Overlords are meant not to lord it over others, but to lead others over to the Lord

Whenever we get any leadership position, we gain the power to control others. And our ego may impel us to misuse that power to dominate or even exploit others. If we thus lord it over others, we will hurt ourselves spiritually. Why? Because spiritual growth centers on lovingly surrendering to the Supreme Lord, Krishna. As long as we are proudly looking down at others, we can’t humbly look up at the Lord. 

On understanding how leadership positions can be spiritually detrimental, we may fearfully decide to avoid all such positions. However, that would be a kneejerk reaction. Society needs leaders, and some people naturally have the inclination to lead. Pointing to the innateness of this inclination, the Gita (18.43) lists the mood of being a controller (ishvara-bhava) as a defining characteristic of kshatriyas, who are society’s overlords. They are meant to use this mood to lead others toward the supreme controller. 

Suppose we are among the spiritually-minded people who have a natural inclination to lead. If we unnaturally renounce that inclination, we will feel materially choked. And we will leave society vulnerable to be misled by materialistic leaders. Thus, our renunciation of leadership will be individually and socially detrimental. Instead of renouncing artificially, we can learn from the Gita how to harmonize our inclination with life’s spiritual purpose: to love and serve Krishna, who is everyone’s ultimate leader.

What if we aspire for some leadership position but don’t get it? Instead of lamenting about the position we don’t have, we can use whatever position we have to lead ourselves and those under our guidance toward our Lord. When the Lord sees us using our present position responsibly, he will grant us fulfillment internally. And he may grant us a bigger position externally when we have become mature enough to use that position for our and others’ all-round welfare. 

Think it over:

  • How can a leadership position be spiritually detrimental?
  • How can renouncing leadership be detrimental?
  • If our aspiration for a leadership position is unfulfilled, how can we deal with it spiritually?


18.43 Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the kshatriyas.

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