– Developing care, commitment, and clarity
“Everyone may appreciate a beautiful building, but the structural engineer sees something nobody else sees, the foundation; if the foundation is faulty, the building doesn’t have much of a future…our community’s foundation has to be purity, unity, strong spiritual practises and taking Prasad (lunch) together.”
–Radhanath Swami’s address to the leaders of the Mumbai community on January 1st 2008
A bowman before shooting long and deep first pulls the arrow backward. He’s careful,slow and observant while pulling the string; similarly before we ‘think big’ or launch a massive effort, we need to take a few sacred steps backward, and build a foundation on certain simple, but important principles.
Don’t rush; go back to basics
It’s tempting to think big, attempt herculean tasks and speed up our efforts to expand growth and be successful. And often the success chase blinds leaders to the sacred principles; they overlook future challenges, and offer lip service to well-known but often neglected principles. Many even subordinate or worse violate ethical codes to fulfil their ambitious plans.
A Vision alone can drive us forward. However giving vision for any venture isn’t easy; it’s deep and subtle, and involves heart-felt contributions and strong commitment by all the team members. Therefore as we create a vision for any project, we first get some homework done.
Meetings and get-together- developing ‘care’
In the late 1990’s, Radhanath Swami offered a valuable suggestion to the leaders of the Bhaktivedanta hospital, “meet every fortnight for non-management purposes.” The purpose of this meeting is to develop positive relationships amongst each other, and in every meeting there would be spiritual discussions and friendly get-togethers. This spiritual bonding amongst the leaders helps them later while dealing with sensitive management issues; rich emotional deposits helps them ward of stressful withdrawals, if any, while working together.
This is the most important foundational step in vision making; by coming together, each member is endorsing the group’s common dedication to spiritual practises, and to serve each other in the spirit of being the humble servant of all.
If the leaders are united, the inevitable challenges can be faced; the different false egos can be tolerated. The higher spiritual taste that develops due to a culture of coming together gives the necessary nourishment and strength to deal with the virus of discontentment and disappointments cheerfully. Despite setbacks, members remain happy and aren’t discouraged to render service; the care received and given abundantly, keeps the community going during the thick and thin periods.
Clarifying roles – developing ‘commitment’
‘Care’ will keep the team together, but it’s ‘commitment’ that helps it move forward. The different stake holders to a project need to meet and clarify the roles each one of them would individually play. This is a critical step as when commitment and expectations are clarified, the project can move forward. Otherwise most things remain unspoken and most responsibilities unaccounted.
I knew of a congregational development programme where four different leaders had shown interest to develop the project. However since they never met and clarified roles, things remained vague; while they all spoke big and gave a lofty vision, each expected the other to carry out the critical responsibilities. The project never really took off; soon the gung-ho talks stopped, and the little enthusiasm the members had also fizzled out.
Many leaders aren’t comfortable when roles are clarified because this makes them accountable. However if our commitment to a cause is not put on paper, it’s simply a matter of time when the members would make incorrect assumptions, and carry unrealistic expectations of the others in the group. And on the worst side, members imagine prejudices and wrongdoings, and judge others wrongly.
It’s easier to get ‘commitment’ from members when continual efforts are made to ‘care’ for them; members are fired up and want to contribute tangibly.
Having initiated the first two sacred steps of coming together and clarifying our roles, the leadership is now ready to form a statement of vision.
Forming the vision statement- developing ‘clarity’
While ‘Care’ keeps the team together and ‘Commitment’ helps it go forward, ‘Clarity’, developed through a statement of vision helps us reach the right destination.
An individual charismatic leader can inspire men and women to dedicate for a cause, project, organization, or service to a community. However the real substance of such an undertaking would be seen after the departure of the leader; the members’ ability to brave the stormy weathers over a few generations will reveal the real strength of the organization. Are you ready when Mr Time unfailingly strikes?
To sustain a community or organization, the members at the helm of the affairs need to be visionary leaders; they give the vision and commit to it.
What is the ‘Statement of Vision’ (SOV)
SOV is a paragraph or a page that contains the vision for the project/community, to help sustain the frequent challenges and to facilitate future growth. It’s formed in consultation with all the members of the visionary team. This paragraph accurately represents the collective vision of the team, and the leaders of the project keep reverting back to the SOV whenever there is some confusion or ambiguity regarding the direction in which the project is going.
Beware of the superficiality
Steven Covey’s ‘mission statement’ was a common corporate parlance in the 1990’s after the revolutionary success of the‘Seven habits of highly successful people’.
The phrase caught on as almost all stock market listed companies initiated the forming of the ‘statement of vision’, ‘statement of purpose’, or ‘mission statement’- all meaning the same. But many missed the essence; executives thought it was fashionable to have an attractive ‘mission statement’.
I knew a friend whose literary skills attracted his project leader to instruct him to form a ‘catchy’ mission statement. My friend reasoned there is more to a visionary statement than attractive phrases; his feeble protests however had no takers. The man who managed the project on behalf of the community wanted the mission statement ‘done quickly’. Not surprisingly, the leader’s expediency backfired; his tale of woes only multiplied each year with talented people leaving the project. Some became cynical and questioned the leader’s credibility; overall many felt dissatisfied by the superficiality of it all.
Accurate representation of all members
Each dedicated member of a team is after all an individual with his or her own unique likes and dislikes, and special idiosyncrasies. The statement of vision accurately represents the individual visions; when each member feels he or she has been represented in the vision statement, we have a team that is collectively inspired to work towards the goal.
When a new idea or proposal comes up, whether to go ahead or not would be decided by the team by keeping the SOV as a barometer for decision making. Since the SOV is the compass that directs the project leaders, the members would feel a sense of belongingness to the project.
Driving the bus forward
Thus the three sacred steps to keep a community going are:
1) Coming together with common dedication to spiritual practises (CARE)
2) Clarifying roles (COMMITMENT)
3) Forming the statement of Vision (CLARITY)
The first need of the members within the community ‘bus’ is ‘Care’; this ensures they don’t fight or burn the bus down. ‘Commitment’ helps the bus move forward. And ‘Clarity’ developed through a SOV promises a tangible, exciting destination for the community members.
Spiritual leadership is not expedient or opportunistic; it believes in leaving a legacy, and when team members are united with a common spiritual goal, it’s easier to develop care, clarity, commitment and cooperation for any cause. And as challenges would surely strike, the successive generations would also be inspired and committed to keep the community healthy and united.