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Newsletter - CEO

Creating Leaders of Tomorrow
Issue 111, April 2012
Lt. General Arjun Ray, PVSM, VSM (Retd.)

Dear Friends,


At Indus we believe that the purpose of school education goes beyond academic excellence, although academics are important. We believe that schools should prepare children to succeed and to be happy in life. This involves imparting students with values experientially, character traits, and competencies like lifelong learning, living with diversity and critical thinking, to deal with the challenges of tomorrow – uncertainty, unpredictability, and chaos.

Leadership is a science and an art and has to be learnt like any other subject in school. It demands the same amount of effort a student will require to achieve high scores in the Diploma Programme. Consequently, leadership training has to start as early as possible.

Managing people and resources is a narrow perspective of leadership. In its wider meaning, leadership is mainly experiential, and is about managing one self. The most effective way in leading oneself is to serve first, and then lead. This is servant-hood, this is servant-leadership. You have to become a servant first before becoming a leader. All the great prophets, messiahs, and change-makers like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Mother Teresa, were shining examples of servant-leaders. My inspiration comes from four sources:

  • Field Marshal Phillip Chetwode’s motto at the Indian Military Academy where I did my officer training:
    “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, comfort and welfare of the men you command, come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”
    These words gave me a new understanding of leadership. As a military commander I received my first lesson in servanthood: my job was not to command; my job was to serve my country, my regiment, and my soldiers, in that order.

  • The success I achieved as a corps commander in Ladakh was in winning over alienated sections of society into the mainstream, and thus bringing in stable peace in the region. In the process it is the people of Ladakh who made a difference to me! My second lesson: it’s not the achievement of the goal that really matters. What matters more is what you become in the process of achieving the goal. And that happens when you serve the people first.

  • The novel, Journey to the East by the Nobel laureate, Herman Hesse. The story is about a mythical journey by a group of people on a spiritual quest. The travelers become completely dependent on Leo, their servant, motivator, and coordinator. One day Leo suddenly disappears leaving the group in total disarray, forcing them to call off the tour. Several years later one of the travelers meets Leo, who turned out to be the Head of the Order that sponsored the journey. As a servant, Leo built trust and helped people grow; as a leader, he showed them the way, the vision.

  • Ubuntu, the African view of life, popularized by Nelson Mandela. Ubuntu is inextricably linked with servant-hood. Ubuntu is the essence of being human through love, compassion, and forgiveness. It means that I am what I am because of who we all are, namely, a person is a person through other people.

Servant-hood is a credo of Indus.
Servant-hood is possibly the most effective answer to meet the two huge and daunting challenges looming before us: a future that is unknown, and our planet’s sustainability, particularly poverty, climate change, and illiteracy.

Parents become servant-leaders when they nurture the leader in their child and encourage a strong work-ethic in their homes. As starters, children should make their beds, fold their clothes, and polish their shoes. Teachers become servant-leaders when they teach the whole-child. By serving the community, students increase their awareness on social issues and injustices, and become responsible citizens.

When I look back on life, I find greater satisfaction in having done something for the marginalized, than my personal achievements. I would wish the same for each one of you.

With warm regards,

Lieutenant General (Retd) Arjun Ray, PVSM, VSM
Chief Executive Officer
Indus Trust

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Sankar Mahadevan with IICS students at Bengaluru Ganesh Utsav
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