The darkness in our spirits
Leadership entails a variety of virtues: personal sacrifice, service to others, defense and advocacy of the voiceless, the ability to grasp that moral responsibility trumps expediency.
I can think of a number of great historical figures who have possessed these virtues. Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela. They can all be described as highly inspirational leaders, but perhaps none more so than Mahatma Gandhi.
Here was a man who was trained as a lawyer and could have enjoyed a very comfortable and affluent lifestyle, but instead he gave up everything to serve others, particularly the poor and powerless. His whole life revolved around principles. He fought not just against the British occupiers but also against the darkness that occupies people's spirits.
He laid it out quite thoughtfully in his 1925 book ,The Young India, when he described the seven social sins: politics without principle, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, knowledge without character. His philosophy has had, and continues to have, a profound impact all over the world. His thoughts and his methods inspired King, who himself remains an inspiration to others. Even after both men paid the ultimate sacrifice for their service, their examples are still breathing life into people and movements that share their beliefs and goals.
They persevered, just as Washington, Lincoln, and Mandela did. All these men somehow found the strength to endure great strife while pursuing the goal of helping, guiding, educating others. As Marian Edelman said, the purpose of education isn't to benefit yourself but to benefit others. That's the key element of any good leader - a passion for putting the needs and concerns of other people before your own.
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