Leaders in all spheres–education, business, politics, sports–feel compelled to address short-term concerns, now more than ever. The pressure to show results quickly is so very strong. If positive results don’t come soon enough, leaders are sent packing and roundly criticized. And yet we also want leaders to be mindful of long-term stewardship and to act ethically. It’s no wonder leaders are torn about which problems to address, when, and how. It’s also no surprise that some leaders choose inaction because they’re conflicted about priorities.
Bhagavad Gati–the epic Indian tale that inspired Einstein, Emerson, Gandhi, Jung, and others–helps point leaders in the right direction. In that tale, Arjuna is conflicted about whether to take up arms against his cousins, who cheated him and his brothers out of control of the kingdom. Arjuna is tempted to abandon the fight, but his chariot driver, Lord Krishna, tells him that he must do the right thing, no matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant it might be. After much soul searching, Arjuna follows Krishna’s advice. He acts based upon what is right, not what the outcome might be.
On action alone be thy interest,
Never on its fruits.
Let not the fruits of action be thy motive,
Nor be thy attachment to inaction.
Don’t let the ephemeral get in the way of the eternal. Leadership requires clarity of purpose, long-term vision, and committed action. How do you ward off the pressure of short-term concerns? How do you do what’s right and encourage coworkers to do likewise?