Can Leaders be Created?

“Can leaders be created ?”. The answer is “yes, if it is done the right way”.Public leadership cannot be left to chance anymore.

By Shobhit Mathur , Co-Founder & Dean at Rashtram

There is one question about Rashtram that I get asked the most often –  “Can leaders be created?”. The alternate theory is that leaders are self-groomed. We at Rashtram, have discussed this for hundreds of hours before we were convinced and came up with learning philosophy for Rashtram. The answer is “yes, if it is done the right way”. So what is the “right way”?   This question is at the heart of the curriculum and pedagogy at Rashtram. 

There are two opposing philosophies about education. One is the ‘Tabula Rasa’ theory, which states that individuals are born as ‘clean slates’ and all knowledge comes from experience and perception.  The other theory is based on ‘innatism’ that states we are born with an innate knowledge and experiences only unlock this inherent knowledge. Across time, almost every Indian philosopher has written on education, because of the importance given  to creating a better next generation. You find references to education in the upanishads,  epics and all the way to modern thinkers. The Indian thought has always emphasized knowledge is innate in every being, and the purpose of life across lifetimes is ‘self-realization’. 

The Mahabharata in the Udyoga Parva has perhaps an all-encompassing description of the learning process.

आचार्यात् पादमादत्ते पादं शिष्यः स्वमेधया ।

कालेन पादमादत्ते पादं सब्रह्मचारिभिः ॥  

Translation: A student learns one-fourth from his teacher, one-fourth from his own intelligence, one-fourth with the passage of time and one-fourth from his peers.

This description of the learning process has only become more relevant with time. Each part of the verse is profound. Firstly, the teacher is not just an instructor or ‘adhyapak’ , but is referred to as an ‘acharya’ – someone who is to be emulated. That is, learning by being in the presence of role-models. Secondly, the verse mentions learning emanating from ‘svamedha’, i.e. innate intelligence in every being. We all have an innate intelligence that needs to be honed and brought out. Thirdly, this verse emphasizes learning as a life-long process i.e. you learn with time.  Learning does not end at graduation – we keep learning from experience throughout life. And lastly, it talks about learning from peer interactions. This is learning from being with linspired co-learners. 

The above idea of learning establishes that you need to be in the right learning environment for learning to happen – teachers who are also mentors, reflective exercises, immersive experiences, and the right peer group. The Indian thought on education across time has reiterated the same ideas. It goes against the ‘Tabula Rasa’ theory that learning happens outside-in. It is more of an ‘inside-out’ process. Swami Vivekananda famously said “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man”.  We have designed the learning environment at Rashtram building on this Indian idea of learning. It includes all the four elements – resident mentors as accessible learning facilitators, reflective exercises to bring out the inner wisdom, immersive experiences and a like minded cohort of peers. It is not just the learning environment at Rashtram that is inspired from the Indic knowledge systems (IKS), the course content is fundamentally based on IKS. We are fortunate to have inherited this civilizational wisdom and Rashtram taps into it while adapting it to the context of public leadership.   

Public leadership cannot be left to chance anymore. Kautilya identified the innate talent in Chadragupta and made him into the Raja India needed at that time. Today, once again we need leaders who can reawaken India not just for her needs but to elevate global consciousness. Our civilizational wisdom has given us the tools to create such leaders systematically. Rashtram taps into that wisdom. This is our offering to the land that has nurtured such elevating and timeless ideas.  

Shobhit Mathur

Dean

Rashtram School of Public Leadership

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