Dr Rabi Shakya is an Associate Professor and Head of Department of Psychiatry at Patan Academy of Health Sciences. A senior psychiatrist of the country, he completed his Doctor of Medicine (MD) from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at a time when studying psychiatry itself was considered taboo. After decades-long contribution in the mental health sector, Dr Shakya believes that the sector even today is one of the
most neglected in Nepal.
He is an avid writer and contributes columns regularly for number a of newspapers and magazines. Dr Shakya feels the lack of adequate action from the government in promoting better mental health. He says that the services and programmes currently being delivered in the country are mostly by I/NGOs and the private sector, often with short term goals. He strongly believes in empathetic leadership and calls for sensitization on mental health issues.
Here he shares his views on the dynamics of sound and progressive leadership. Excerpts:
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is the quality and skills to make right decisions at the right time and thereby show the way for collective benefit of the group one is leading or representing. It is through the way you make decisions and execute them that you motivate your team mates. Leadership is also about living life in such a way that fosters your people to follow in your foot steps and stand by your side.
What, for you, are three traits that a leader should possess?
- A person who is stuck in self interest can never be a true leader. It is hence, selflessness and dedication towards the team and the cause which is the foremost trait of a leader.
- A person who is afraid to take decisions can again never be a leader but stay limited to being a follower. So, boldness in taking innovative and wise decisions is another trait of a leader.
- And finally, if a leader wishes that people follow them, they have to be role models. In this way, being influential and inspirational is another trait of a leader.
What is the significance of leadership in medical institutions especially in the mental health sector?
Given the fact that Nepal‘s mental health sector is still full of stigma; leaders hold a lot of scope and significance in this sector. They are direly needed firstly to tell and convince people that mental illness is not about being cursed by God or being possessed by ill spirits, rather it is simply physiological. Secondly, they are significant in bringing stakeholders, including the government, civil society, policy makers, I/NGOs and patients and their families together to help build a common understanding about mental health issues and in seeking coordinated attention and support in coping with the issue. Since much of our treatment methodologies are either classical or prototyped, leaders are also significant in this sector in developing local treatment and patient care methodology and for being empathetic to patients so that the patients can reclaim the quality of their lives. After all, leadership is more about acting for others than for oneself.
How do you assess yourself as a leader?
Even though I have been associated with the mental health sector, I do not hesitate to call myself a mediocre leader with the need to learn more. I know I have not been able to become very influential in all groups, especially among the older generation, so I am committed to hone my skills in the leadership art.
Who has helped shape leadership qualities in you?
In my leadership journey so far, I have learnt a lot from my mentor/ teacher Prof Dr Sudhir Khandelwal of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.
What or who inspires you?
I love and feel blessed to name the selfless politician and proficient statesman, Ganesh Man Singh, my colleague from Bangladesh, Dr Sahajeda Selim, and my senior and reverent Dr Govind KC.
Is happiness connected with leadership?
Happiness is a positive emotion that makes people optimist, energetic and enthusiastic. Happiness also feeds your confidence. These positive emotions and impulses have a enriching effect in the leadership quality.
What about mental health?
A sound mental health equals to an ability to relate yourself with your world harmoniously. It encompasses not just being free from diseases or ailments, but the overall personality and ones productivity in life as well as responsibility to the society. Thus, only ‘mentally healthy‘ people can be happy and productive and become good leaders. Certain mental illnesses, for instance, depression, mood disorders and narcissistic personality disorders are detrimental to leadership skills. Fundamentally, my approach to leadership is to LIVE â€“ first to live for yourself and second to live for your group/society and the nation. The moment when you are compromising with you own life due to some sort of mental problems, how likely are you to live for your group, society and the nation in a productive and constructive manner?