Srila Prabhupada delineates the qualities of
a true leader and a corrupt leader.
Duties of a Krishna Conscious Leader
It is necessary for the leaders of the Krishna consciousness movement to start educational institutions in different parts of the world to train children, starting at the age of five years. Thus such children will not become hippies or spoiled children of society; rather, they can all become devotees of the Lord. The face of the world will then change automatically. (Srimad Bhagavatam (4.12.23), purport)
Leader means one who has become first class disciple. He is leader . . . . One who is perfectly following . . . . To become leader, is not very difficult, provided one is prepared to follow the instructions of a bona fide guru. (Room Conversation, November 2, 1977, Vrindavana)
The Great Responsibility of Leaders
Bhagavad gita (3.21) says, yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah/sa yat pramana m kurute lokas tad anuvartate: “Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”
Purport: People in general always require a leader who can teach the public by practical behavior. A leader cannot teach the public to stop smoking if he himself smokes. Lord Caitanya said that a teacher should behave properly before he begins teaching. One who teaches in that way is called acarya, or the ideal teacher. Therefore, a teacher must follow the principles of shastra (scripture) to teach the common man. The teacher cannot manufacture rules against the principles of revealed scriptures. The revealed scriptures, like Manu samhita and similar others, are considered the standard books to be followed by human society.Thus the leader’s teaching should be based on the principles of such standard shastras. One who desires to improve himself must follow the standard rules as they are practiced by the great teachers. The Srimad Bhagavatam also affirms that one should follow in the footsteps of great devotees, and that is the way of progress on the path of spiritual realization. The king or the executive head of a state, the father and the school teacher are all considered to be natural leaders of the innocent people in general. All such natural leaders have a great responsibility to their dependents; therefore they must be conversant with standard books of moral and spiritual codes.
As soon as one gets a material body, he becomes deha bhrt, or dehi. In other words, he is subjected to all the material conditions. The leaders of society must be so ideal that by following them one can be relieved from the clutches of material existence. (Srimad Bhagavatam (5.4.15), purport)
Test of a True Leader
Truthfulness is the basic principle for all religions. The four leaders of the human society, namely the sannyasis, the brahmana, the king and the public leader, must be tested crucially by their character and qualification. Before one can be accepted as a spiritual or material master of society, he must be tested by the above mentioned criteria of character. Such public leaders may be less qualified in academic qualifications, but it is necessary primarily that they be free from the contamination of the four disqualifications, namely gambling, drinking, prostitution and animal slaughter. (Srimad Bhagavatam (1.17.41), purport)
. . . Leaders . . . the propaganda should be that, at least the priests, who are conducting religious activities . . . they must be sinless . . . “Sinless” means they should not indulge in these four prohibited principles [meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication and gambling]. Others may do. But the leaders, the political executive, administrators, and the priests who are conducting the church they must be free from sinful life. Otherwise, there is no question of peace in the society. (Room Conversation in Delhi, November 4, 1973)
So far as being leader is concerned, leader means spiritually not materially. This you should understand very clearly. If spiritual potency and strength is there, then material intelligence will automatically follow. We must have a solid foundation of chanting and following the regulative principles. Then one is fit to lead others. (Letter to: Jaga jivana, September 6, 1974)
That is the business of leader: He must be himself always enthusiastic and inspire others to be always enthusiastic. Then he is real leader. (Letter to: Trai, Bombay, December 27, 1972)
Leaders who have fallen into ignorance and who mislead people by directing them to the path of destruction [as described in the previous verse] are, in effect, boarding a stone boat, and so too are those who blindly follow them. A stone boat would be unable to float and would sink in the water with its passengers. Similarly, those who mislead people go to hell, and their followers go with them. (Srimad Bhagavatam (6.7.14), purport)
The process of illusory service to society, country and community is exactly the same everywhere; the same principle is applicable even to big national leaders. A national leader who is very great in serving his country is sometimes killed by his countrymen because of irregular service. In other words, one cannot satisfy his dependents by this illusory service, although one cannot get out of the service because servant is his constitutional position. (Srimad Bhagavatam (3.30.10), purport)
These subtle laws of nature are unknown to the present leaders of society. Since the leaders of society have a poor fund of knowledge and the citizens in general are rogues and thieves, there cannot be an auspicious situation for human society. At the present moment the whole world is full of such an incompatible combination of state and citizens, and therefore there is constant tension, war and anxiety as an inevitable result of such social conditions. (Srimad Bhagavatam (4.20.14), purport)
Characteristics of Bad Leaders
Because the so called great leaders of human society are ignorant of this great knowledge of bhakti yoga and are always engaged in ignoble acts of sense gratification, bewildered by the external energy of the Lord, they are stubborn rebels against the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they never agree to surrender unto Him because they are fools, miscreants and the lowest type of human beings. Such faithless nonbelievers may be highly educated in the material sense of the term, but factually they are the greatest fools of the world because by the influence of the external, material nature all their so called acquisition of knowledge has been made null and void. Therefore all advancement of knowledge in the present context of things is being misused by cats and dogs fighting with one another for sense gratification, and all acquisition of knowledge in science, philosophy, fine arts, nationalism, economic development, religion and great activities are being spoiled by being used as dresses for dead men. (Srimad Bhagavatam (2.9.36), purport)
So Srimad Bhagavatam’s categorization of the common man without any spiritual enlightenment into the society of dogs, hogs, camels and asses is not at all an exaggeration. The leaders of such ignorant masses of people may feel very proud of being adored by such a number of dogs and hogs, but that is not very flattering. The Bhagavatam openly declares that although a person may be a great leader of such dogs and hogs disguised as men, if he has no taste for being enlightened in the science of Krishna, such a leader is also an animal and nothing more. He may be designated as a powerful, strong animal, or a big animal, but in the estimation of Srimad Bhagavatam he is never given a place in the category of man, on account of his atheistic temperament. Or, in other words, such godless leaders of dogs and hog like men are bigger animals with the qualities of animals in greater proportion. (Srimad Bhagavatam (2.3.19), purport)
The mass of people in general are tools in the hands of the modern politicians and leaders of the people. If there is a change of heart of the leaders only, certainly there will be a radical change in the atmosphere of the world. (Srimad Bhagavatam (1.5.11), purport)
The so called political leaders are busy making plans to advance the material prosperity of their nation, but factually these political leaders only want an exalted position for themselves. Due to their greed for material position, they falsely present themselves as leaders before the people and collect their votes, although they are completely under the grip of the laws of material nature.
The expert leaders of a godless human civilization cannot bring about a fruitful result in all their different attempts at educational advancement or economic development unless they are God conscious. And to become God conscious one has to hear about the all auspicious Lord, as He is described in literature like the Bhagavad gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. Srimad Bhagavatam (2.4.17), purport
No one can expect any peace and prosperity in a human society full of uncultured lower classes of men. The symptoms of such uncultured social animals are already in vogue, and it is the duty of the leaders of men to take note of it and try to reform the social order by introducing the principles of twice born men trained in the science of God consciousness. This can be done by expanding the culture of Srimad Bhagavatam all over the world. (Srimad Bhagavatam (2.7.39), purport)