During a press conference, former tennis great Billie Jean King was asked how she dealt with pressure, and she responded, “Pressure is a privilege. It only comes to those who have earned it.” This quote is one of my favourites, but it’s nonetheless hard when pressure gets on your nerves.
I remember. My husband and I were called upon to take a major responsibility some years ago. Bhakti Rasamrita Swami, the charismatic leader who developed a flourishing congregation of thousands in Belgaum, India, had moved out of Belgaum to answer an emergency elsewhere. The congregation, desperate for a leader, approached us. But how could my husband and I—even when put together—match the leadership calibre of Bhakti Rasamrita Swami? Fretful, I awaited an opportunity to seek the guidance of my guru Radhanath Swami before accepting the offer.
In my seventy-odd years in this world, I have often learnt lessons in the most informal settings. And this time I learnt one on a walkway. My daughter-in-law and I were on a stroll. Suddenly, we spotted Radhanath Swami walking out of Vrindavan Forest, his favourite garden in Mumbai, unaccompanied. My daughter-in-law probed me to grab this opportunity to discuss-out the Belgaum issue. So I walked to Radhanath Swami and burst out, “I am scared!”
“Are you scared of ME?” He first faked a quizzical look, before his body rocked in laughter. Even this initial exchange lifted half the pressure off me. “No,” I replied. “I am scared of taking up a leadership position.” I then went on to explain him my situation.
In the conversation that followed he explained how leadership is about becoming a servant of those we lead, it is about giving love to those we lead, it is all about being the best we can be—for the welfare of those we lead. “So just be yourself,” he concluded. “Don’t try to impress, but give love.”
The conversation lifted off all the remaining pressure.
–Kirtida Devi Dasi.