A call for soulful leadership

What part of our soul is dying? What is the stand that we are dreading to take? What is the call that we are not responding to?

Dying souls, endangered kingdom…

23 children die due to poisonous oil served in a government school under a government midday meal scheme. Suddenly reports start surfacing all over the country about poor school children falling sick and dying due to contaminated, poisonous food, vitamin tablets, etc… distributed under public health schemes.

Following the news, while media is highlighting the gross governance negligence, our political leaders have been hiding. It took more than 24-48 hrs for key ministers to respond. Chief minister of the state came to public address after 9 days. Instead of taking accountability they got busy in the political blame game. Soon media also shifted its focus to other spicier political news stories.

This news hurts me deeply and fills me with anger and helplessness.

I have indirectly worked for Anganwadis (child care centers where these meals are served). I can relate to the hope and innocence of the children who come to Anganwadis. They are the most vulnerable and powerless part of our society. They are poor and they are innocent children. And they have to bear the burnt of a massive governance, public systems and leadership failure.

I don’t know how is the soul of our country is coping with such a breakdown. At a deeper level its a humanity failure.

When my intense emotions settled, I started seeing a pattern among many similar incidents happening across India and globe. Themes may be different, ranging from corruption, rape, dictatorship etc, but the underlying pattern is same: citizens suffering, governance apathy, systems failure and public outrage.

Historically such moments have been tipping points for revolutions and renaissance. Old forms and power systems die and new ones come to life.

Mythologically, such moments are captured in the hero’s or heroine’s journey (ref Joseph Campbell). There comes a time in life of a kingdom when the king is sick, dying, powerless. His kingdom (being his manifestation) is also suffering, poor, hopeless. In such times, a hero receives a call. A deep soul call to take on a journey. This journey would test his mettle. Take him to unknown places. Make him encounter and slay the dragon within. Enter the crucible and emerge as a new born- a soulful leader now ready to serve the kingdom. He then comes back and heals the king and the kingdom. Reclaims his power and is often enthroned as the new king.

If these recurring systemic failures are representing the suffering kingdoms of our collective psyche, then what is the call that we as heroes, heroines and leaders need to respond to?

The call for soulful leadership…

Children represent the soul of a community. What happens when the patriarchal systems fail to nurture and protect its soul? What are we heading towards? How is all this a massive manifestation of the inner world within all of us? How are we colluding with power and exploiting the child within us? What is the deeper leadership stand that we are not ready to take? What is the call that we are not responding to?

A leader comes to life in his/ her response to the context. It’s this crucible that shapes the leadership. As I look at this incident and other similar incidents around the world, I see a leadership void. A void that is calling for soulful leaders. Leaders who show up and take a stand to respond to their context. Leaders who hold themselves and others accountable for the social-ecological well-being. Leaders who nurture their systems and communities like their own families. Leaders who are both courageous warriors and passionate lovers.

If its your kingdom burning and your king dying, what would you do? What are you being called for?

I feel I am called to fill the leadership void. To call others to connect with their deep calling. To cocreate an ecosystems of soulful leaders who care deeply for their people and planet. This is my response to the failing systems and this is my promise to the dying children.

What is yours?

In hero’s journey, sometime hero fails to respond to the call. Life then is full of a suffering called mediocrity. For they knew but could not step into their brilliance.

Whether small or big, it’s the next soulful step that matters…

Bon voyage!
Sacred Well

7 thoughts on “A call for soulful leadership

  1. what an awesome read! touches the soul ~ the deep discontent ~ as we continue to be impacted/shocked, but move on to the next story that the media is crowing about. What are we doing to this deep discontent? Are we turning this poison onto the foods of these vulnerable children who die cause we dont take ownership. Sitting and shuddering at the thought of how much I disown ~


  2. Dear Sukhee,
    Thanks for your comment. “Are we turning this poison onto the foods of these vulnerable children who die cause we dont take ownership.” Deeply resonates. Somewhere, I feel responsible. And I choose to take the responsibility now!


  3. My father (I. S. Srivastava) read this and remembered his Army days. He recalled a quote that “no man is a leader unless his faith is ratified in the mind and heart of his men”. “Unless a leader resides in the heart of his people he cannot be called a leader. Political leaders today are far from such leadership. They work against their people’s callings. Not able to understand their sufferings and feelings”


  4. Our experience in health care in India is similar. The Ministry of Health website contains zero references to cervical cancer, which is a completely preventable disease, and which is the number one cause of cancer deaths in Indian women. When we recruit doctors to teach a simple and inexpensive screening and prevention process to, it is a tough sell because Indian doctors generally don’t think about prevention but would rather work in a way where they can make lots of money. After medical college, they are sent for a year to a village public health centre, where they usually do as little as possible whilst waiting the opportunity to escape to Apollo or other high priced system. Over 70% of Indians still remain in villages, where economic development has not arrived in any way.

    Best wishes Manish and all. I wholeheartedly support your vision from afar!!!


  5. Hi Manish,
    Am fully with you. As a society/country we are too tolerant of any despicable acts .The simple rule most of the time is if it doesn’t hit me personally it’s just a “dining table conversation”. I find solace in contributing to issues and people around me in my personal capacity. More than that I still have to push myself to initiate something concrete to be part of a larger picture. Your thoughts are acting as a reminder for me to get in touch with my responsibility and to expedite next steps.


  6. Hi Manish
    It is an excellent exposition. We all feel……..but what do we do?? Leave alone the social system, when we look at the microcosm of the society i.e. our own homes & life are we willing to take responsibility? Is our conscience dead or is it a human psyche and there is nothing abnormal about it?? History is ripe with a number of examples and mythology has it too, that civilizations have been destroyed and wiped out because of “human survival instincts” and need to protect the “self”. How many people went to Uttarakhand to help the needy victims?
    My question, therefore, is : are we being Hippocratic and trying to fulfil our need to look good by this sympathy?


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