Inner transformation is the foundation for steering a lasting outer transformation
There is at present a growing and voluminous literature on leadership. But most of the modern discussions on leadership focus on managing external change. Only recently some discerning management thinkers are beginning to recognize the need and importance of inner change. But eastern spiritual wisdom always emphasised on the inner change as the foundation of effective leadership.
Inner Change: Change Yourself First
You can do nothing for others unless you are able to do it for yourself. You can never give a good advice to anyone unless you are able to give it to yourself first, and to follow it. And if you see a difficulty somewhere, the best way of changing this difficulty is to change it in yourself first. If you see a defect in anyone, you may be sure it is in you, and you begin to change it in yourself. And when you will have changed it in yourself, you will be strong enough to change it in others. And this is a wonderful thing, people don’t realise what an infinite grace it is that this universe is arranged in such a way that there is a collection of substance, from the most material to the highest spiritual, all that gathered together into what is called a small individual, but at the disposal of a central Will. And that is yours, your field of work, nobody can take it away from you, it is your own property. And to the extent you can work upon it, you will be able to have an action upon the world. But only to that extent. One must do more for oneself, besides, than one does for others.
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Whatever the external circumstances, they are, without exception, the objective projection of what is inside yourself. When in your work you find something giving trouble outside, look within and you will find in yourself the corresponding difficulty.
Change yourself and the circumstances will change.
Self-Mastery: Control Your Own Self
1. To have complete control over oneself is the indispensable condition for controlling others.
2. To have no preferences, not to like one and to dislike the other – to be equal with everybody.
3. To be patient and enduring.
Also to speak only what is quite indispensable and nothing more.
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… one can’t control outer matter if one does not control inner matter, for they are the same thing…
Besides, it is childishly simple, for mastery means the knowledge of handling certain vibrations; if you know how to handle these vibrations you have the mastery. The best field of experimentation is yourself: first you have the control in yourself and once you have it in yourself you can transmit the vibration to others, to the extent you are capable of identifying yourself with them and of thus creating this vibration in them. And if you cannot handle a vibration in yourself, you don’t even know the procedure; you don’t even know what to do, so how can you manipulate it in others? You may encourage them by words, by an influence over them, to do what is needed to learn self-control, but you cannot control them directly.
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To control something, a movement, is simply to replace by one’s presence, without words or explanations, the bad vibration by the true one. This is what constitutes the power of mastery. It does not lie in speaking, in explaining; with words and explanations and even a certain emanation of force, you may have an influence on someone, but you do not control his movement. The control of the movement is the capacity to oppose the vibration of this movement by a stronger, truer vibration which can stop the other one… I could give you an example, you know, a very easy one. Two people are arguing in front of you; not only are they arguing, but they are on the point of coming to blows; so you explain to them that this is not the thing to do, you give them good reasons for stopping and they come to a stop. You will have had an influence on them. But if you simply stand before them and look at them and send out a vibration of peace, calm, quietude, without saying a word, without any explanation, the other vibration will no longer be able to last, it will fall away of itself. That is mastery.
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The same thing applies to the cure of ignorance. If you need words to explain something, that is not true knowledge. If I have to say all that I do say for you to understand me, that is not mastery, it is simply that I am able to exercise an influence on your intelligence and help you to understand and awaken in you the desire to know and discipline yourselves, etc. But if by looking at you, without saying anything I am not able to make the light enter into you, the light which will make you understand, I won’t have mastered the movement or the state of ignorance. Do you understand this?
You have an indisciplined, disobedient, insolent pupil; well, that represents a certain vibration in the atmosphere which, besides, is unfortunately very contagious; but if you yourself do not have within you the opposite vibration, the vibration of discipline, order, humility, of a quietude and peace which nothing can disturb, how do you expect to have any influence? You are going to tell him that this should not be done? – Either that will make things worse or he will make fun of you!
And if by chance you don’t have any control yourself and become angry, then it’s finished! You lose for ever all possibility of exercising any authority over your students.
Walking the Talk: Be a Living Example
Each one is responsible first for himself; and if you aspire to help others, it is by giving an example of what one should be that you can help them most effectively.
And the Divine Grace is always there, marvelously effective for all those who are sincere.
The leaders must always set the example, the leaders must always practice the virtues they demand from those who are in their care; they must be understanding, patient, enduring, full of sympathy and warm and friendly goodwill, not out of egoism to win friends for themselves, but out of generosity to be able to understand and help others.
To forget oneself, one’s own likings and preferences, is indispensable in order to be a true leader.
Rising Beyond Ego: To Forget Oneself
To forget oneself is one of the most essential conditions for being a true leader: to have no selfish interests, to want nothing for oneself, to consider only the good of the group, of the whole, the totality that depends on one; to act only with that aim in mind, without wanting any personal profit from one’s action.
A leader of a small group can thus become a perfect leader for a large group, for a nation, and prepare himself for a collective role. It is a training-ground of great importance, and that is truly what we have attempted and are continuing to try out here: to give to everyone as soon as possible a responsibility, big or small, so that he learns to become a true leader.
To be a true leader one must be completely disinterested and efface from oneself as much as possible all self-regard and all selfish movements. To be a leader one must master one’s ego…
Linking with the Higher Self: Awaken the Divine Potential Within Oneself
Every human being carries hidden within him the possibility of a greater consciousness which goes beyond the bounds of his present life and enables him to share in a higher and a vaster life. Indeed, in all exceptional beings it is always this consciousness that governs their lives and organises both the circumstances of their existence and their individual reaction to these circumstances. What the human mental consciousness does not know and cannot do, this consciousness knows and does. It is like a light that shines at the centre of the being, radiating through the thick coverings of the external consciousness.
The leader is within yourselves. If you can only find Him and listen to His voice, then you will not find that people will not listen to you, because there will be a voice within the people which will make itself heard. That voice and that strength is within you. If you feel it within yourselves, if you live in its presence, if it has become yourselves, then you will find that one word from you will awake an answering voice in others.
You are faced with a so-called problem: what should you say, what should you do, how should you act? There is nothing to do, nothing, you only have to say to the Lord, “There, You see, it is like that” – that’s all. And then you stay very quiet. And then quite spontaneously, without thinking about it, without reflection, without calculation, nothing, nothing, without the slightest effort – you do what has to be done. That is to say, the Lord does it, it is no longer you. He does it, He arranges the circumstances, He arranges the people, He puts the words into your mouth or your pen – He does everything, everything, everything, everything; you have nothing more to do but to allow yourself to live blissfully.
Living among others you should always be a divine example, an occasion offered to them to understand and to enter on the path of the life divine. Nothing more: you should not even have the desire to make them progress; for that too would be something arbitrary.
Until you are definitively one with the Divinity within, the best way, in your relations with the outside, is to act according to the unanimous advice given by those who have themselves had the experience of this unity.
To be in a state of constant benevolence, with this as your rule, not to be troubled by anything and not to be the cause of trouble to others, not to inflict suffering upon them so far as possible.
Sri Aurobindo & The Mother