In True Leaders - Heart Talk Prompts Head Walk

“Leadership comes from a place that troubles your heart.”

 I read these words years ago in an article and have never forgotten them.  The article was about Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, affectionately called Dr. V.  In 1976, he founded the Aravind Eye Hospital for the purpose of performing cataract surgery because cataracts are India’s leading form of blindness.

 From an eleven-bed hospital manned by four doctors, Aravind has grown to be the largest eye care provider in the world, all because Dr. V. believed he could do something to eliminate needless blindness. Today, 50% of its patients receive services either free or at a steeply discounted rate. Since its inception, Aravind has handled more than 675 million outpatient visits and performed more than 7.8 million surgeries. **

 Here’s the critical leadership lesson: Dr. V listened to his heart. Only when that prompted him to do something about a critical problem, did his brain kick into gear.  He began pondering how to do multiple surgeries, how to create a funding model, and how to make a hospital that was self-supporting.

How different from too many so-called leaders today who seek to further their own well-being.  Dr. V wasn’t looking to put his name on a building, to capture ranking among the wealthiest, or to boast about his accomplishments.  He wasn’t checking his popularity polls or surrounding himself with sycophants. He was troubled by a problem that could be fixed with the right attention and skill.

Listen up, leaders.  Your true success and happiness depend upon how you answer these questions:

  1. What troubles your heart and is NOT connected with your finances, health, relationships, or property holdings?  
  2. Where is there a need for your intellect and skill set?
  3. What would you like your legacy to be to your family?  To your community?
  4. Whom do you believe could give you straight-up insight about what difference you might make?
  5. What might you need to learn?

Howard Thurman, an American author, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader summarizes Dr. V’s leadership philosophy in these words:

Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

**This amazing story, from a founder who had to relearn surgery when his crippled hands could no longer hold regular scalpels, can be viewed here.

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