“We Sikhs have a proverb, Sahib, that the ruler and the ruled are one. This has many sides to it, of which one is this – India having many moods and minds, the British are versatile. Not altogether wise, for who is? When, for instance, did India make an end of wooing foolishness? Since the British rule India, they may wear her flowers, but they drink her dregs. They may bear her honours, but her blame as well. As the head to the body, the ruler and the ruled are one….”
Before I get into my little bit of wisdom – what do all of you make of that quote?
It took me some time before I decided to put this one down. I looked at it, I hummed and I hawed to myself. I made a racket at home, and then my family threatened to boot me out. To avoid that, I am penning a few thoughts.
In India, and much of Asia, we have always had a rather paternalistic relationship with our leaders and rulers. It is said that in the West, the power distance is less than it is in the East. This may be true, but even in the West, it is not as low as many Westerners like to believe. I worked for German organisations, where everything is “Herr this” and “Frau that”.
My last organisation was a Dutch one, where despite the superficial bonhomie, the CEO called the shots. The rest of the Managing Board bowed to him. My own boss, and Austrian, loved his power games.
However, the fact is that the leaders (rulers) and ruled are more interdependent than is commonly realised. In a paternalistic rule, where everything is centralised, people far from the power centre do find ways of doing things to suit themselves. In doing so, they affect the real power of the ruler.
The ruler thinks he rules, and he does. However, a real ruler can rule only when the ruled genuinely love and respect him (him includes her…). When they believe in what the ruler stands for in peace time as well as in war.
When cynicism grows, dissent grows, and actions that threaten the rule of the ruler grow and multiply.
As my Chinese brethren say – the ruler loses Heaven’s Mandate.
Being a leader is tricky. Managing a diverse group of people is tricky. While there are many tomes on how to do this – being sensitive, practicing tough love, having your spies to know what is happening, the one thing that is not often spoken about is how the ruler and the ruled are one..