Does erudition make one a leader? Can one justly refer to a man of status as a leader? If the answer is in the negative, the question arises — who is a leader? There is a certain selfless love a person must display to qualify to be called a leader, D. Gnanasundaram said in a discourse.

The spiritually inclined develop a love for all mankind; this manifests in their kindness and readiness to forgive. They are prepared to overlook the faults of others and magnify only the good qualities of others. They do not expect perfection in others, but are ready to embrace even those who have many undesirable traits. If this is the definition of a leader, the One who perhaps is the most qualified to be called a leader is God Himself.

Vaishnavite commentators elaborate on Lord Narayana’s many qualities, and the qualities of a leader become evident from their description of such qualities.

A leader must be like the moon, sandal, water and breeze, wrote Vaishnava commentators. The moon casts its cool rays on the earth, and pleases the inhabitants of the earth. The moon may wane until New Moon day; even as it does so, it continues to shed its rays upon the earth. So does a leader help others.

Sandalwood is rubbed against a stone for obtaining sandal paste. And in the process gives fragrance to others. A leader works tirelessly for the welfare of others, with no thought for his comforts. There is more pleasure in giving than in receiving.

Water is akin to a selfless person too. Water cleanses our bodies of dirt, but while doing so, the water itself becomes dirty. A leader may suffer while he helps others, but he doesn’t stop because of his own discomforts. The breeze willingly absorbs the air we exhale. Likewise a true leader accepts us despite our faults. In short, a leader is a selfless person, whose concern is for others, never for himself. Who but God can answer to this description? Judged by such standards, how many who call themselves leaders are truly justified in styling themselves so?