The Complete Master & The Perfect Leader
The World Culture Festival was grand, glorious and global like nothing else I have experienced. It came with its challenges and left with its charm. Cultures united, humanity celebrated and people meditated. Anyone who participated in person or virtually was left with memories that will
last over lifetimes! Thousands of volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation across 155 countries of the world, worked with passion and perseverance to put together an event unprecedented & unparalleled in history. Their inspiration - the vision of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji of reviving the values of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam; A One World Family! They braved every weather and overcame every obstacle. They experienced new heights of their own abilities and tenacity.
The World Culture Festival enabled humanity to experience what more, what else and what new it was capable of! Gurudev led this incredible event from the front - and how! From the minutest detail to the biggest decision, he was available and involved. His leadership of this event is why it was successful and surreal. Watching Gurudev in action is the biggest blessing. This time watching him lead this event unveiled aspects of his personality that reinforce why he is the true global humanitarian leader of our times. He modeled leadership qualities that cannot be taught and learnt - only imbibed. Here are a few I tried to.
1) A Grand Vision
The whole scale and scope of the World Culture Festival was impossible for any of us to comprehend - 3.75 million people, 36000 performers, 155 countries, 40 dance performances,7 acres of stage,Inter Faith meet, Global Leadership Forum.. all this in 3 days? It was only Gurudev who was clear, confident and calm about it! He was sure it was possible ( and it was! ) and he tirelessly used every single opportunity to communicate this grand vision to every individual, group or country he met or spoke to. All of us, our partners, vendors, contractors and artists were all united by this one grand vision. Gurudev’s conviction was infectious and inspiring. It pushed us ahead when things went well and picked us up when they were challenging.
What we can imbibe - The vision of a leader can shape the reality of the future
2) Complete Ownership & 100 % Responsibility
Gurudev took complete ownership of every aspect of the event. Simplest to the most complex. Tiny to important. Even as the location of WCF was allotted to us by DDA, Gurudev took ownership to even clean the Yamuna, because its stink would render it impossible to be used. It was unfortunate to see how some sections of the media distorted and misrepresented many facts about our use of the floodplains. During the days leading to WCF, when the noise in the media was the loudest, Gurudev took it upon himself to answer every single question, respond to every allegation and assuage every doubt. For all of us,it was humbling yet energising to see his relentless sincerity of effort. What could have been a tough, challenging time for us, proved to be a new milestone in our individual abilities ! He even stayed back after the event to oversee the clean up of the venue- if thats not 100% responsibility, what is?
What we can imbibe - When a leader takes ownership & responsibility, the team becomes capable of the impossible.
3) Accessibility, Availability, Adaptibility
Gurudev could easily be the most busy person in the world ! Yet he was always accessible and available for us. Planning and executing an event like this needed thousands of decisions, coordination across time zones and complex matrices of transnational teams. No matter what time of the day or night, Gurudev was only a phone call/email away! Sometimes he was more available to us, than we were to our teams ! Also, every day new things had to be done, old had to be changed. He was so adaptable and ready for change that it would surprise us sometime! When the Prime Minister’s security demanded a separate stage for him, an unfazed and unshaken Gurudev calmly advised a new stage be made - done in 8 hours !
What we can imbibe - The 3 As directly impact leadership success
4) Courage of a Warrior
This time, I saw the warrior side of Gurudev in glorious resplendence! I have experienced his courageous stand on issues and incidents many times before, but this time it was something else! Whether it was standing up to the onslaught of some sections of media or holding ground on our stance wrt the NGT, whether it was braving the hailstorm or international opinion, whether it was battling intermittent disappointment or overcoming big challenges - He was courage personified !!! When I was standing on the stage built for the PM on day 1 and watched him walk to the stage alone - through the slush, rain & hail pelting down heavily, I almost felt he may slip. But no, drenched to the bone, he walked right royally, with every cell of his being radiating strength and willpower. His gait and look melted the tiny tear in my eye into a bright sunny smile!
What we can imbibe - A courageous leader is an inspiration by herself
5) Compassion and Care of a Parent
One would think, that a leader who has embarked almost on the impossible, must be goading his people to work more, harder & longer. Not Gurudev. The one thing I would always hear him telling anyone who looked or sounded little stretched, was to relax, rest and take care. His most common reassurance - You relax, everything will happen. None of us felt overloaded or overburdened. He resolved interpersonal conflicts delicately, comforted caringly and forgave mistakes compassionately! Sensitive to the core, everyone felt looked after. On the night of the 1st day of WCF, I went to Gurudev's room to ask him some advice for the Global Leadership Forum starting next morning. I realised he was having dinner, so turned around to leave. Without turning his back, he called out, "Rajita, Have you eaten dinner?" When I replied yes, he went on to ask the menu, if it was too spicy for our international guests, did everyone eat and finally served few people in the room from his own food ! The examples are a million to espouse his ability to care for his people. I can write a whole piece on that alone!
What we can imbibe - When you care as a leader, your team rejoices
6) Enthusiasm, Pride and Humility
This event yet again was a testimony to the fact that Gurudev is the epitome of enthusiasm! The whole World Culture Festival was turbo charged by the energy of his enthusiasm for every aspect of its success. Keen appreciation of every members contribution, celebration of milestones and making you feel like a queen for doing something quite tiny - all hallmarks of his generous enthusiasm.Pride in the organisation, pride in his people, pride in what he stands for - experienced it in a totally new way! All this combined with pristine humility- quite a potent combination. Watching him interact with heads of states, faith leaders, artists, guests - host them, greet them and serve them, was humbling to say the least
What we can imbibe - An enthusiastic, proud, humble leader - an unshakable force.
7) Undeniable Divinity
Hail storm, rainbow, gushes of winds and sharp sunshine - all in a couple of days! Hundreds of thousands got wet for over 5-6 hours- no one fell sick! Thousands of dancers danced in perfect synchrony without practice! People of all faiths, all religions, all colours came together and celebrated !
Just the fact that World Culture Festival happened is proof of Gurudev’s unrestrained, unmistakable, undeniable Divinity !
Today as I watched him walk humbly and gracefully towards the President of the Republic of India to receive his Padma Vibhushan award, my throat choked with emotion and heart swelled with pride. The complete master, the perfect leader and a superlative human being was being celebrated and honoured! It was our good fortune more than his!