Thoughts on economics and liberty

Preachers, Teachers, Doers – a theory of leadership

There are three ways to influence change: to preach, to teach, or to do it (by force or through persuasion).


These are the lowliest form of "leaders". Their message is (at best) meant for books and papers, exhorting others to do something. Most religious preachers (who are copycat followers of the past), but also journalists and ordinary academics who teach by rote, and most ordinary citizens, belong to this group. Thus 99.99% of Indians fall into this category. They would rather preach at others in their dinner conversations, emails, or blogs. For instance, they want 'character' improvements in society, but that should be done by someone else! They want this or that, but they will NEVER raise a finger to do anything about it. That spares them the pain of formulating a strategy, and the pain of repeated failure.

There is no difference between a preacher and a clerk. They are basically copy-cats without any original idea. They spend their life looking backwards, singing praise about how grand their country's history was. (How does it matter if India was great in the past to the orphan child who has to scavenge in a pile of garbage for his next "meal"?) They are future-blind, without any vision for tomorrow. Their strategies are non-existent or flawed. They therefore contribute very little to the advance of humanity. Under their control, the society stagnates and remains where it was even after hundreds of years. In most cases it deteriorates with each passing generation.


The next level of leaders are the true thinkers and teachers. They invariably aim to spread their word through 'followers' by engaging in one-on-one conversations with individuals, teaching them their ideas.

Examples include the founders of religions (e.g Christ, Buddha), or the more active think-tanks (e.g. Liberty Institute). These leaders perhaps do some good for society through their teachings, but unless they've mastered the art of creating doers, they will produce merely preachers and clerks who will never take the society any further.

In general, the contributions of teachers are very faint, barely distinguishable from background noise. It is hard to trace a revolution to a particular teacher since doers are self-driven and influenced by many "teachers", and no teacher on his or her own can take any credit for the change.

Even outstanding original teachers like Hayek never directly influence change. Change only occurs if doers like Thatcher admit to their influence. Even the great Hayek is impotent when it comes to changing the world.


Finally are the doers! These people have the characteristics both of the preacher and teacher, AND the ability to lead and implement change. They are the only true leaders.

Within these are five types (cf. Jim Collins) or more (using my typology in BFN which allows for negative scores as well). 

Thus people like Mayavati – who are both incompetent and horribly corrupt are still FAR superior leaders compared with ordinary middle-class academics or think-tanks who may preach or even teach but are totally impotent when it comes to achieving ANYTHING. Mayavati qualifies as a -3 (minus! 3) category leader on my scale. 

At the top of the ladder of leadership are people like Lincoln and  Gandhi – the level 5 leaders. They are preachers, teachers, and the most outstanding doers, all combined into one. They SHIFT AND CHANGE ENTIRE SOCIETIES! They are the citizen-leaders – the highest form of human being.

No society can change for the better if it produces only copycat preachers (who are basically clerks without any strategic capacity) or teachers (no matter how meritorious). A society MUST produce doers, and within the doers, the ethical (level 4 and 5) doers. That is the great challenge for Mother India, which has unfortunately specialised only in producing clerks and low quality 'doers' for the past 60 years.

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6 thoughts on “Preachers, Teachers, Doers – a theory of leadership
  1. Harsh Vora

    Nicely said: "A society MUST produce doers, and within the doers, the ethical (level 4 and 5) doers." I guess the word "ethical" needs a bold-face! :-)
    I especially love Robin Sharma's definition of leadership: LEAD WITHOUT TITLE. It doesn't matter where we stand in terms of our position (and status in the society), every single person one has the power to lead. In their own little way. A sweeper can sweep just like Michael Jackson sang. (A clerk can be a "rock-star" at work.) The sad thing is, most "sweepers" consider their work as lowly, and therefore, hide their face from showing genuine leadership!

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks Anuj and Harsh.

    @Harsh, I like Robin Sharma's work but I'm not sure if he produces genuine leaders. I rate him as a good preacher – definitely lower than a teacher like Hayek or Buddha. And he is clearly not a doer.

    All this stuff about leadership theory is good but if we don't have a  STRATEGY and ACTION PLAN to leave the world a better place after us, then we have essentially wasted our life (or at least that's my view!). 

    So let's leave the Robins and even Hayek behind us. Let's leave everyone behind us, and look forward.

