On Succession and Leadership

July 2, 2007 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Jul 1, GBC (SUN) – Interview with Bhakti Vijnana Swami Chair of the Committee on Succession and Leadership

What is your vision?

We recognize the need for consistent succession policies in the society. The first generation of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples are aging. We now read regularly of a senior devotee’s passing away. We need to ensure that the mood, teachings, energy, and ideas of Srila Prabhupada are properly preserved and transmitted. Generation after generation. We wish to identify and empower devotees with leadership potential to ensure the proper succession. This is our long term need.

The main strategy to accomplish this will be training and education initiatives that encapsulate these principles. We identified three strategies to ensure succession: short, middle, and long term:

Long term: We need to identify and train the potential future leaders amongst the young generation of ISKCON devotees—both those born in the movement, and those joining. We need to provide them with thorough, systematic training in all areas of Krishna conscious leadership.

Mid term strategy: potential leaders who are already engaged full time in our temples need more systematic training and consistent empowerment for their growth.

Short term: Professional development and education and training of our present leaders on the ongoing basis.

In present-day terms, this coresponds to talent scouting, systematic training, and professional development. Some of our present leaders are already doing this through courses and training processes. They need ongoing encouragement and support. In many other places this isn’t happening yet.

What were some of the challenges you have faced?

In the beginning we struggled to find consensus. We work in different areas and have different experiences and opinions; it took a lot of dialogue to come to a unified understanding and vision. ISKCON is so diversified, making it hard to design a system which works everywhere; we discussed the need for unify in diversity—teaching universal standards, but also allowing for regional adjustments.

We concluded that the training should not be just academic, but something that changes the heart and facilitates transformative experiences so trainees “own” and realize the knowledge. Experience is key, and we hope the process will instil a strong allegiance and faith in Srila Prabhupada’s mission and goals. Academic knowledge is easier to teach, but that is not enough. We want to transmit values and spiritual culture.

We identified one core element which helps transform the heart: the personal teacher-student relationship. We want this next generation of leaders to place a strong emphasis on spiritual care. Therefore, this educational system needs to reflect that care throughout its operation. We will need qualified teachers and trainers.

Once established, we hope to have more qualified leaders—something that will be felt across the movement. A strong leader creates an atmosphere of inspiration and proper values, and a culture of spiritual care and empowerment. We want to try to recreate the mood of enthusiasm and commitment that typified much of the earlier days in ISKCON.

We are talking about creating a leadership academy which would be a kind of graduate-level institution. We want to train both spiritual leaders and managerial leaders, in other words both brahmanas and ksatriyas.

A challenge our committee faces is communicating this urgent need to the GBC body and the rest of ISKCON to get their full support. We need resources for this initiative and for this we have to elicit support from different sections of ISKCON.

When the conceptual stage is finished we will next plan the specifics—the facilities need, the staff, etc. We are not certain of the exact location of this “ISKCON Academy for Leadership”, but we are leaning towards having it in India for reasons including Srila Prabhupada’s desire and the availability of resources.

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