The Leadership Crisis

In recent days, there has been so much difficulty apparent in the leadership of the world. It is very hard to feel inspired sometimes when we look around and see what is going on. There are very few sources of hope. Because of the lack of good leadership, we see an effect in every aspect of our lives – our economic systems, our social structures, our financial systems, our education systems – all of the structures that we base our world on seem to be in danger of falling apart. Our basic needs as a society, as human beings, are not being met.

But if we think about it, with our knowledge and training, especially those of us who have some experience of Buddhist study and practice, we already have most of the answers right in front of us. The essence of Dharma is actually training ourselves to be strong leaders – first we become leaders of our own inner world, and then, eventually, we can take what we have learned and bring it into the external world around us.

Where do we start? Not just by sitting still and praying for things to change – although that is okay too, but it is not enough. Rather, as individuals and as a group, in our own small communities, we need to begin to implement our practice. We start by training our own minds.

A good way to begin with this is to train ourselves to continually look to the big picture, not to be caught in the details, and not to circle around and around in our minds all tied up in our stories about how things could be better, or should be better, or would not be so bad if only someone did as I wanted them to.

What do I mean by the big picture? The big picture relates to our underlying motivation – the course of action that is the most selfless, that will benefit the greatest number of people, and will not harm anyone. Once we have the big picture in mind, and we are certain that it is beneficial and useful to ourselves and those around us, we can use it as a touchstone to return to continually, to check ourselves, again and again and again. When small things distract us and we feel like giving up entirely because we are mad at so-and-so or somebody else didn’t treat us as we wanted them to, we can remember our big picture, and relax our minds into that vision, and let the small things go.

If we become good at this, we will able to manage almost any situation that arises in our lives, and our activity in the world will flow naturally and spontaneously, with less self-interest. This will bring great joy to ourselves and to the people around us.

Once we become a little bit skilled at this practice, we can gradually add in the more complex practices, such as patience, tolerance, compassion, and clarity. Patience means not getting angry when we get what we don’t want or when we don’t get what we want, and being able to bear difficult situations with a calm mind. Tolerance means a sense of open-mindedness and a non-judgmental attitude toward those we come in contact with. Compassion means wishing for others to be free from suffering, and working to fulfill that aim. And clarity means keeping our minds single-pointed, crystal clear, on whatever goal we have in our sights.

As we perfect these states of mind, and they become more and more spontaneous for us, we will find that we become natural leaders. The ease and spaciousness with which we approach our everyday lives will naturally inspire others, and we will not need to seek out followers of any sort. They will naturally arise.

So please think about this. Remember that Buddha himself taught that we all have the capability for perfect leadership within our very own minds – some people call it buddha nature, or tathagatagarbha, or the potential for enlightenment, or whatever. In any case, within our very minds we all have the promise of a perfect leader.

So let’s start small, by learning to lead our own internal worlds, and then gradually as we perfect that, we will naturally and beautifully find ourselves able to become leaders in a more conventional sense as well. We should start on this as soon as possible; there is great need in the world today.

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