On November 5, 2017, Radhanath Swami was in London, serving as the keynote speaker for the fiscal year’s first South Asian Networking Meeting at Accenture, addressing over a hundred employees on the topic “Be the Leader You Wish You Had”.
Accenture is a management consultancy firm that provides services in strategy, consulting, digital technology and operations. They partner with more than three-quarter of the Fortune Global 500. More specific to the event, the South Asian Network is an inclusion and diversity network that brings together people from or interested in eight different South Asian countries. They hold events to help employees at Accenture understand the history and culture of the region, and to help those from that ethnicity understand that they can be as successful as anyone else at the firm.
Oliver (Olly) Benzecry, the managing director of Accenture’s business in the United Kingdom and Ireland, also attended the event as a speaker. He inaugurated the event by sharing a few words about the topic at hand – leadership. “As an organisation we flourish when people want to be here and people can be themselves in the workplace.” He went on to speak on four traits he felt a good leader had: a sense of shared purpose with their team, affinity and affection, they talk openly to the members of their team and they care. This underpins Accenture’s focus on being ‘Truly Human’, to not only work incredibly hard as a team, but care for each other deeply as individuals.
Olly’s leadership was also the focus of Radhanath Swami’s keynote address. The Swami mentioned a simple incident involving himself and Olly that had happened just before the event began. “I was so thrilled to hear the words of Olly” he began. “In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a very significant verse: a true leader is one who sets a direction for people by his or her exemplary actions. When I first arrived just a few minutes ago, I met Olly. We were taking for a few minutes until I requested if someone can show me to the restroom. He said, “I’ll take you.” But I insisted that someone else take me. Yet he insisted on taking me, although he didn’t even know the way! As I entered the restroom, I told him I’ll meet you back in the room of the event, but he again insisted to wait. And wait he did! Here is the Managing Director of Accenture for the whole of the U.K. and Ireland, waiting for a small Swami who hasn’t had a bank account since 1969 to use the bathroom. A good leader is one who cares for others, regardless of their position. It really moved my heart. That is leadership!”
After the keynote address, Radhanath Swami sat on a panel discussion with a handful of the Managing Directors from the firm. They shared their thoughts on inspiration and answered questions from the audience. Sevasti Wong, the Global Talent and Organisation Consulting Lead, shared that authenticity, being yourself and not being scared by failure, were important qualities of a leader. She also mentioned, “I loved the keynote speaker and what he spoke about, especially his position on expressing love and kindness in the workplace and our personal lives. His analogy of being a gardener was my take-home message.” Radhanath Swami shared a story earlier in the event, “The secret of a good garden is in one who personally loves his or her flowers and plants. Because when you take care of them with love, they release the energy of love. If you put together all the right fertilizers and scientific botanical method, you will see something beautiful, but you will not experience something great. When flowers are nourished with both expertise and love, they give out a vibration, that when you enter into that garden, something incredible leaves your heart. Leadership means we must pour love into people to unlock their gift to the world.”
Nnenna Ilomechina, the UKI Lead for Communications, Media and Tech, shared something similar to Sevasti. “Leaders should be authentic. This means they understand themselves and are comfortable with what value they bring to the party.” On Radhanath Swami she mentioned, “He was incredibly calming and took me into a zen calm place. I think that is very important in leadership. He put everyone in such a calm and relaxed place that it’s easy to follow that sort of personality.”
Another Managing Director, Kamran Ikram, who leads the UKI Executive Infrastructure Services, and who sponsored the event for the night, said, “Radhanath Swami very eloquently described how important it is to care about your team. True leaders are not just in it for themselves, but are in it for the whole team. His way of speaking and style of getting messages across is different to your typical corporate speaker. He talked about humility, about love and about being a servant. Those messages were valid, no matter if you’re a large private organisation, a government organisation or tiny independent self employed business!”
As the night went on, a range of employees from the firm bought Radhanath Swami’s The Journey Within and The Journey Home and had them signed. One of them was Helen Anderson, part of the legal team at Accenture. She mentioned, “I had an opportunity to meet the Swami at the end. We only managed to exchange short words about what I do and his event in my home town of Oxford, but the presence he has and the way he carries himself makes even the shortest interaction very meaningful.” This was echoed by Barry Elbashir, a Senior Manager, who spent a lot of time in Mumbai without knowing of Radhanath Swami’s work there. He told us that the Swami was…“extremely inspiring. His humility and rich experience going back through the civil rights movements. Being able to share those lessons and articulating so well what the meaning of life is was incredible. I found him really helpful and I had the pleasure of sitting for a few minutes with him which I found even more inspiring that the actual keynote address!”