UPSC MAINS 2015 ESSAY No. 3: Character of an Institution is Reflected in its Leader.

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Character is the most defining attribute for a leader as well as the institution that he leads. Character is our inherent wisdom and beliefs that guide us in our actions and practices and which make our world view. If we believe in goodness, the whole world appears a beautiful place and a place for mutual coexistence to us and if we believe in the evil, the whole world appears ugly and a place with only cut throat competition. The statement character of an institution is reflected in its leader, applies the other way also, i.e., character of the leader is reflected in the character of an institution.

Leaders are made in a set up; that may be a family, a group, an institution and society at large. The motto and mission of that setting guides and propel the leaders as well as the followers in an institution. According to Mark Zuckerberg Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected. We can see how it is reflected in his actions when he wants to connect people for personal as well as social concerns not in urban areas and cities alone, but has a plan for rural areas where communication is still poor. In his recent India visit he made his plans public. Amid all allegations of hegemony, America is a country that is guided by the principles of democracy and peace and so no American leader can turn out to be autocratic.

Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence. The respect that leadership must requires that one’s ethics be without question. A leader not only stays above the line between right and wrong, he stays well clear of the gray areas. Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, sensitive or assertive, but about a set of attributes. First and foremost is character. The character of the leader blends into the blood and veins of the institution that he leads. It is the action in display at the top that guides the people working in an organization or institution. Character is the firm foundation stone upon which one must build to win respect. Just as no worthy building can be erected on a weak foundation, so no lasting reputation worthy of respect can be built on a weak character. Indian freedom struggle was led by great leaders like Mahatama Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lokmanaya Tilak, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, who even today define the character and discourses of Indian democracy.

The relationship between an institution and a leader is a two way process. There are institutions or companies whose main motto is to make life beautiful and not just wield power and make profit. They aim at maximum happiness for maximum people. This does not help them just to make a separate identity or brand, but also motivate their leaders and members to act in the best possible way to achieve their motto. Tata is an outstanding Indian company that has produced several great leaders. The Ivy League Universities of the US have also produced great leaders with great values in almost all the arenas of life.

But on the other hand we have seen how leaders have made great institutions. Narayan Murthi has given birth to a unique work culture and profit sharing model. Sreedharan has shown how mammoth projects involving huge funds can be managed without any blot or blemish. Azim Premji has shown how every employee of a company is equally important as a team member. The honesty, integrity and team spirit of these leaders have given birth to new age corporate entities and work culture.

On the other side of the spectrum we see the institutions with sole motive of profit and vested interests and hidden agendas, how they have come to blind alley. Their leaders also face serious charges and blemish. Sahara and Satyam are two great stories whose leaders are today held responsible for several malfeasance and inappropriate transactions.

There is no doubt that institutions define the character of the leaders as much as the leaders define the character of the institutions