Letter From India: The Anna Hazare Effect

The other night I landed at Pune airport and outside found there were several hundred people and nearly as many police awaiting the arrival of Anna Hazare who comes from the area and has become the focus of national attention in his efforts to fight corruption, both official and unofficial.  I had read about his efforts and seen him on TV, but this was the first close encounter of an activist kind.

He was coming home after a number of days of hunger strike in Delhi as his latest effort to get Government attention resulting in the lodging of the Lokpal Bill.  In recent days there have been many scandals and abuses, including a Bill presented to insist that all Sports Federation Presidents should only serve a short term and should not have other official duties – many are Ministers. Not surprisingly, those involved are doing all they can to block it.

I was struck by the impact this veteran activist has.  He is 74, and been on the  activist and civil disobedience trail since the early 1990’s and is often referred to as the modern day Gandhi.  He managed to mobilise thousands in crowds in Delhi and other cities to campaign against corruption at all levels of society – from the person wanting a backhander for passing on a note to the right person, to graft on a massive scale (Commonwealth Games projects come to mind).  And yet I have been following a discussion on Linkedin, and even contributed to it, where people bemoan the fact that corruption is endemic and what should we do about it.  Calls to action, pushing the blame and the need for action onto others all featured: result no action.  And yet Anna has this effect.  Why? How?

My thought is that there is some connection with leadership.

  1. Courage. There is no doubt that Anna is courageous in what he says and more importantly does.
  2. Integrity.  He has unimpeachable integrity: it shines from him.  People know, respect and love this aspect of him.
  3. Persistence.  In all his campaigns he has had to endure hardships, reverses, ridicule and yet he has patiently persevered until he has delivered.
  4. Vision. His vision of a corruption free India is compelling and he knows it requires sacrifices.
  5. Call to arms.  In his coming home speech he said it was not enough to say you supported him, you needed to get out and support him in actions.  Every leader finds themselves in a place where they call occasionally for extraordinary commitment and efforts.
  6. Selfless.  A good role model here, which others would do well to heed.
  7. Commitment. Hunger fasting may be an extreme way to grab attention but I guess all leaders will do what it takes!
  8. And finally, Anna lives his values of Truth, Transparency and Trust: it is what he campaigns on.  Living your values is perhaps the most important of all leadership characteristics.

It seems that there are great connections.