Leadership’s Essence Part 2

“The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
– Theodore Hesburgh, Priest & President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame.

On the Geo-political stage I have been witness to two distinct trends.

In the last month , we have had two important elections in which close to quarter of the world’s population voted. The European Parliament elections and the Indian National elections. Differing Geographies, socio-economic stages of development and compulsions. So how did these differences manifest?

Europe’s voting percentage dipped to 43; India’s went up to 67.

Europe seems awash with disillusionment and despair despite the support of some of the world’s most developed economies. In contrast, India sees green shoots of hope and possibilities in the face of more than 20% population struggling below the poverty line, high fiscal deficit and halting economic growth.

In Europe, support for the traditional and establishment parties have dwindled in favour of anti- EU radical groups. In India on the other hand, the votes have gravitated away from the extremists towards one of the main political parties.

A growing perception of a pan Europe crisis has led to the loss of faith in the competence and motives of the political leadership. Interestingly though, an equally high perception of an Indian development crisis seems to have led to renewed faith in the ability of the political leadership to sort out the mess.

What is it that makes the more socio-economically advantaged and aware folks in Europe react so much more negatively than their Indian counterparts?

I muse about the disparity of the reactions. I muse not to determine and assign cause for what might be going wrong or right. But to try and uncover what is it that really creates such disparity.

I come to the conclusion that it is all about how the situation occurs for folks. And the way the situation occurs actually goes a long way to determine the sense of well being folks carry irrespective of what their actual situation might be. This ‘occurring’ really is what leads people to act and articulate the way they end up doing. Simply put, if a situation occurs as threatening or detrimental to me, I act, behave and speak negatively, hunker down and avoid risks. On the other hand, when a situation occurs to me as holding opportunities and promise, I am positive, full of initiative and willing to take risks.

So what is it that can alter how a situation occurs for us? I believe this is where true leadership comes in. A leadership which creates an overarching vision of a Future. A created future that addresses the concerns of not only the Leader but all involved parties. A future into which everyone comes to live into. A future which allows everyone to act, speak and behave in the present in a way that is consistent with the future being envisioned and lived into. And this is when the magic happens. We begin to shift out of our directionless present day challenges and drudgery. Our mind and thoughts dwell less on these immediate perceived ‘negatives’ and more on the big picture vision we begin to hold of the future being created. Situations begin to occur more as opportunities that support our forward movement and less as energy sapping bottlenecks.

As I think of the above, I am left wondering whether this could be the way forward in the increasingly complex and fast changing world we inhabit. A near universal access to information, knowledge and the resulting transparency has become a great leveler. The traditional Leadership’s power base of knowledge and information control is fast eroding. Could Leadership let go of its obsession with power and control and embrace the work of co-creating with others a future which is not going to happen anyway?

In Learning………………… Shakti Ghosal

Author: Shakti Ghosal

* A PCC Credentialed Executive Coach mentor and trainer for leaders & performance. * A qualified engineer and a PGDM (Faculty Gold medalist) from IIM Bangalore. * Four decades of industry experience spanning Engineering, Maintenance, Projects, Consumer durables, Supply Chains, Aviation and Tourism. * 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.empathinko.in , * www.linkedin.com/in/Shaktighosal. shakti.ghosal@gmail.com . +91 - 9051787576

28 thoughts on “Leadership’s Essence Part 2”

  1. I think democracies only give leaders a chance when there is a major crisis. The rest of the time, only politicians survive, and progress is a muddle. As Churchill said, it is the worst system of government, except for all the others.


    1. Well, what you say, has been borne out repeatedly by history. But would you say this really is about ‘Democracy’ or how human society shows up in a moment of crisis?

      Great thought!



  2. Hey my friend…Great post. I have to say I fear it all goes back to money yet again. Money allows power to control and oppress the people and when they are oppressed their spirit is broken and their hope is extinguished causing their outlook on life to be viewed through a negative lens. You can be poor but still happy if you are free to do so, but to be rich and imprisoned is crippling. The desire for power and control it would seem stems from a lack within needing to be filled. Too figure out how the controllers came to think the way they do is where the answer lies and I have been trying to figure that one out forever. They think so not like the way I think, so much so it is mystifying. Is it morals they are lacking? A conscience? Compassion? I guess we would have to ask what need of theirs is being met by controlling and oppressing their people. Does it make them feel worthy? Is self worth what they are lacking? Whatever it is, when we figure that out and find a way they can fill their needs without power and control, we will be free, and when we are free we are able to see the light. Blessings and light to you Shakti….VK


    1. Hi VK,

      As always thank you for a very thoughtful comment.

      You have asked two compelling questions, “..what need of theirs is being met by controlling and oppressing their people. Does it make them feel worthy?” As you have rightly conjectured, this ‘need’ of power and control certainly could have aspects of low self worth.Which then leads one to do all one can to put others down as a way to improve one’s own perception of one’s worth.

