Intro: When India faced acute food shortage in the 1960s, the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri appealed to the people to skip food one day a week to save food grains. Such was his honesty that before this appeal, he first started observing the fast himself, along with his family, and got the support of millions of people, to the extent that many of his followers observe this fast till today. This example states that a true leader leads by example and inspires the public to follow.
Media creates larger than life personalities and takes them to every household these days, be it the print, electronic or social media. This has completely changed the traditional concept of leadership –because everything a well-known figure does or says has an influence. The public mind is very receptive to the new age ‘leaders’ – politicians, actors, sportspersons, industrialists, senior bureaucrats, social workers, et al.
Fame brings responsibility too. When the public showers its attention on a leader, it becomes his duty to create a positive influence.
In his first Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a very important message to the nation when he told parents to raise their sons properly. He touched upon a subject few ‘leaders’ dare to approach when they pay lip service to the issue of women safety. “After all, the rapist is also someone’s son. If only parents would decide to put as many restrictions on their sons as they do on their daughters.” It was the first time a Prime Minister, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, gave voice to the anguish of half the population of India. Though he had simply stated the ground reality, the difference lay in the fact that he had also given a guideline for societal change. The message was very clear: Boys and men also need to learn values and discipline. So when parents desire for sons, they also better take the responsibility of raising them properly too.
A public figure who realises his/her duty towards society and readily contributes towards positive change, is indeed a leader. We need more such leaders, in every nook and corner of India, to lead the nation out of the quagmire of inequalities and backwardness.
Justice Markandey Katju, chairman of the Press Council of India and former Supreme Court judge, recently took the initiative to go public with his views on women issues. He expressed his anguish at the mistreatment of women and strongly criticised the ‘feudal’ mindset that perceived women as inferior. He advocated quick and strong action against all perpetrators of violence against women – be it rape, bride burning or honour killing. Justice Katju had himself awarded death sentence in such cases during his tenure. When asked for a solution for women issues, his reply was: “The solution is to create a social order where justice is done to everyone”. It is commendable that some film stars have also started raising their voice for social causes. Shah Rukh Khan recently advised his audience: “We have to change the concept of how we bring up our children at home. We need to teach boys how to be gentle, good and respectful to women.” Aamir Khan has stated: “I believe that to combat violence against women we men will have to change. Hitting a woman does not exhibit a man's bravery. Instead, it shows how cowardly he really is. If we truly want to be real men, I believe, we will have to learn how to be sensitive.” Akshay Kumar recently launched an initiative for women’s self defense. A martial arts expert himself, Akshay said he truly believes that women should be very well versed with their own self defense and for that they should learn martial arts.
There are different ways to take the message to the audience these days. ‘Women safety’ being a hot topic of discussion, some agencies are even encashing the issue with bashes and fashion shows to support ‘the cause’. Celebrities send out social messages on ‘International Women’s Day’.
It is good to hear positive statements from well-known personalities. However, verbal messages must go hand in hand with actions. Mere lip service to social causes can never impress. As the song goes “Ye public hai, ye sab jaanti hai…” The day our ‘icons’ recognise their social responsibility, our nation will achieve a social revolution leading to all-round growth and development.
All of us can be leaders in our own small hemisphere of influence. If your actions can inspire others towards a positive role, you are a successful leader. Let us choose the right leaders, and let us also lead by example.
Abha Khanna Gupta (The writer is a senior Journalist
& social worker)