What are our key responsibilities as leaders? As Boundless Leaders, if we are to go to the edge of what is possible, what do we really need to keep in mind?
I got my answers in Sri Lanka when Rob and I went to the visit the temple of the relic of Buddha’s tooth on Poya day, a national holiday of the full moon and it was very crowded. It is very sacred to the Buddhist traditions of the people there.
We went to leave our shoes at the place where you leave your shoes, and we did not have enough change to pay the gentleman - it was 100 rupees. So we told him that we’d come back and give him the money. It took us two hours to get back there! When we handed over the 100 rupees, which is in effect $1 in Australian terms, he was genuinely surprised that we’d come back. As you can understand it was crowded and it was actually bit of an epic to get back there to give 100 rupees.
You could see when we left him first of all he was quite disappointed and in the background of his mind was likely this narrative ‘oh yeah - a bunch of foreign tourists, they’ll never come back.”
And we did!
After we left that interaction we stopped to help a family of about ten people who had travelled far to come to see the relic because it’s quite a pilgrimage for Buddhists in the country of Sri Lanka and we helped them take a photo. They were so thankful! One of the young fellas came up to us afterwards and asked, “where are you from - what country are you from?” And we said, ‘Australia’. Reflecting on these two stories, these two incidents made me think about what are our key responsibilities as leaders?
I believe there are two main key responsibilities.
The first is kindness to yourself. If we don’t start there, there is no hope of us being kind to others. We need to model and embody what is most important to us as leaders and kindness is one of the key integral ones. Kindness keeps us centered and stable. It reminds us that no matter what we are achieving and striving for, how we go about it is as valuable as what we create. We are here to add value to others, not just take it. Kindness to ourselves is the starting point for this.
Kindness to others is the second responsibility.
Why is kindness a key responsibility?
I believe that the small moments are the DNA for the big moments.
When the young child asked, ‘what country are you from’ and we said, ‘Australia’ I like to think that that planted a seed of good will between nations. He will hopefully think kindly of Australians in the future, and be open to other Australian visitors. Who knows, he may end up in a position of political influence and be more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt than to judge.
It is easy to judge and fear what we do not know.
Conversely, it is very difficult to hate people when we have an interaction of kindness with them.
In small moments of kindness we seed openness. This can blossom into a mutual respect and willingness to open discourse. This is something we badly need around the globe, and in our work.
So there you have it. Two key responsibilities: kindness to yourself and kindness to others because the ripple effect is global.