Editorial-1: November 2008
Leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. Nelson Mandela turned 90 on July 18, 2008 and shows no sign of slowing down. The freedom-fighter and former President of South Africa is still jetting around the world. He continues to live a highly active life.
Mandela has emerged as the world's greatest moral leader. He liberated a country from a system of violent prejudice and helped unite white and black, oppressor and oppressed, in a way that had never been done before. He overthrew apartheid and created a non-racial democratic South Africa by knowing precisely when and how to transition between his roles as warrior, martyr, diplomat and statesman.
Through the act of appearing fearless, he inspired others. The man who walked into Robben Island prison in 1964 was emotional, headstrong, easily stung. Prisoners who were with him said, watching him walk across the courtyard, upright and proud, was enough to keep them going for days. He knew that he was a model for others, and that gave him the strength to triumph over his own fear. He emerged from the prison balanced and disciplined. "I came out mature," he said.
He thought way ahead of everybody else, with posterity in mind. He was thinking not in terms of days and weeks, but decades. His unwavering principles-the overthrow of apartheid and the achievement of one man, one vote-were immutable. He regarded anything that helped him get to that goal as a tactic. He was the most pragmatic of idealists. Some of his colleagues would shout at him to move faster and be more radical. But Mandela would simply listen. He would unfurl his thoughts only after appreciating everyone else's point of view. "It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think that it is their own idea," he said.
He knew that life is never either/or. He realised that nothing is ever as straight-forward as it appears. He was clear about the end that he sought and looked for the most practical way to get there. He also knew how to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship, though it is often the most difficult kind of decision a leader has to make.
Mandela's greatest legacy as President of South Africa is the way he chose to leave it. When he was elected in 1994, he could have pressed to be President for life. There were many who felt that, in return for his years in prison, it was the least that South Africa could do. Mandela was determined to set a precedent for all who followed him -not only in South Africa, but across the rest of the continent. He knew that leaders lead as much by what they choose not to do as what they do.
Mandela is in Africa. Do we have any such leader in our country?
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was recently in the news because of the Indo-US nuclear agreement. DAE owes everything to Dr. Homi Bhabha, the architect of India's nuclear dream. He returned from Cambridge to stoke the scientific temper back home. The entire nation gained from his nationalism. On March 12, 1944 he made an impassioned plea of his vision to the Dorabji Tata Trust: "When nuclear energy has been successfully applied for power production, in say a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its experts, but will find them ready at hand." This resulted in the establishment of the world famous Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), which became the cradle for atomic energy programme in the country.
The conditions Dr. Bhabha laid down when he undertook the responsibility of setting up DAE made it totally different from the other departments of the Government of India. To begin with, DAE was located in Mumbai, away from the paralysing impact of Delhi's bureaucratic jungle and red tape. He insisted that "official support from government need not entail government control." The affairs of DAE are run by scientists and engineers; the bureaucrats merely met the procedural requirements of government departments. Administration plays the role of rendering support, rather than overpowering control. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was vested with all the powers to make the decisions without making references to the other departments of the government. The unique features built into the organisational structure helped DAE to develop strategic technologies in nuclear science indigenously, with stunning results. The understanding and support Dr. Bhabha received from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru needs special mention.
Dr. Bhabha picked up brilliant youngsters and trained them in different branches of science and engineering. Since skilled manpower was scarce, he executed projects with the maximum number of skillful people so as to provide training opportunities-not the minimum number as usual. When he was confident about the ability of a person, he extended all possible support to him. Thanks to his vision, DAE got trained manpower from within the country. In an Office Order, he instructed that what is done in DAE should not only be right and safe, but also be such that the rest of the country can be asked to emulate. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) became the nursery for a whole new breed of scientists in several areas of science, like space and electronics. In course of time, DAE was in a position to provide expertise to other countries, under the auspices of the United Nations. During my career, I had the opportunity to be on Technical Committees of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and be an IAEA expert in Iran. All this happened because of the dedicated, selfless efforts of one visionary leader. It is unfortunate that he did not live to see the first atomic power station in the country in operation. He died in an air crash in January 1966.
Astounding results were achieved when the technocrat Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi inducted Sam Pitroda and brought the Telecom revolution in the country. Pitroda drew inspiration from the earlier work of Dr. Bhabha and set up the Telecom Commission on similar lines as the AEC. In a country where one had to wait for several years to get a telephone connection, telephones are now available throughout its length and breadth, in every remote corner. The dramatic success achieved by our country in telecommunication in a short span of time owes a lot to the organisational infrastructure brought about selflessly by a visionary technocrat.
These developments with outstanding results took place in our country in living memory, because of the visionary leadership qualities of two individuals. What great examples for Christian leaders and organisations to emulate! Compare these results, achieved by secular leaders, with what all Christians put together have achieved in the past 20 centuries in the implementation of the Great Commission. The percentage of Christians in the country has remained stagnant at 2.5%, despite the tall claims made by many Christian leaders. When Almighty God is with us and with the Holy Spirit as our Helper, we should be able to succeed in our endeavour. Will the Christian leadership awaken to the crying needs and opportunities? Remember, we cannot win people to Jesus if we act as if the rules apply to everyone but us.
