THE BLOG
28/05/2014 11:39 BST | Updated 27/07/2014 06:59 BST

A Spiritual Approach to Leadership: Time for Change?

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Yesterday was the birthday of a great yogi from India, Paramahamsa Hariharananda who lived until he was 95. His greatest teaching was to selflessly lead by example - to love and sincerely help others - to be practical, positive, meditate and never give up.

Gurus do not always attract angels and he often had to take difficult decisions. He would sometimes encourage a person to go into seclusion to contemplate their behaviour!

With Europe in political turmoil after the recent European elections, our political and business leaders could learn from these teachings and no doubt also benefit from a period of silent introspection.

64% of the UK electorate didn't vote and many that did made it quite clear by voting against the mainstream parties, that they believe our leaders just don't get it, aren't listening and do not have our real interests at heart. Well if they aren't hearing the alarm bells ringing now, they never will.

It is almost unimaginable that the EC should be defended by anyone after failing to obtain a clean bill of health for 18 years in a row. Its auditors highlighted £89 billion of spending as being subject to "material error"! In addition, how can we trust any organisation which moves its head office lock, stock and barrel once a month from one city to another to have a policy based on common sense?

Politicians seem to find it difficult to distinguish between law abiding citizens people who are proud, cooperative interactive citizens of Europe and those who they expect to toe the line regardless.

The EU surely needs to exist ONLY to create positive conditions for partnerships between individual countries, to develop their economic strength, health and wellbeing without unnecessary meddling. With papered over finances and 50% youth unemployment, how can it deliver in its present form? Admitting failure, however shocking that may be is the only way to make things better.

This election shows that if we are not careful, ordinary people will revolt, fuelled by disgruntled voters who tick the box of an extreme party because they feel they have nowhere else to go.

So how can our leaders change their approach?

Once, Paramahamsa Hariharananda was due to give a talk at a college in Odisha, India. The students were on strike. They were unhappy with the conditions at the college. When they saw a monk was coming to speak they mocked him disrespectfully to his face. The principal was concerned for his safety. The guru told him not to worry and he entered the hall where a few boisterous students and professors were waiting. Many of the protesters stayed outside but were listening through the open windows. He started to speak in a loving, gentle way:

"My children, I have not come here to preach about meditation, but to remind you of your own dignified life. Today you are young and have come here to study. Your parents are giving you money from their hard work. Tomorrow you will grow up. You will become parents and will want your own children to have a good education. Can you imagine the role and responsibility that lies ahead of you? Do not spoil your life and education. You are the future. If there is any problem then it can be resolved through discussion and positive action not through striking".

The speech was well received and the rowdy students outside insisted he stayed with them longer. He listened to their grievances, mediated with the authorities and the strike was resolved. There was peace again on the campus.

Such a beautiful teaching gives a subtle message to our leaders on how to handle the difficult moments with love, courage and wisdom.

Firstly, respect is earned and not deserved. Secondly, speaking with sincerity, dignity and in a loving and truthful way brings better results. Even when we are unhappy, we tend to listen if we are spoken to as equals. Lastly, everyone wants the opportunity to be healthy and happy.

We desperately need our leaders to take brave decisions without fear to help us achieve these goals. If that means saying no to monolithic institutions that preach but fail to practise what they preach, then so be it.

Noel Coward sums up the society in which we live today but want to change:

"It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."

David Green's book The Invisible Hand: Business Success & Spirituality can be downloaded at the reduced rate of 99p to commemorate the birthday of his guru Paramahamasa Hariharananda until 31st May.