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Saturday, 24th February 2024


Arrogance and power are not values of sustainable leadership - instead they destroy diversity and perpetuate bullying and hierarchy. Combined with financial muscle and 'male' gender, they can be lethal if not checked - look at the recent Banking fiasco as an example. When the CEO of BP said that the oil spill was a 'drop in the ocean', it was a combination of huge power and arrogance. Britain 'once' ruled the world, its language is now a global language, ... but it is fast declining as a world power, which is shifting east. This need not be inevitable. The ingredients for British progress are already at the heart of our diverse society. They need to come from the margins to the core, and the core needs to step aside from its obsession with power and remove its arrogance - otherwise, we will all sink together, if we have not sunk already.

If we open our eyes and minds, there is a huge amount of creative leadership going on in British society. For example, the  BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir in London was built in 1995 by an East African Asian community, many of whom came penniless in 1972 when they were kicked out from Uganda. David Dimbleby's BBC TV Show recently highlighted it as one of the best additions to British architecture in the twentieth century. And if you dig underneath for the story of how it was built, it was remarkable the opposition that this community had in getting planning permission. Even today, ethnic people are not supposed to provide any thought leadership to the country - to allow that would be to accede too much to them. Today the Mandir is one of the touristic icons of London. And there are many more. However, if you went to British employers and asked them how many Swaminarayan Hindus worked for them, they would not have a clue. In fact, they would not even know how many Hindus work for them - they often dont want to know, as to acknowledge a religious identity is to go backward - they think. As a Jain, I have to spell the word wherever I go - if I am asked about my faith identity, that is.

Yet, the success of India today is built on its religious pluralism and ethical roots.

So we need our leaders to come down from the top of the elephant, as an old Indian saying goes. We need them to connect to the ground - and yes, that means Clegg and Cameron have to serve in a soup kitchen for the homeless, preferably in the Langar of a Sikh Gurudwara . We need to stretch our imagination and measure not how much we know, but how much we DO NOT know, and use this to cultivate our humility. We need to respect wisdom and the timeless thoughts and values of all the cultures of the world which have enriched and sustained civilisation. We should require each significant public and private body to have a HEAD OF INTEGRITY AND ETHICS as part of its senior executive management.

Dr. Atul K. Shah, CEO, Diverse Ethics

Article added on 17th May 2010 at 6:16am
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