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Mon, April 15, 2024

'If your institution collapses after you have handed over the rein or die, it shows that your leadership was poor'

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Sagar SJB Rana

President,  Nepal Art Council 

Sagar SJB Rana is the President of Nepal Art Council. He is recognised as a strong advocate of democratic values and principles, and is associated with the Nepali Congress. From the mid-1970’s, he has been actively leading various committees while serving several political roles and responsibilities. When Nepal was under a monarchical system of governance, Rana fought alongside his comrades to bring democracy in the country. Rana also served as a member of the Central Working Committee and as Head of Department of International Affairs of Nepali Congress between the years 2003 and 2006.  

Beside politics, Rana has also been active in sports. In 1992, he was appointed Vice Chairperson of the National Sports Council for two years. He also served as the country leader during the SAARC Games held in Sri Lanka in the same year. Further, Rana has served as the Secretary of the Lawn Tennis Association and has won the National Lawn Tennis Championship as well. He represented Nepal in several international games. Rana says, “For 15 to 20 years, I was the pivotal person for the growth of lawn tennis in Nepal.”

Rana is the first Nepali to obtain Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Jurisprudence from the University of Oxford, England. He has also authored ‘Singha Durbar: Rise and Fall of Rana Regime’ and ‘Kingdom Lost: Nepal’s Tryst with Democracy’, which hold the distinction of being the first two books on Nepali history written in English by a Nepali. 

Beside politics, sports and academics, Rana is deeply engaged with art and culture. He was the Founder President of Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal in 1971. He also worked as the President of Nepal Heritage Society Nepal in 1984. Currently, he is the President of the Nepal Art Council. 

In this edition of Business 360, we spoke to Rana about what leadership means to him. Excerpts:  

How do you define leadership?

No individual can give a perfect definition for leadership. People in various life situations will have to showcase leadership qualities differently. But I must say, a good leader, whether it’s in sports, culture or politics, is the one who is respected and valued by others. 

Is leadership ‘inborn’ or ‘acquired’?

I believe leadership is inborn. Let me share a story to explain why I feel it is inborn. After completing my middle school degrees, I went to England for higher studies. I reached England six months prior to when the college would open just to explore its culture and life. Being a person who likes learning about other cultures and lifestyles helped me to adapt to England in a short span of time. When college started, I joined the sports team. I have always been involved in sports since my childhood. Fortunately, the college that I went to provide a lot of opportunities to those who like sports. It had amazing infrastructure related to sports. I used to play a lot and one day, out of nowhere, my house teacher came and asked me to be the house captain. I had never expected that someone would come and ask me to lead the team. Studying in such a big college and being noticed by a teacher is huge. I could not deny the proposal and started serving as house captain. After being appointed house captain for some time, the same teacher again told me “We may ask you to be head of the house, are you prepared for it?” 

What I want to emphasise here is, I never tried to come into the mainstream. The opportunity that came to me was not intended. What I believe is when you are good at something and do your work genuinely, you will certainly be noticed. My discipline, ethics and interest in sports and culture were within me. I had an eagerness to learn and I did. My interest in knowing culture moulded my whole lifestyle which is again not intended. I was unknowingly heading towards being a person with high values and ethics. Till date, the teachings that England gave me are with me. 

I, personally, never tried to become a leader but I believe, I was unconsciously learning some values that added to my leadership quality. Hence, I would say leadership is inborn. 

How does one influence people?

To win over people, everything that you do, mostly your lifestyle and your work, should be selfless. Once you start having a selfless attitude, you will gain respect. Respect, in any leadership role, is very prominent. Again, to receive respect you must show it through your actions that you are worthy of it. No matter how much belief and trust you have for yourself, unless you work, you cannot teach others. Many believe that leaders do not work themselves and they make others work for them. I completely disagree with this statement because no one can create an impact by giving orders and making others work. Leaders set examples by working themselves and taking forward their team together. You will automatically have followers when people observe and appreciate your work, no matter which field you are involved in One incident that tested your leadership ability and how you handled it?
I recall no particular incident that has tested my leadership ability. I believe, throughout my working career, I have faced some or the other kind of challenge that has tested my leadership ability. 

Have you faced any failure and how did you overcome it?

Yes, I have faced it once. It was back when I was actively involved in politics, and it was during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. Throughout that period, I was working at the Department of International Affairs of Nepali Congress. It was a challenging time as there were incidents that threatened our life. The Kathmandu President of our party had been shot at the time; I was the President of Lalitpur district. A group of people set fire to the vehicle parked outside my house. It was scary and difficult. But we fought and successfully restored democracy. I was positive and hopeful for a good change in government but again the party split and the whole beauty of Nepali Congress disappeared. This created a vacuum inside of me. During that period, there were a lot of positive changes but we could have done more if the party had remained united. The splitting of Nepali Congress was a failure. 
I believe everything happens for a reason and one should never get stuck with one incident. Leaders must possess the ability to move on. Every event or incident brings new opportunities. In my case, I wrote books which I believe have helped many generations to learn about Nepal, its hardships and achievements. The books that I have written are liked by many and the universities are also planning to include them in their curriculum. If I had continued with politics, this could not have happened. In the process of losing something, there is always space to gain some other thing.

When should a leader pass on the baton? 

Unless you develop a capable person with good attitude and intention you cannot pass on the baton. You might be working fantastically but if your institution collapses after you have handed over the rein or die, it shows that your leadership was poor. Every leader must create a leadership that works even after them.
Keeping this in mind, one must learn not to work in the same position for a long time, you must give others the opportunity. When there is somebody who perfectly fits in, then you should immediately leave the position. Every position should get the chance for a new and modern way of working as per the time. I am 85 years old right now and I will immediately leave my position if there is another potential candidate to take over. And those who are taking over should themselves feel they are ready. 

How can one effectively lead a team?

To effectively lead a team, one should have proper knowledge of the work they are involved in. They must know the type of work, the organisational goal and mission, and their own goal aligning to the organisation. To have proper knowledge and strategies to lead a position is vital. 

Secondly, whatever ideas the leader has must be shared with the team efficiently and clearly. Not every member of the team will provide the same level of support all the time, but you will reach the goal when the team believes in you. 

Is there any ideal leader you look up to and why? 

It would undoubtedly be late BP Koirala but I also look up to late Ganesh Man Singh and late Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. We get such leaders once in a lifetime. A common aspect among these leaders due to which I became their follower was their humility. I vividly remember the death of BP Koirala. It was amazing to see how so many people gathered to pay tribute to him. Koirala was a very intelligent, versatile person with high leadership qualities. After the passing away of these leaders, there has been a vacuum in Nepali Congress.