Advice to leaders

How should a ruler lead?

I recently heard this question discussed in a religious talk. The talk assumed that the role of the leader is to seek the common good and to care for all people—probably an assumption that most of us can agree with.

A leader needs certain qualities in order to have open, honest dialogue with others and to rule for the common good—qualities that emphasize listening to others, engaging in conversation with others to find a solution together, and modeling behavior for others to follow.

What are the qualities that a leader needs to be able to govern all people for the common good?

  • Generosity
  • Ethics
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Honesty
  • Gentleness and kindness
  • Self-control
  • Non-anger
  • Non-violence
  • Patience
  • Non-obstruction

How many of these traits do our current leaders have? How many of them practice the behaviors that will lead to uniting the country to be able to work for solutions for all of us?

As I read through the list, only a few scattered presidents, vice-presidents, congressmen, and congresswomen came to mind. It is far more common to find that our leaders practice one or two—or none—of these qualities.

Most of these qualities are values and behaviors that we try to instill in our children. Shouldn’t we expect the same from our leaders?

These qualities become all the more relevant in light of the 2016 presidential election, where our soon-to-be leaders have veered even more strongly into practicing none of these.

I call on our leaders to-be—whether in Trump Tower, his cabinet, the Congress, or scattered throughout agencies in DC—to work for the common good, not for what is good for their careers, not for what is good for their egos, not for what is good for their finances. Work towards common goals for all Americans by practicing these qualities of leadership, the same qualities that we use as a measure of being a good person and a good citizen.

You can listen to the talk here. Caveat to those offended by non-Christian forms of religion: the talk is by a Buddhist teacher. The qualities and values listed above and discussed in the talk are the ten qualities of a ruler (dasa raja dharma) that the Buddha spelled out over 2,500 years ago. The qualities reflect, however, nearly universal values found across religious traditions and cultures.


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