Political leadership and selflessness
Tue 21 Jan. 2014, 14:00 CAT
Sampaya Sampaya, chairperson of Southern Province Civic Educators Association, says selflessness is an attribute that should not lack among political leaders in the country.
We agree with Sampaya, but we go further to say that selflessness is an attribute that all leaders, including civic leaders like himself, and all human beings should possess.
Che Guevara aptly put it: "At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.
It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Perhaps, it is one of the great dramas of the leader that he must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without contracting a muscle."
And addressing the UNIP national council in April 1968, Dr Kenneth Kaunda observed: "To be leader at any level at all and in any scheme of things, you have got to love your fellow human beings, you've got to be ready to sacrifice for their good, you've got to be able to learn to respect the feelings of your fellow men."
Leadership is, therefore, the ability of a single individual through his or her actions to motivate others to higher levels of achievement, of conduct. Accordingly, leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions. Selflessness must start at the highest level of leadership; it must begin at the top. Selflessness is a leadership issue and those at the top of leadership must set the example.
Tough times never last and because of this, selfless leaders will always be needed. A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.
At no time and in no circumstances should a leader place his personal interests first; he should subordinate them to the interests of the people he is leading, to the interests of the nation and of the masses. Hence, selfishness, slacking, corruption, seeking the limelight, and so on, are most contemptible, while selflessness, working with all one's energy, wholehearted devotion to public duty, and quiet hard work will command respect.
A political leader should have largeness of mind and he should be staunch and active, looking upon the interests of the masses as his very life and subordinating his personal interests to those of the masses. A political leader should be more concerned about the masses than about any individual, and more concerned about others than about himself. Only thus can he be considered to be truly a leader.
Every political leader must understand that the supreme test of his words and deeds is whether they conform to the highest interests and enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.
A political leader must be ready at all times to stand up for the truth, because truth is in the interest of the masses; a true political leader must be ready at all times to correct his mistakes, because mistakes are against the interests of the masses.
A true political leader should be a friend of the masses and not a boss over them, an indefatigable teacher and not a bureaucratic politician.
It is selflessness and compassion that creates a sense of trust that allows us to open up to others and reveal our problems, doubts and uncertainties. Peaceful living is about trusting those on whom we depend, that is our leaders, and caring for those who depend on us - our followers.
If we cherish others, then both others and ourselves, both deeply and superficially, will be happy. When we cherish ourselves more than others, we produce various types of suffering, both for ourselves and those around us.
Political life requires an ethical foundation, everything should be pursued from a moral basis.
Leaders, political or otherwise, should work for the welfare of others. Their daily thoughts and actions should be directed towards the benefit of others. They should share the suffering of their fellow human beings and practice compassion and tolerance, not only towards their loved ones but also towards their political opponents.
As teachers of others, leaders, before teaching others, before changing others, must they themselves change. They must be honest, sincere, kind-hearted.
If they adopt a self-centred approach to life, by which they attempt to use others for their own self-interest, they might be able to gain temporary benefit, but in the long run, they will not succeed in achieving even their personal happiness.
By showing concern for other people's welfare, sharing other people's suffering, and helping other people, ultimately one will benefit. If one thinks only of oneself and forgets about others, ultimately one will lose.
Most of the good or beneficial effects that come about in the world are based on an attitude of cherishing others. The opposite is also true.
And purity of intention is very important for a leader. Political ideas are worthless if they are not inspired by noble, selfless sentiments.
Likewise, noble sentiments are worthless if they are not based on correct, fair ideas. Once you have pure and sincere motivation, all the rest follows. You can develop this right attitude towards others on the basis of kindness, love and respect, and on the clear realisation of the oneness of all human beings. With a pure heart, you can carry on any work and your profession becomes a real instrument to help the human community.
One wants happiness and doesn't want suffering, and on the basis of that, one enters into good actions and avoids bad actions. It is always good for a leader to be guided by realism, moderation and patience.
The reason why we seek to behave in a good manner is that it's from good behaviour that good fruits are derived. One's own actions create one's life situation. Tolerance and patience with courage are not signs of failure but signs of victory. Actually, if you are too important, that's a real failure.
Selflessness towards others, true compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. A truly selfless and compassionate attitude towards others does not change, even if they behave negatively.
To experience genuine selflessness is to develop a feeling of closeness to others combined with a sense of responsibility for their welfare. Each of us in our own way can try to spread compassion into people's hearts.
Selflessness compels us to reach out to all living beings, including our so-called enemies, those people who upset or hurt us. Irrespective of what they do to you, if you remember that all beings, like you, are only trying to be happy, you will find it much easier to develop a selfless attitude towards them.
Genuine selflessness must be acting on the basis of respect, and the realisation or recognition that others also, just like myself, have the right to be happy.
It is important for a leader and indeed every human being of goodwill, to put others first. Our doings and thinkings must be motivated by compassion for others. The way to acquire that kind of outlook is to accept the simple fact that whatever we desire is also desired by others. And to develop this does not involve any kind of religiosity we normally associate it with. It is for everyone, irrespective of religion or any political affiliation. Love and kindness are always appropriate. Whether or not you believe in rebirth, you will need love in this life. If we have love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace.
The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Human beings are social creatures, and concern for each other is the very basis of our life together. Since at the beginning and end of our lives, we are so dependent on others' kindness, how can it be that in the middle, we neglect kindness towards others?
Clearly, a good mind, a good heart, warm feelings - these are the most important things in a leader, especially in a political leader.