A Threatened Leader Cannot Lead

Many leaders feel worried and threatened when the people they are leading start to become independent, or start to excel. I am curious why this is. Does that not mean that they have been a good leader? The fact that the people they are leading are growing and developing is surely a good thing. Why is it that sometimes leaders feel that they must always be the ones in the spotlight?

Thinking of this made me happily recall one of my favourite verses. It is a verse that I think we can all learn from in order to better ourselves and others. Let me share parts of this verse with you.

One should think oneself lower than the straw on the street…

In many places of the world, you see bits of straw all over the street, such as in India or the Philippines. This straw is being walked on and cars are driving over it. It is flattened to the ground. Now I ask you – what could be lower than this straw on the street? And in that consciousness of feeling lower than the straw on the street, who could ever offend you? No one could put you down, as you are already lowly and humble on your own accord. Some people think being humble means allowing people to step on you and exploit you, but being humble is never that. It is a state of consciousness where you always walk on criticism and in that state, how could you even be angry? It is so fulfilling to be at this state of consciousness, where you feel at peace because you are not trying to climb on top of other people. And in this type of consciousness, you could be a king or be in high positions, but this is the consciousness you must have in order to lead people. You must think of yourself as lower than the straw in the street.

One should be more tolerant than a tree…

How could you be more tolerant than a tree? A tree is so tolerant. You can cut off its branches, it stands forever under the hot sun or torrent rains, sways with the strong winds, has ants crawl all over it… and yet it still stands, tolerant and accepting of what is going on around it. Now, this verse says we should be even more tolerant than that tree. If you are a tree – in terms of patience, endurance, fairness, and temperament –  then who could move you? You could not be pulled over. It is a great virtue to withstand any onslaught of challenges and not be swayed by the winds of emotions. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel it and that you’re numb to it. It just means you are steadfast and you have belief in what you stand for.

One should be devoid of all sense of false prestige.

False prestige is thinking, “I’m a powerful lawyer” or “I’m a successful businessperson”. We always think we have to be somebody for others to love us. We strive so much to have it all – material possessions, driving a certain type of car, having the right image, and so forth. But with this comes a whole lot of anxiety. How could there be peace and how could you be at peace if you are worried about all these things? This sense of false prestige just gets in the way. There is no criticism about the duties and titles that you have been given. Your job may be very important and you may have worked hard to get there. But that doesn’t give you a licence to be arrogant. It does not mean you can demand respect from others. But no matter what you do or who you think you are, you should always be giving your respect to others. A leader cannot lead if he is blinded by his own sense of false prestige.

Please take a moment to ponder… If you want to be a good leader, should you feel threatened if those you are leading start to succeed? If you want to be a good leader, shouldn’t you rather place yourself beneath those you lead, be tolerant and steadfast, and undress yourself of all false prestige? Ponder on this. I thought of this verse as being a guide for someone who wants to be not only a good leader, but who wants to be happy and at peace.



Joseph Bismark


Group Managing Director, QI Ltd