      My post however is based on the premise that whether one likes it or not, the environment is getting increasingly intolerant of power and control aggrandisement. In this context, what aspects of leadership would gain in relevance? To me this is envisioning and co-creation of a future.

      Thank you once again VK for taking the time to comment here. I appreciate.




  3. Here in Australia we are battling a government who is trying to take us back to the dark ages, so it gets a bit difficult to see right across to the other side of the world. Thank you so much for your summary of this new era of politics in those regions.


    1. Dear Elizabeth,

      If a leadership is perceived to be trying to ‘create a future’ which is contrary to what the people are wishing to live into, then it would just not work. History has shown ha innumerable instances of this.

      So as you think of the above, what else could people do in Australia to change the mindset of the political leadership?

      Thank you for taking the time to comment here.



  4. I believe the voting percentages can dip even lower in America, especially for non-Presidential elections. People feel powerless.Our leadership is weak. We haven’t had a strong Executive Branch for many, many years. In my mind, you’d have to go back to the Clinton years. An inspirational leader will bring those voting numbers up.

    There’s a great article in The Economist this week about the swamp the Arab world is in right now. They once ruled the planet with progressiveness and intellectualism but the area has been laid to waste because of corrupt and weak leaders. The Arab Spring has faltered. Once again, strong leaders could save them.


    1. Thank you for these great thoughts. You speak of strong leadership. What would you say constitutes the “strength” of leadership? Is it some preconceived and acquired characteristics which leaders are expected to display? Or is it about the very foundation on which Leadership is based?

      To me the words Leader and Leadership are linguistic abstractions.They come with no preassigned or preconceived characteristics or qualities. They offer a realm of all possibilities.So to link leadership to qualities like corrupt, weak, strong etc. may not allow us to gain the appropriate understanding or access to Leadership that would be effective in our specific situation.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment here. I appreciate.



      1. I don’t think leadership is an abstract concept at all! The man or woman in high office who can do the most good for the greatest number of people while avoiding corruption is a great leader. Our President Clinton was a great leader. He had personal foibles but when he left office the country had a economic surplus and unemployment was low. President Bush (the second) was a miserable leader. He brought this country to its knees, to the extent that we still haven’t fully recovered. You can turn the pages of history and clearly define who was a good leader and who wasn’t.



    1. Dear Sanwal,

      Great to see you back my friend.

      Well the poverty figures are taken from published statistics and so I am not surprised if it resonates with what Montek’s thinking as part of the last administration. If one were to now redraw the figure based on erstwhile Reserve bank Governor Rangarajan’s report released yesterday, it should be close to 30%.

      But such a figure would in fact further accentuate the Leadership’s Essense I speak of in my post, would it not?




  5. The quintessential question: “A near universal access to information, knowledge and the resulting transparency has become a great leveler. The traditional Leadership’s power base of knowledge and information control is fast eroding. Could Leadership let go of its obsession with power and control and embrace the work of co-creating with others … ”

    I wonder about this very thing. As you know. Though this post is a fabulous crystallization of the ponderings of many awakened human beings. Great post and thoughts, Shakti.


    1. Dear Bela,

      Glad to know the post resonated with your thoughts. The question I have been increasingly wrestling with is if Leadership’s essence of ‘Co-creating a future’ can bring about a positive shift in perspective and actions of people, how does one go about creating such leaders?

      Thank you for taking the time comment, Bela. I appreciate.



  6. Dear Shakti,
    A thought provoking post. Hope is the force that gives birth to positive thoughts and actions. Indian public has given expression to that hope in the recent elections. I fervently hope that the present government comes up to the high expectations created during the run up to the elections. Hope can degenerate to despair surprisingly fast!


    1. Dear Kabeer,

      Delighted that you liked the post.

      You say ‘Hope can degenerate to despair surprisingly fast’. So what can each one of us do to go beyond merely hoping? What can we do to go inhabit in that future envisioned in a manner that our present remains aligned to that future?

      Thank you for your presence here, I appreciate.



      1. Dear Shakti,
        I think the only option available to us is to do whatever is possible for us to do, within our circle of influence; and continue our efforts in spite of the possible adversities coming in our way. An untiringly cheerful mindset is the need of the hour.


  7. It’s a mistake to compare the European elections with India’s elections. Europe has been expanding rapidly since the fall of the USSR without a mandate . A quick scan will see a media obsessed with whether Ukraine should have a vote on whether ot not its people want to join the EU. But nowhere will you find it even being mooted that maybe the citizens of the countries, which are current members of the EU, and far outnumber the citizens of Ukraine, should be asked whether they want an increasingly unstable and fascist-leaning Ukraine to join.

    It has happened time and time again, just because the US wants to extend its forces in ex-Soviet satellites right up to modern Russia’s borders. The fact that it also saddles existing EU members with the debts and economic problems of these nations is of no concern to the US. That does not fit any definition of democracy I know, but it does sound like invasion by stealth.

