Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: FTI – leadership, team building

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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FTI current phase: Assemble, but do not leave your job

This question comes up again and again, so I think it is worthwhile posting a recent interaction on this subject. 

After the very successful event at IIT Delhi on 2 August, this comment was made by one of the FTI organisers: "Challenge: convincing people that FTI strategy can actually work, given that we do not have much to show on the ground (in terms of political activity), most of us are part-time with no definite personal contesting plan".

My response:

Amazing things happen when good people come together. This outreach event is one such amazing thing. Small but effective. A great start.

Let this approach be our selling point – that we are not a demanding platform. We are organising, but within our means. One thing I don't want us to do – until EVERYTHING is sorted out – is to leave our jobs or reduce our income from work. Let's be realistic. This effort will take some time to gain strength. And no one's family interests should suffer in the interregnum.

If someone says why aren't you on the ground, our response is: We are not interested in any half-baked activity. Every action must contribute to the goal. No wasted effort or energy.


As Pericles said, "The great impediment to action is, in our opinion, not discussion, but the want of that knowledge which is gained by discussions preparatory to action".

FTI is in the assembling and discussion stage prior to action. Let us do this properly and not rush to action on the 'ground'. It is too early for political activity on the ground. We need a strong leadership team to come together first and agree to a policy platform. Only then can education campaign be launched.

In the meanwhile, of course, supporters (Freedom Partners) can, and should assemble. Support is needed from all sides. That is a given. Let Freedom Partners (those who won't personally contest elections) spread the message of freedom. 

The combination of these two steps will result in a movement for reform that is ready to take the next steps on the ground – and then, finally, once fully ready, aim to contest elections. No point in rushing things. 

ADDENDUM. Things get done by assembling

There are a number of good people in India who are either disheartened, or can't find a way forward, or can't agree with others. FTI connects them and allows teh magicl of social capital to build. Examples: letter to independents, outreach events in Indore/Delhi. A lot of things get done without too much effort. The main thing is to assemble.

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Are FTI’s views synonymous with mine?

This question has come up in the past and I've addressed it both internally on FTI and on various blogs, but I thought I'd publish a recent clarification that I provided on the internal FTI forum – so that those interested can fully understand that FTI is not Sanjeev, nor vice versa!

Let me assert quite vigorously that it would be a total travesty of what I'm been advocating – (a) citizen leadership and (b) freedom – for FTI's views to be, at any stage, be seen as being synonymous with mine! This is a team of leaders we are talking about, not a bunch of followers.

Remember that I'm just one of the members of the team (and, indeed, only an Honorary member) and do vigorously try to persuade and explain but have never and will never impose anything on anyone. Why else do we vote as equal members on FTI, for instance? Nothing on FTI is decided by me. Only through equal voting by all members, and I've myself modified my views on occasion after a vigorous FTI debate.

Much as I'd like everyone on FTI to agree with the views I propound in BFN or DOF, no one on FTI is even remotely expected to "follow" these  views. They must form their own opinion. All I ask is that they do so after extensive reading, analysis and thinking, and avoid any rush to opinion. That means they must be open to challenging their own views, as well. This preference for independent and critical thinking is detailed in two extensive chapters in DOF. To me, this, above all, forms the foundation of liberalism.

I always suggest that we should trust in no one but ourselves and refuse to follow anyone (including me!) just because he or she has written a book or article or has a few certificates acquired from here or there including 'Nobel' and other prizes – just trinkets. Think for yourself!

Critical thinking is therefore the foundational principle of FTI. Get to understand things and then lead, as a citizen. That is the only way for people to become genuine leaders. And we all know that there is simply no place on FTI for any follower. Only independent, self-respecting citizens are allowed: those who will leave no stone unturned in their quest to find the best solutions for themselves and India. We are here to contest and debate with each other: never to be sycophants or stooges of anyone – living or dead. 

To me, FTI should (and does) reflect the best of the Indian mind, a liberated Indian mind that is able to think for itself. 

As Vivekananda said: "Liberty in thought and action is the only condition of life, growth and well-being: Where it does not exist, the man, the race, and the nation must go down."

So let's be free! Be not bound by any chains!

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Am I a leader in disguise?

I was told recently that someone (let's call him "Harish")  thinks I am a "sort of a leader in disguise " (!). Apparently I want "to play safe as I am working for Australian Govt and thinking of bringing political revolution in India while remaining stationed in Australia."

Through this blog post I'd like to let Harish know that I'm not a leader in disguise. I'm out there in public. No disguise. No secrets about it. My book, BFN talks clearly about it. I have never hidden my leadership ambitions. Because I believe I have information and capacity to totally change India's future. And I don't expect anyone to join FTI unless they are clear they have the capacity and calibre to become Prime Minister of India. Else we are getting second raters and we can't do anything with such people.

I'd like to inform Harish that I'm also clear about this – that I must lead because I CARE deeply for India and its future, not  because being a leader is necessary in any form or shape for my personal happiness. I am PERFECTLY happy where I am and will continue to be happy to an extent that most people in the world can't even imagine. Happiness is such a personal thing, anyway; nothing to do with external paraphernalia of ANY sort.

And third, let me tell Harish that I want India to prosper (and the world), which means all this that I'm doing is not only NOT about me but CANNOT be about me. It is logically impossible for any of my work to be about me. Instead, it is about finding and fostering genuine leaders in India who can proudly lead India to glory and greatness.
India is not something that exists only in my lifetime. It has had a short 8,000 year old journey so far, but a much longer journey – of millions of years – lies ahead. It is not my goal to be a blip of light in my lifetime by becoming some kind of a special "leader" but letting darkness prevail after that. My goal, instead, to ensure that thousands of bright lights rise and shine in India, not only today but for ever. I love my people despite their flaws (But who is flawless – definitely not me! – we are all human). So I want to liberate my fellow countrymen from their slumber. And having done that, my job will be done. They will lead themselves. Self-leadership is therefore the aim, not imposing my 'leadership' in ANY form or shape. Leadership, in any event, is ONLY about achieving one's goals, not about oneself. That I'm on this journey itself gives me more satisfaction than I got when I was merely a bureaucrat, trying to 'adjust' the rotten systems we have. 
And I am interested in supporting FTI become an organisation that fights for freedom, not an organisation that will depend on any single team member. Any of us can die next thing tomorrow: then what? Would the fight for freedom and good governance that FTI is working on,  die? Is freedom so cheap that it must depend on any single person, whoever that person be? Why are we so foolish that we depend on a single person for our own freedom and prosperity? Don't we have self-respect? Why are we such total slaves that we need to think of leadership as a "position", not a function of citizenship and self-actualisation? When will we grow up?
Gandhi's age was of great leaders, although he just did simple things as a common citizen. Citizenship was so rare in those days that he became a great leader. But that was  history. Why can't we all become good citizens today? Surely we don't need feats of glory any longer. We are adults, I hope?! With deep self-regard, and commitment to our own nation, our own world. This is now the age of citizen-leaders. Everyone must be a leader – a person who takes responsibility for his own country.
I ask Harish, therefore, whether he (and his team of highly qualified Indians) would prefer to be citizen-leaders working together to take India to greatness, or would they rather be loners, each of whom wants his own individual greatness? Harish, you surely realise that if you truly want greatness then you must become part of a great country, not a single 'great' man who sits on top of a petty molehill. So let's join together to make India great. Let's all work to ensure citizenship. Let's NEVER lose our identity to serve anyone else but ourselves! The nation exists for us. Nothing is greater than us. But we can't be great without a great nation. That is why we must work together. Then we can all be great! How simple is that!
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