Dr. Jacob Cherian moved to south India from Miraj to live and work in a rural community. Along with Dr. A.K. Tharian, he went to Oddanchatram to begin the medical work. He got himself trained as a surgeon with FRCS from the Royal Colleges of Glasgow and Edinburgh. His surgical skills and clinical acumen elevated the Christian Fellowship Hospital at Oddanchatram in the early sixties to be a secondary care hospital. Dr. Cherian had a passion for making a difference for the Dalit community, living in poor socio-economic conditions. His interest made him to choose Ambilikkai for rehabilitating those suffering from Hansen's disease and tuberculosis. The results were phenomenal and trend-setting. He got the community to participate in the health care work in the hospital he established. What started with balwadis led to the establishment of two high schools, a polytechnic, an engineering college and a nursing college, in a rural setting. He foresaw education as a means for changing the circumstances of those who were victims of social indifference. He transcended his clinical horizon to respond to the opportunity and made a difference. He walked by faith and took radical decisions when necessary. He dared to dream again and again, in spite of rude awakenings. He was awarded Padma Bhushan by the President in 1991 for rural social service. From his life, we understand that God still holds the hands that reach out to Him. He has left behind a tradition of self-giving, which is now an uncommon life-style.
The Church desperately needs trustworthy leaders. What does the Bible say about the qualities of a leader? What do we expect from leaders in the Christian setting? AW Tozer said: "The man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader." "A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation."
A leader should have the ability to impart a vision to the people of who they are and what they are called to be. An effective leader must not only be willing to do what is right, but also challenge others to do the same. This requires courage. Eli (1 Sam.2, 3) exhibited a shameful lack of courage, when he had to deal with his sons. He failed to discipline them. Samuel not only had the courage to confront his mentor, but also to confront the entire nation. One can gain this courage only through an intimate walk with God. Are you seeking God's solution to your challenges?
God does not look on outward appearances when He places people in positions of leadership. He is concerned with issues of the heart. David was faithful to trust God in everything from ravaging bears and lions to murderous giants and kings. He remained a man after God's own heart, not because he was perfect, but because he repented.
Overseeing is a worthy task that should be discharged well. It requires a person of blameless, pure, disciplined and generous character, who manages his own house well-one whose established good conduct as a Christian is well spoken of. He must have a surrendered heart and good testimony, not only from those within the Church, but also from those without. He should give no occasion to the devil to accuse him, either because of his own pride, or because of the reproaches of those outside the Church. He ought to have been approved by his consistent and conscientious Christian behaviour, particularly in matters of self-discipline and home management.
The mind of a leader should not be occupied with getting rich and the consequent stretching out of oneself in its pursuit. The Apostle Paul speaks about the folly of concentrating on the accumulation of wealth as an end in itself (1 Tim.6:10). Love of money is idolatry (Col.3:5; Eph.5:5) and leads away from the true hope of the Christian. "Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." It may be the greatest curse that can come into a human life. Everything depends ultimately on the attitude of the soul towards it. Avarice dries up the springs of compassion in the soul. It is the result of a wrong conception of life, forgetting that "a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things he possesses." He is bound to fall into temptations and snares, and will eventually sink into destruction. Think of all that Lot lost when he set his eyes on the rich plains of Sodom! When Haman set his heart on riches and honour, he lost everything. What does a person need for contentment? Very little: food, clothing and a godly life.
Simon's desire (Acts 8:20) to buy the gift of God with money has given to us the word "simony." Peter answered: "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money." Though Simon may have been converted, the habits of his old life and the bond of iniquity had not been broken. Simon was stricken with fear and he pleaded with the apostles to intercede for him.
Jesus called money "unrighteous mammon" (Lk. 16:9, 11). Paul called it "filthy lucre" (1 Tim.3:3, 8; Tit.1:7, 11). Every one of the Ten Commandments can be broken because of money. Because of a desire for money, people have denied God, blasphemed His name, stolen, lied, murdered, committed adultery, and so on. A lust for material things makes people wander from the faith and this leads to shipwreck. They look for pleasure, but find pain and sorrows. "If you can't face the music, you will never get to lead the band."
An important qualification of a leader is that he manages properly. This is among the basic gifts for the well-being of the Church. Those who are to undertake oversight of the Church ought to be men above reproach.
All leaders make mistakes. But great leaders admit their mistakes, learn from them, and try not to repeat them. We long for that most elusive quality in our leaders-the quality of authenticity, of being who they say they are, of being truthful beyond words. We look for those who live their values-honest and standing up for what they believe in. It is time for each one of us to recognise that we are only as respected as the least of us.
Reports that we often hear, involving Christian leaders falling for money, position or power, ought to sober us to the realities of our own propensities to sin. Let us therefore pray: "God, give us Men. A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands! Men whom the lust of office does not kill, Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy, Men who possess opinions and a will, Men who love honour, Men who will not lie."