Dr. Phra Shakyavongsvisuddhi: “Mandela’s leadership is indeed a model of the sustainable leadership”

The 18th of July is celebrated the International Day of Nelson Mandela. We spoke with Venerable Dr. Phra Shakyavongsvisuddhi (Anil Sakya) about characteristics that a good leader has to have and about the common good. He also presents Nelson Mandela as an inspiring and sustainable leader.

The 18th of July is celebrated the International Day of Nelson Mandela. What would you highlight about Mandela’s leadership?

A sustainable leadership. Nelson Mandela’s eight lessons of leadership is worth for reconsideration all the times. Mandela’s way is indeed the Middle Way. His leadership avoids all kinds of polarities which made him a master of soft power. We might call him the Mahatma Gandhi of Africa. In each lesson of Mandela’s leadership there is a deep truth of wisdom of peace, non-violence and humanity in it. Mandela’s leadership is a model for the sustainable leadership of this age. When he said ‘courage’ he pairs it with ‘compassion’. When he said ‘leadership’ he pairs it with ‘followers.’ When he said ‘lead from the back’ he pairs it with ‘support’. When he said ‘know your enemy’ he pairs it with ‘knowing one’s capacity.’ When he said ‘be friended with your rivals’ he pairs it with ‘being vigilant.’ When he said ‘appearances matter’ he pairs it with ‘emotion restraint.’ When he said ‘nothing is black and white’ he pairs it with ‘objectivity.’ When he said ‘quitting is leading too’ he pairs it with ‘pausing reaction.’ All these eight lessons are human grounded sustainable leadership. Aims of Mandela’s leadership was grounded on the principles of benefits of many, happiness of many, and out of compassion for many. Mandela’s leadership is indeed a model of the sustainable leadership.


What characteristics should be a good leader have that thinks about the common good?

To be a good leader is as simple as A-B-C. It is simply a function of shifting one’s attention away from thought and emotionally dominated consciousness and shifting it to the space between the thoughts. That’s where A, B, and C come in.

A is attention to the phenomena in our present moment experience, the “nowness” of your immediate organization and every detail of the organization that are main factors of one’s leadership.  Allowing ourselves to experience these sensations purely, in their “isness”, their “suchness.” In other word, to have over all conceptual skill on one’s field.

B is balancing every cause and effect influencing the organisation.  It is the bridge between matter and spirit, between phenomenon and noumenon, between form and emptiness, between advantage and disadvantage, between profit and lost, between leader and followers, and between means and ends. In other word, to have over all technical skill on one’s field.

C is compassion toward everyone around us. Generally, everyone need to be have a passion to fulfil things but in a leader passion along is not enough but it has to expand to be a common passion, caring everyone’s passion within organisation. The common passion indeed is the compassion. Compassion means one cares of others, knowing that things are all interdependence. Therefore, characteristic of a good leader is to have such communal compassion to lead the whole organisation forward together. In other world, to have a good human relationship within the organisation.

Shifting attention from being dominated by emotionally reactive thoughts to A-B-C is the gateway to a good leader.  When these three elements become the dominant feature of your leadership; when thoughts and emotions have been relegated to the background, that’s it.  You are in a state of a good leadership, in the state of leading an organisation with attention to every compassion in the process of creating a balance, a model of good sustainable brand!  


What global leaders would you highlight today? Why are they leaders?

His Holiness Dalai Lama. His Holiness’ emphasis on importance of humanity and compassion is something we lack with most of global leaders. His Holiness’ great interest in modern sciences and utilizing sciences for sustainability of peace, non-violence, prosperity and happiness is indeed an aptly qualities for global leaders in today’s world.  


What are the ways to achieve a new economic paradigm in which the person is at the center of any action?

A new economic paradigm is happiness and well-being which can only achieve with human centric actions. Economic originally denotes household management which means modern monetary economics is just a small part of household management. There are lot more other factors to manage household in perfect and humane condition. The main factor is the human happiness. Happiness in a sense of contentment. Only contentment can brings happiness. Therefore, to achieve economic of happiness one needs to abide by 3 principles of 3S:

  1. Standardness: Basis of humanness is an aspiration for self-happiness in subject to communal happiness. In another word, we were normally born happy but in due course we lost that quality. Therefore, we should introspect the factors which destroyed the factor of happiness and restore the sanity back. We can reactivate our sanity by changing our perspective to our life in a more balanced manner.
  2. Spirituality: We are living in a fragile world of impermanence.  Therefore, to able to live happily in this rapidly changing world we need to develop quality of resiliency. In another word, develop the very mindfulness. We can find scientific benefits of mindfulness in every field of life. This will able to make us resilience in every aspect of our life and able to minimize all unhappiness factors. Resiliency is a direct outcome of development of spirituality.
  3. Sustainability: Every phenomenon in this world has its own reason. Develop the very wisdom that we can see through those cause and effect. Accordingly, we are able to identify the cause of happiness and develop those causes to boost up happiness in our life. In fact, the term sustain from its etymology simply means ‘upholding from the ground.’ Therefore, the whole wisdom of sustainability is to make progress in balance that it does not produce any negative side effects to the cause of happiness as a byproduct. Let alone social, economic and environment.  


You promotes the happiness in yours conferences. What are the keys to being happy?

Keys to being happy is to live a life by the principles of SDGs. In another word, SDGs is a means to a genuine happiness. In simplification, I would say the SDG makes us GLEE. G for good life, L for liberty, E for economic security and another E for enjoyment of wealth. These are the core values which makes everyone of us happy. This is something every government and business bodies should develop as a basis of all public policies. In sum, keys to being happy is to be able to maintain one’s life to GLEE.


You would be a speaker in Sustainable Brands Madrid 2018. What will your message in this event?

Well, the theme of the SB Madrid 2018 is ‘Redefining the Good Life.’ This surely means that we have been defining what supposed to be the good life in the past very different from what supposed to be the good life in this modern age of sustainability. My message would be simply looking at what is the purpose of life and how can we achieve it. There are so many concepts in the world mislead us to fake ‘good life’ and people innocently go after those concepts. My message would be how could we distil such a muddy conception so that we can see things crystal clear. For example, these days we are promoting the idea of sustainable development without noticing its oxymoron nature of the term. Development in its essence means ‘change.’ No change no development! Whereas sustain means maintain. Maintain means no change! Therefore, how can we understand ‘sustainable development’ in more creative and pragmatic way so that everyone can be a sustainable human being another term for being happy man with the good life.    


Cover Photo by John-Paul Henry on Unsplash
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