“Integrity, clear vision, competence and courage define a good leader”

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“Integrity, clear vision, competence and courage define a good leader”

Shiv Khera’s cap is embellished with numerous feathers. A distinguished author, educator, business consultant and a celebrated motivational speaker, Khera has travelled the globe and utilised his 40 years of research and understanding for the benefit of his readers and listeners. His books have sold over eight million copies worldwide, and he has conducted workshops in over 20 countries and has enthralled millions as a keynote speaker.

Khera was recently in Kathmandu to conduct a leadership workshop. Sarthak Raj Baral of New Business Age caught up with Khera at Soaltee Crowne Plaza to pick his brain on a plethora of topics, ranging from his thoughts on leadership, brain drain and the challenges of being a motivational speaker. Excerpts:

In your bestselling book, You Can Win, you said that “Motivation is like fire, unless you keep adding fuel to it, it dies. Your fuel is your belief in your inner values.” What is your fuel? What motivates you?
Let me first qualify that statement. Just like our bodies need food every day, our minds need positive thoughts every day. The food that we ate yesterday, how long does that last? The bath that we took yesterday, how long did that last? If we don’t take a bath every day, the body starts stinking. If we don’t eat every day, the body becomes weak. Similarly, motivation is like fire, unless you keep adding fuel to it every day, it dies out.

Positive thoughts keep us on track; otherwise, we all slip back. If an athlete stops practising after five or six days, his body and stamina will come down. So, this is an ongoing process. We have not reached the point of no return. When a space shuttle goes up, 80 percent of the energy is used to fight gravity in the take-off period. Only 20 percent is required to keep it running into orbit. At some point, gravity stops pulling. I have not reached that point.

In my new book, You Can Achieve More, I have mentioned that 85 percent of millionaires and billionaires in the world today are first generation. Only 15 percent are those who have inherited their wealth. Another survey was conducted on them. What do these people do? What sets them apart? These people read 40 to 50 books a year. Also, what kind of books do they read? They read self-help books. In the US, million dollar plus homes have libraries. You know why? Studies have shown that people at that level like to read books.

Now you might say, if I have a million dollars, I would also read books. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s the other way around. They read the books, create ideas, put them into practice, and that’s what got them the money to buy a million dollar home.

Then there are people who say I don’t have money to buy books. They are the ones who will never do anything in their lives. They make excuses and blame the world. Go to any country, any city, any community, and you will find a government library. All you have to do is get a card, become a member, and you can get the book for free. Those who don’t want to do anything in life, even if you give them everything, they still won’t do anything. Those who want to do something in life; they will do it in spite of problems. That is the difference between achievers and non-achievers.

Your workshop is centred on leadership. If you had to boil down leadership to only three qualities, what would they be? In addition, who are some good leaders today according to you, and what can we learn from them?
There’s a dearth of good leaders globally right now. You keep wondering where are the people like George Washington, Vallabhbhai Patel, and Subash Chandra Bose. Where are they? Where are the leaders like Li Kuan Yew, who literally created heaven out of hell in Singapore? That country was nothing; it was destroyed. The island doesn’t even have drinking water. It was infested with mosquitos; it was a corrupt place as well. Today it is considered the second most honest place in the world. It took me just 22 minutes to set up my office in Singapore. Where are leaders like Li Kuan Yew? There has been degeneration all over the world.

A good leader needs many traits, but three traits are very crucial. First, they need to have integrity and character. Second, they need to have competence. An incompetent person will not achieve anything. Competence means skill plus will. To succeed in life, we need both skill and will. But, between the two, will is slightly more important. If you have the will, you can buy skill. Technology and technicians can always be bought with money. Third, they need to have a clear vision. Another important trait is courage. If you have these four qualities, the rest will follow.

These four qualities are very hard to find today. You’re asking me to name one good leader today, and I really can’t. Li Kuan Yew was one, and he’s passed away. I can’t think of anyone else.

As a motivational speaker, you are expected to be a beacon of positivity. Does that become a pressure for you, and does it get tiring?
Yes, it does. You see, just because a person is positive, does not mean they don’t have negative influences all around them. It does not mean you are permanently charged up all the time. It’s like a battery. You consume all your charge; you need a recharge. In life, we need two kinds of devices. We need an antenna to attract positive thoughts. We need to do that daily. But does that mean a positive person does not have negative thoughts? Of course, they do. For that, you need a second gadget, a circuit breaker. Whenever there’s a negative thought, the circuit breaker stops it. So you need both these devices.

We need to feed our mind daily with something. Every night, I watch and listen to videos and audio with a positive message for at least an hour. Earlier, I used to read 50 to 60 books, but now I read about 30 to 40 books. Even at the airport today, I picked up three books. We all need that charge. There are negative pulls everywhere. You need your circuit breaker to stop them and your antenna to attract positive thoughts.