    Voters don’t know what they are voting for in Europe, as elections are conducted almost in the same way as national elections. It’s almost impossible to find out really which parties are allied to which without a great deal of research, and vote for a midly right wing party in one country, could mean you are giving a vote for a extreme right wing alliance.

    The disillusionment with Europe also has a lot to do with US intereference in European poilitcs and the well-founded suspicion that NATO now sees itself as the European Army. As the EU doesn’t have a mandate for a common European foreign poilicy and NATO is not a European military force, as such, but increasingly led by the US, which has bases all over Europe, as well as in places many Europeans feel uncomfortable with, it isn’t surprising many voters show their lack of support for something they feel their vote has no impact on.

    Trouble is brewing all over Europe with leaders of many European politicians turning their gazes to the growing number of yellow stars on the blue background of the EU flag, without looking to see what’s happening on the ground


    1. Hi Bryan,

      Thank you for your very detailed and informative comment regarding Europe and its recent parliamentary elections.I appreciate.

      Well, my intention was not to compare the two elections and I in fact have said so in the post.The purpose of taking a close look at the two events in the context of the prevailing socio-economic realities in each of the environments was to draw out specific insights relating to Leadership. I believe such insights would allow access to how leadership needs to transform in similar situations going forward. I believe this would work everywhere including Europe.




      1. Hi Shakti,

        Despite your denial, you do compare the two elections. There’s nothing wrong with that, apart from the fact it deliberately attempts to negate the relevance of my comment by use of sophistry.

        Just to pick one part at a glance, you say:

        “Europe’s voting percentage dipped to 43; India’s went up to 67.” How is that not a comparison? you go on to say:

        “Europe seems awash with disillusionment and despair despite the support of some of the world’s most developed economies. In contrast, India sees green shoots of hope and possibilities in the face of more than 20% population struggling below the poverty line, high fiscal deficit and halting economic growth.”

        I basically share your sentiments, albeit with some reservations, However, to contrast one thing against another is to compare, which amounts to comparison. Nevertheless, I’m not saying this as an exercise in nit-picking.

        I admire your optimism but do not share it. The elite of India are definitely in a very good position economically. Culturally and scientifically, the same elite has forged a grand future for its children. The same elite benefits from excellent education, and what it lacks at home, it sends its children abroad to learn,

        This is all very good when the future includes the downtrodden masses but, unfortunately India’s poor are the elephant supporting the howdah, and this is not acceptable, and should not be the future for Europe or India. Yet, I can’t help feeling it’s what our ‘Leadership’ has in store for us.

        Thanks for your reply and patience, which must be wearing thin,

        Peace and Love,



      2. Dear Bryan,

        You are quite right. There does exist a comparison between two situations. But if I may ask you, what is the reason we do comparisons? To me, any comparison is to determine specific differences to be able to say which is better or more viable. Be it a product, a service, a situation or even an intangible idea. Would you agree to this?

        In my post, I had looked at two emergent situations, people’s occurring and actions not to determine which one or the other is better. My endeavour was to try and distil out some aspect of Leadership which may be playing a role.

        And Bryan , it is always a pleasure to hear from you. What makes you think my patience is wearing thin?

        Blessings to you too.



  8. I’m not educated in this field, Shakti. What I see in both situations is a dissatisfaction with the status quo, a sort of shaking out linens. So, to me, they’re both the same thing (a desire for change) expressed in different ways. Either way, I see it as evidence of expanding Consciousness. And that’s the important thing! Thanks for a thought-provoking post! xoxoM


    1. Hi Margarita,

      That is indeed a great perspective. When you say, “…they’re both the same thing (a desire for change) expressed in different ways”, it resonates. But then the question that comes to my mind is,’What is it that prompts such different expressions?’ To me this remains the difference in our respective occurring of the same or similar situations. And it is here that leadership can play a role.

      Thank you for this great comment. I truly appreciate.



      1. Yes, it is a call to leaders to sync with their constituents and leadership, indeed, MUST listen, pay attention, and play its role. Thanks, Shakti! xoM


  9. Shakti …

    Share the wealth – whether that’s of knowledge, money, power or control? I doubt that Leadership will ever let go of its obsessions with power and control. I might be misreading your premise, but I just don’t see that happening.



    1. Hi Judy,

      I agree that it is difficult for Leadership, just like with each one of us, to “let go”. But the way I see it is that the changing environment is ensuring that its traditional power base of knowledge and information control is eroding, whether leadership likes it or not. This is happening from the way technology and consequently work processes are evolving. I therefore believe the only way Leadership would remain relevant and retain its influence would be through co-creating a future which excites and allows people to come and live into.

      Without realising we may be seeing different aspects of this playing out in front of us without realising.

      As always Thank you Rudy for this great comment.



  10. Hi Bikramjit,

    Do we really need to wait for a future to happen? What stops us from getting down to co-creating it with others? I believe as we resolve to do this, we can make it happen in our lifetime.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.



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