Leadership and leadership outcomes are indeed difficult to define and measure. Though there is a lot of literature on this subject, the fact remains that very little is actually known. Though many yardsticks have been developed to measure leadership outcomes, some of the widely accepted ones are answers to the following questions in the organization that a leader founded or inherited.

  • How well the leader could build on and expand the credibility of the organization? Could he get the organization to achieve some level of prominence? Did he grow it in a meaningful way in line with the larger vision and mission of the organization?
  • Did the leader finally ‘let-go’ of the organization and leave a positive legacy behind? Did he endow the organization with the strength, skills and resources to survive beyond his existence?
  • To what extent could the leader not only sustain the vision but also inspire and motivate others to join him in the realization of this vision? After all organizations are made up of people and unless one finds the right kind of people and moulds them to take on the future leadership roles, one cannot ensure the sustenance of the organization that one has created or nurtured.

Swami Vivekananda as a leader also needs to be measured and assessed from the point of view of these criteria. He not only created an extraordinary institution for growth of spirituality but also made sure that the welfare of the people would be the centerpiece of the organization’s work.  This is clearly evident in the motto that he gave the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math – ‘Athmano Mokshartham, Jagath Hithayacha’  – where the realization of the personal self had to go hand in hand with the betterment of humanity.

Swami Vivekananda as the founder of the organization had to create the larger vision and constantly work towards building not just the organizational processes but also the people to man these organizations. He had to lay down the rules, set value systems and ensure that it was well communicated to his colleagues and team mates. He had to inspire people to not just take on the vows of poverty and chastity but also engage themselves in meaningful social work. He was the trainer, visionary, organizational behavior expert and the charismatic inspirer of men – all rolled in one. One also needs to understand that a leader’s work cannot be measured merely from his immediate contributions. Much of the good work that he has done will be evident years later. The Institution that Swamiji has left behind is proof of the extraordinary leadership that he gave it during the years of its inception and infancy. John Maxwell, a Christian pastor and leadership expert writes, “If you develop yourself, you can experience personal success. If you develop a team, your organization can experience growth. If you develop leaders, your organization can achieve explosive growth.” The fact that the Ramakrishna Math & Mission achieved explosive growth long after Swamiji’s death is testimony to the fact that Swami Vivekananda helped create great leaders too.

Swamiji was conscious of not making the organization too dependent on him or becoming ‘Vivekananda Centric’. He never lost sight of the ‘work at the center’ which was of far greater importance than either himself of his image. He never assumed any formal office for himself and made sure that from the inception, there were others to take on the mantle and lead the organization. His primary role was to mentor, guide and train these leaders. The Ramakrishna Mission is respected for the work that it does not just in India, but all over the world. They spend close to Rs 2 billion in various welfare activities and communities, governments and donors have immense trust and faith in their transparency and fiscal responsibility. Swami Vivekananda undoubtedly has left behind an enormously positive legacy – not just an organization that any nation can be proud of, but also successive generations of positively charged up young people who share and believe in his vision and message. His loudest and greatest legacy is the millions of inspired people who dream of building a better nation and a better world. The fact that the Government of India thought it fit to celebrate his birthday as the National Youth Day stands testimony to this legacy.

Kannada version in Prajavani (15-Nov-12)