There’s a saying ‘Leaders are made, not born.’ It is also said that leaders can be developed by training. How is your view?
If you take it literally, of course, all leaders are born. How else would they come into this world? But, great leaders are made. There is a difference between a good leader and an effective leader. You could say that Adolf Hitler was a charismatic leader, but was he a good leader? He can’t be classified as a good leader. Goodness has something to do with morality, and morality needs guts and courage to make you an effective leader. If you don’t have the courage to implement that morality, you are not a good leader.

Do leadership styles vary from country to country? For example, will a leader that is successful in a thriving nation like the USA, be equally successful in a developing country like Nepal?
I see no reason why not. Leadership qualities are identical everywhere. People are people all over the world. Emotional appeals are identical across the globe. Your question relates to something I’ve experienced. I conduct programmes in around 25 countries. People ask me “Don’t you see cultural differences?” My answer is that I see more similarities than differences. To me, culturally, what is different is only a surface issue. For example, in the western world, a ‘thumbs up’ gesture is a sign of encouragement. But in the Middle East, that same gesture is an insult. That’s a cultural difference. In India, they worship snakes and rats; that is cultural. In China and Singapore, the number ‘four’ is considered unlucky; that is cultural. But emotional appeals are identical; I have never seen anything different anywhere. The meaning of integrity and cheating is the same all over the world, whether it is New Delhi or New York.

What is the qualification of a good national leader? There is only one qualification – they put the national interest above their own interest. You need nothing else. Some will say “Oh, he doesn’t have experience.” The only experience you need is whether you are willing to put the national interest above your own interest. Some people have been there for 10 or 20 years, not done anything and only shown corruption. A new guy comes in, and they say “He doesn’t have experience.” Yes, the new person is not experienced. He’s not experienced in corruption and in cheating other people. Today, money has become more important than morality. Greed has become more important than goodness. That is what needs to change.

As a writer of several bestsellers, you are an immensely successful author. What hurdles did you face to achieve such a standing? Moreover, what would your advice be for aspiring authors?
Many authors write books from the perspective of ‘this is what my audience wants to read.’ They are looking to give the audience what they want. I have never written a book from that perspective. From our conversation, you can tell I’m not a neutral person. I’m not a fence-sitter. I have very strong likes and dislikes. When I write a book, I write my convictions; things that I feel strongly about. Now, people may like it or dislike it, that’s a different issue.

That is where I have found success. People say “This guy is transparent.” My books are at a sixth-grade level; everyone can understand them and relate to them. As for aspiring authors, I would not want to give any advice. People become authors for all sorts of reasons, and each one of them wants to become a bestseller. It’s up to them; it’s their choice what they write.

Here in Nepal, many of our youth are venturing abroad in search of greener pastures. This is a problem that plagues India as well. What is your view on this? Also, what can a country like Nepal do to retain its talent?
There was a survey in India that found out that 60 percent of the youth wants to leave the country. First of all, you need to address why they are leaving. Do they really want to leave? Are they leaving because they have no choice? What is the quality of life here? If there was no visa system today, just think what would happen in some countries. In countries like Nepal or India, everybody will leave, the country will be empty. So they are staying almost by force, not by choice. Is that a country or a jail?

Sadly, our politicians are unable to understand this. The average man is not powerful, so the only escape is to get out of the country. You may say, “Why can’t he stay and fight for the country?” The guy doesn’t have food to eat, how does he fight on an empty stomach?
That is the reason why people in third world countries are going abroad. Why do they call it ‘the third world’ to begin with? Because they behave in a third class manner. They create problems for their own people. When the judicial system doesn’t work, police is corrupt and there is no recourse system, many people resort to the mafia. In such countries, the mafia is the chief ruler. So what can people do but try to get out.
So, you don’t need an analyst from a consulting company to tell you why people want to leave and why you can’t retain your talent. It’s so evident. If we can’t see the writing on the wall, we are either blind or stupid.

You first came to Nepal in 1998. In the 21 years since, what changes have you observed in this country?
When I came here 21 years ago, I was so impressed with Nepal and its people. Nepal has the potential of becoming Switzerland of the South Asia region. The people that I knew years ago were honest. You could rely on them; they had a higher level of integrity. But things have changed; the people are not the same anymore.

At that time, considering the beauty of the place and the people, I was looking to set up a business school here. The chairmen of certain banks told me “You don’t have to invest anything, just lend your name. Your name carries credibility. We will invest money.”

I even looked into some properties here. Then when the political turmoil and violence started, I decided this is not the place to come to. A person like me, who loves this country decided not to set up an educational institution here. I chose not to set up a business school even in my home country as well.

Ultimately, our countries are hurting themselves. The political leadership is destroying the country.

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