his life from this state…only people like these can do good to others and not the rest….and as far as the young india is concerned….they still have to go a long way to know,decide and take rational outlook to life no matter how HARD it is….


      4. So Monu, what really is at the core of this “Herd Mentality” you speak of? How is such a mentality seen to be serving? What kind of inner commitments lead to acquiring such a mentality?

        You say ‘ ……..once in a lifetime comes a politician …..rather a statesman…..who lives his life from this state……” Have you wondered what is it that creates such an individual? What could we do to support more people to develop likewise?



      5. Kaku….herd mentality is basically the outcome of lack of individuality….in india people from a very young age are discouraged to be an individual rather they are told to follow others as it offers security and a kind of comfort zone….this causes irrepairable psychological damage and stops growth from within as the individual lacks courage to try anything new and experience things from his own view point…..

        Secondly this individuality is what is to be cultivated ……it is this quality from which other virtues follow and makes a person a statesman….then he is not a politician anymore…he rises to the state of being that u talk about…

        Obviously what i wrote cant be taught by others but comes from self analysis and observation…which in turn makes a person experienced , mature and last but not the least an individual leader….

      6. Monu,

        That is a great perspective and I need to acknowledge you for that.

        You say, “….in india people from a very young age are discouraged to be an individual rather they are told to follow others as it offers security and a kind of comfort zone….this causes irrepairable psychological damage and stops growth from within …”

        My questions. Which part of the society is responsible for doing this? What is at the core of such belief? What could be done to shift from that?



      7. Kaku…there are no parts of society as such rather most of the kids are brought up that way and that is the only reason why india lacks individuality…..again the reason for this kind of upbringing lies in security and comfort zone….as walking individually means facing everything alone and also to be fully responsible for ones actions which sounds scary to everyone and also if a kid is allowed to be an individual then he will rebel against the ills of society which is also not welcomed by anyone……

        Lastly …only self analysis can save the individuality…..

      8. Monu,

        The reasons you proffer would apply to most countries and societies in the world. They are fairly general and by no means can be attributed solely to India. So clearly there has to be a differentiating factor which, as you say, is repressing the intrinsic individuality waiting to blossom in the Indian young. So what would you say that factor is, can you recognize it? And as you recognize it, what could you do about it?



      9. Kaku…no society is perfect….niether east nor west….but in east the repression is more compared to the west…..in the west the percentage of people with individuality is more and in the east it is just opposite. If u look at the countries u will very well understand how the people are..i mean their attitudes,behaviours and standard of life and level…..the countries and the societies are basically a mirror of people living in it…..

        In the west it is more of expression, experience and space that forms the foundation of human being….and in east it is repression and blind obedience…..

        And as far as doing is concerned…kaku to be brutally honest with u ….no one can change anybody ….especially if they are not willing to…no one can go door to door to change other people. If people dont grow up themselves and see their own faults and change them then no one else
        can…..this is the differentiating factor that u talk of…in the west people are mature enough to see their own faults and change them but in the east people….rather generations after generations are fed on wrong concepts that are neither tested or experienced but are just forced to believe just because of a pseudo comfort zone and security they offer….

        Hope this much helps….

        Take care


      10. Monu,

        Thank you for continuing to bring in such thoughts into this debate. I appreciate.

        Would you say that the difference that you see between the Western and Eastern mindset is from the stage of evolution each society is at, at this point in time? If this hypothesis were to be true, it might just be that over time, both societies might reach a common ground as they continue to evolve through ‘learning’ from each other.

        Why do I notice such a fatalistic mindset in someone as young as you? It is the young who, bereft of the baggage which older folks like us carry, should be taking the world forward as they envision possibilities.It really does not need a mindset of “..no one can change anybody ….especially if they are not willing to…no one can go door to door to change other people…” as you say. What is required is for each one of us to be accountable for our ownselves, hold ourselves thus and declare, ” We will be the Cause in the matter.” We need to be the Change first and foremost before we moan and groan of ‘what we feel others should have…’

        So Monu, what could you do going forward? What declaration are you willing to make?



      11. Kaku….i do agree with what u said in 2nd para….western people have evolved earlier but they did that on their own…by recognizing their faults and the need to change them …now if we compare it with indians they are niether recognizing their faults nor feel any need to change them….some changes maybe seen but that is merely on surface..utterly superficial….borrowed from west.. rather copied…. not their own invention or discovery.

        These two societies may or maynot meet, that only time can tell…even if they meet indians will always be superficial….will go on copying them rather than becoming the change that they see….

        Now the 3rd para…kaku indians have degenerated…they have lost all sense of purpose and individuality needed for a healthy and fulfilling life……that is why all the negative news that u get from media about india like corruption, rapes , murders and suicides arising from lack of lifes purpose and stagnation of life….

        After all this can u xpect to have a rosy mindset???

        All this is because indians dont use their brains ….all are blind..maybe not physically but mentally…

        And i am not blind….. the problem with me is that i can see reality as it is ….without any distortions….u do have the freedom to call it fatalistic…

        The last ending 11 lines of the 3rd para is what i will give as an answer to question u r asking me in 4th para….

        Take care

      12. Hi Monu,

        When we allow outside situations and other people’s actions to affect our mindset, do you realise what is happening? We are willy nilly allowing control of our thoughts and actions to go away from us to someone else. Do we really want this outcome?

        When you say, “… i can see reality as it is ….without any distortions…..”, do you really think this is true? Each one of us in fact see our own reality. And when both of us ‘see’ the same situation or event, do you know that we see it differently? Like seeing the same outside scenery through different windows. You see a certain part of the totality which I do not and vice versa. Do you know what makes this happen? This is because each of our perceptual lenses is different, unique to our self and is made of a network of unexamined ideas, beliefs,biases, prejudices, social and cultural embedded-ness, and taken-for-granted assumptions through which each one of us interprets and interacts with the world, other people, and our own self.

        Therefore to hold the belief that ” i can see reality as it is ….without any distortions…” would be to delude ourselves and get even more enmeshed in our biases and prejudices, thereby reducing out opportunity set of action and change.



      13. Kaku….that brings both of us to my first post on ur blog which said only time will reveal the reality…..lets see and hope for the best of all….


      14. Monu,

        So we have come full circle have we? Hope the ride was as enjoyable for you as me 🙂

        Having said this, what has been your takeaway from our conversation thread?


      15. Enjoyable???…. i always have a blast talking to u ……

        My takeaway would be that if man cant solve anything then it is best to leave it to time….as time is a great doer…..much more than we humans think us to be…..

        Luv and take care…..

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