By Luis Gallardo
I’ve known a lot of visionaries in my life, but none have understood how big dreams lead to unbridled achievement like Kailash Satyarthi, co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
A Nobel Prize seems like a big accomplishment, but the soft-spoken laureate didn’t let the award go to his head. The tireless advocate returned immediately to his mission to end child slavery. To date, the 61-year-old Indian’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) has rescued more than 80,000 children from bonded labor.
Never have I encountered someone who is so committed to his cause. Even after repeated attacks on his life and multiple murdered colleagues, Satyarthi refuses to back down from his stand against child slavery. It’s a level of dedication that reminds me of Olympic athletes training for decades to perfect their craft.
Satyarthi might not be a businessman by trade, but we business leaders have much to learn from his compassion, dedication and imagination.
From Peace Prize to professionals: Here is what Satyarthi has taught me about working hard and reaching higher:
How does this apply to business? Look at Google. Google became famous for its search engine — and its leaders probably could have stopped there if they simply sought fame and fortune. But the tech giant has debuted Google Earth, is testing Google Glass, and has created the first self-driving car. How’s that for dreaming bigger?
Don’t focus solely on your own business — create an entirely new future in which you want it to operate. Take Muhammad Yunus, another Nobel Peace Prize laureate turned social entrepreneur. Muhammad rethought banking by pioneering microfinance with the social startup Grameen Bank, which offers credit to entrepreneurs in developing countries who are too poor for traditional bank loans.
Satyarthi’s teachings have showed me that you don’t need to be a CEO to lead in business. It’s easy to feel powerless at a large company of thousands of people or to make excuses for why you can’t do something. But here’s a secret: You have more power than you think you do. It’s about making change where you are now, no matter what role you play at your company.
Satyarthi never would have attained the following he did if he weren’t willing to get his hands dirty. In business, this is the best way to breed trust with your team. If you show people you’re willing to do any task — no matter how menial or basic — you’ll attract a following of believers.
When your team has worked hard to reach a goal, it’s time to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be a boisterous, loud celebration — Satyarthi was happy to win the Nobel Prize, but there was no shouting or crying when he learned about it in his unremarkable South Delhi office. No matter how your team celebrates, everyone needs the headspace to reflect, rethink, and look toward bigger goals.
Another good way to gauge your success involves teaching. Before Satyarthi decided to devote his life to ending child labor, he taught eager-eyed students as a professor of engineering in Bhopal. Kailash knows sharing what you’ve learned doesn’t just help others; it allows you to understand your own experiences and goals much more thoroughly.
The flip side of this involves learning. When I travel with Satyarthi, I’m always struck by his boundless curiosity. It’s this spirit that enables him to never be satisfied with his current knowledge or his current success.
In the end, Satyarthi hasn’t just taught me to dream — he’s taught me to always factor others into my dreams. From there, it’s a matter of having the courage and determination to make those dreams happen — Satyarthi had his limbs broken and didn’t quit on his dreams. Take a cue from Satyarthi to shrug off adversity, reach higher, and never forget about the welfare of others.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Luis Gallardo is president of the Brands & Rousers Foundation and founder of the World Happiness Summit. Formerly the CEO of Thinking Heads Americas, Luis works to build on the accomplishments of the World Economic Forum by encouraging workplace happiness, human development, and holistic education. He’s an award-winning author and holds an MBA from IMD in Switzerland and a master’s degree in international relations from the Lancaster University in the U.K.