    We must focused only on ONE goal: of transforming India into an ethical, wealthy, and powerful society.

    The action plan leads through the first step, of building a leadership team. So join FTI or help FTI find leaders. The sooner we get behind this goal and action plan, the sooner we will see the result.  

    I called for 1500 leaders (as a preacher) in 2006 and nothing happened. I then called for 1500 leaders in 2007 (as a doer) and a few have started assembling. But basically I am struggling to find leaders!

    Where are our leaders!?

    Can good people please stop wasting their time on useless activity and spend their efforts, instead, on a clear plan of action for change? Leaders MUST assemble first. Only then can real change begin.



  3. Harsh Vora

    Hmm, if time permits, can you elaborate on how Robin Sharma is not a doer? As far as I know (looking back on the 'leadership guru' ratings, news interviews. public interviews, etc.), it seems he has worked with many Fortune 500 companies, and helped them grow — maybe not exactly from good to great, as Collins puts it. But it seems he isn't that behind. Again, I am not speaking this authoritatively. I believe you must have a deeper idea ("insider's news," to put it in a different way) about the difference in the leadership levels of Robin Sharma and Jim Collins. Can you explain a few differences between both these men? How are their ACTIONS and STRATEGIES, in terms of creating an impact and bringing change, different? It's okay if you list only a few, if you have time!
    I definitely wish to join FTI. Reading about your past (unsuccessful) efforts in curbing corruption in India, I have seen that you "walk the talk." It doesn't matter if the team has failed. As long as genuine efforts are done, I am for FTI. However, I read the conditions which say that one has to have at least a bachelor's degree. I still have almost a year to go before I graduate. So, I guess I will have to wait to join, yes?

  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Harsh, yes, please graduate first. That would be good. 

    Here I'm talking about changing an entire society. I'm into MAJOR social change here, not just profits in a particular company. That is technical leadership which is fine but not good enough for the kind of change I'm talking about. 

    Note that I've extrapolated Collins's framework to political leaders, and while people like Collins can possibly be counted as teachers – for business – they are not teachers like Hayek – for society. 

    Note that when I say that 99.99% of the people of India are 'preachers' I don't mean they are incompetent. They are simply too inward focused and bother only about themselves and their companies and careers. They don't stand up as leaders of society and try to change things that need to be changed. So, if you ask Robin Sharma how to change India he will be so confused you'll be amazed! Try it out, and you'll understand what I'm getting at. Robin is no match to Hayek, for instance.

    All leadership 'gurus' fail the test of 'teacher'. They are good 'preachers'. They may make someone rich, but they have NO CLUE about how to make EVERYONE rich. Hayek does have a clue, but Hayek wrote about it and stopped there. He did not  personally lead. So he is a good teacher, but not a doer.

    Mayavati is FAR SUPERIOR to Robin Sharma AND TO Hayek(!) as an agent of change. Her ideas have impacted millions of people, whether for good or bad (bad mostly, sadly).

    You see what I'm trying to get at? It is a way to ask people, once again, to stand up as citizens. Who is going to look after society if you hand it over to Mayavatis? 



  5. Harsh Vora

    I can very much relate to it. You're very much correct when you said that "leadership gurus" (Robin, Collins, and many others) have solutions for companies or wealthy people already living in developed countries. However, most of their solutions would fail in developing and under-developed countries. I am sure it is far easier to live in Canada and be a leader, than to be in India (a land highly fertile for corruption) and show leadership. It is easy to be discouraged in India, than to be discouraged in Canada, or America.
    Definitely, we have to, and we should look for a MAJOR change, a change that can sweep across ALL people, or as Swami Ramdev puts it, "When the last man in the social status (in Hindi, "Antim aadmi") gets food, shelter, water, and employment, we will have truly progressed." EVERYONE should be involved in transformation, not just a select, wealthy few. Makes sense! Thanks a lot for clarifying . . . .
    As agents of change, Mayawati, or for that matter, even Hitler, was better than Robin Sharma. They influenced a huge lot — for right or for wrong is not the question. The important matter is that Hitler influenced almost entire Germany. Now, we have to focus on the right strategies, policies and planning to do the same thing — but for the good. For the good of ALL, until the change touches the "antim aadmi" of India.

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