You can devise the finest development project, nourished by the best intentions, with all the necessary financial backing, but it will have very little chance of success if it is not driven by a true leader. A leader must be capable of personifying an idea and allowing their aura to serve a cause. A leader is someone who, by virtue of who they are and what they do, naturally attracts followers. Leaders of this kind are in short supply in our world. This observation led Ahimsa Fund to set up a session devoted to leadership during the 2017 Ahimsa Forum, as a means of helping these leaders, who are sometimes unaware of their own qualities, to emerge. Let us look at 11 men and women whose leadership remains a powerful source of inspiration!
The source of leadership: dogged determination
There is no such thing as a standard curriculum that makes a good leader! But we often find a common basis in the background of numerous leaders: they are often people who, faced with a complex and unacceptable situation, have demonstrated unswerving commitment to changing it.
Two emblematic leaders
- Mother Teresa : Born into a well-to-do family of Albanian Catholics, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was confronted with the horrors of war at an early age: the Balkan wars, then the First World War. A vocation was born in the ruins. On arriving in India for her novitiate, the young nun, who was later to be known as “Ma” (mother in Indian), repeatedly turned her dismay into projects. Faced with a dying man refused entry to a hospital, she decided to create a hospice where the poor could die in dignity; faced with a sickly abandoned child, she created an orphanage; faced with lepers rejected by society, she created a whole city for them.
- Gandhi : A shy child and an average student, at the age of 18 Mohandas Gandhi left India to study law in England. On his return, he had affirmed his inspirations drawn from religion and applied the principle of « ahimsa » (a word you may have heard before!) or nonviolence, to combat all the injustices he saw in his own country: colonialism, caste discrimination, civil rights abuses, and so on.
Creating a synergy of leaders in the fight to ensure access to healthcare for the most underprivileged populations
Although it is said to be dangerous to put two roosters in the same chicken run, the metaphor quickly reaches its limits for the type of leaders we are talking about here. On the contrary, good leaders are at their best when they work together, driven by the same open-minded attitude, the same tolerance and humility, and the same determination to eliminate differences.
This is why developing true leadership is so important for Ahimsa Fund: to bring the right leaders together, to ally their strengths and build up synergy on tangible and innovative projects.
The seven qualities of a true leader
True leaders are epitomized by their ETHICAL values:
- Éxemplarity: They lead by example, letting actions speak louder than words.
- Tolerance: They accept differences and strive to understand them.
- Humility: They see their leading role as a responsibility, not a privilege.
- Individualism: Far from egotism, they are simply aware that individuals drive groups.
- Challenging assumptions: They are always ready and willing to question their convictions.
- All-inclusiveness: They look beyond ethnic, cultural and religious diversity to find strengths that can become shared values.
- Listening: They take the time to listen to multiple points of view.
Nine inspirational quotations about leadership
« You matter… dare to be! »
Saba Al Mubaslat – CEO, Humanitarian Leadership Academy
« With the right attitude, problems in life become blessings and opportunities;s »
Richard Nijimbere – Program Director, Maison Shalom Rwanda
« Charting the direction to reach new goals by taking the responsability and the risks for doing what is right. »
Joanna Rubinstein – President and CEO, World Childhood Foundation
« There is no genuine progress without genuine love. »
Dylan Wilk – Director, Human Nature
« Impossible is just an illusion. »
Zeina Abdo – Founder, Smile for Hope
« Leadership is about creating a community of mutual respect, purpose and a commitment to do good. »
Arancha Gonzalez – Executive Director, International Trade Center
« Humility is the lynchpin of the service of transformative leadership. »
Azza Karam – Senior Cultural Adviser, United Nations Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development
« The fire in your belly has to be stronger than the fire outside. »
Linda Mafu – Head Political, Society Advocacy, Global Fund
« Dreaming is good, but if you don’t build your dreams, that’s just fantasy. »
Tony Meloto – Founder and President, Gawad Kalinga
Soon to be published on our website: interviews with true leaders who attended the Ahimsa Forum 2017 (click here for a complete report from the Forum). For Ahimsa Fund, leadership is the crux of the projects that we back: without these strong-willed individuals, the tangible social entrepreneurship and healthcare projects that we are striving to implement would not last long.