Do you know many “great” people?
Do you want to be one?
A few weeks ago, I was inspired to write a post about one of the greatest leaders this world has ever seen, Mahatma Ghandi. Since then, I’ve found that many of the challenges Ghandi faced and overcame still resonate with business leaders and executives today. Even a quick review of his life story can be transformational.
- Gandhi was a complete failure in his early years. He studied to become a doctor but failed all his medical courses and finally gave up. His uncle sent him to England to become a lawyer and, while successful in joining the bar, he was so painfully shy that he froze up in the courtroom and couldn’t speak. He became the laughing stock of the courtroom. There is a great lesson here. Great people weren’t necessarily born great. Nor were they always great. Greatness can be cultivated in any stage of life.
- Gandhi realized that he had been headed in the wrong direction. He had been trying to build success on the outside and had neglected cultivating success on the inside. He shifted all of his attention on his development as a human being. This, too, is a powerful life lesson. Recently, my wife and I saw the movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street”. It is the story of Jordan Belfort’s career as a stock trader. He was focused on only one thing; being unbelievably rich. He swindled his clients, cheated on his wives, kept secrets and lied to his friends. His wildly successful life came to abrupt end with his arrest and imprisonment. He had focused on external success but was a wreck as a person. Such a life simply cannot be sustained. On the other hand, when you become internally successful, your external life naturally expands.
- Gandhi experimented with changes that made him a richer person. He befriended a student who seemed to be quite content and happy though he had very few possessions. Gandhi decided to follow his example and so sold everything to test the impact on his life. He found that the fewer his possessions, the greater his freedom. This is another powerful life lesson. How much anxiety and effort do we expend attaining, preserving and protecting our stuff? Is having more really the pathway to greater happiness and peace? I have taken on a highly modified form of Gandhi’s experiment. I took my average monthly expenses for the past year and have created a budget that is 10% less. I want to see what living on less does for my life.
- Gandhi radiated power that was transformational. Every one of us radiates some kind of energy. When you meet people you get a sense of their happiness, aliveness, freedom, worry, etc. simply by how they carry themselves and the things they talk about. I often ask the people I coach in my executive coaching programs to ask 10 of their associates to give them 3 words to describe how they experience the person. Gandhi radiated a beauty, a love, a simplicity, a compassion, a single minded devotion that was show-stopping. The story is told that the British government warned their diplomats not to spend time with Gandhi because he would change them. Hundreds and thousands of people would travel by train and on foot to remote areas where Gandhi stayed with the poor simply to be in his presence. It was magical. I wonder what you radiate to the world around you? Would you like to radiate greatness?
There are never enough great men and women in our world. It is the great people who create goodness for the world. It is the great people who make big things happen. Gandhi became great once he was able to clear away his denseness from within, and serve as a beacon of light for others. He was the ultimate lighter leader. Embarking on a path of lighter leadership begins with executive leadership development, but it is only one piece of the journey.
Will you join me in the quest to become a truly great leader? It is a journey on the inside. But the bigger you become as a human being, the greater your influence will be in the world.