We have English translation of Janpga Rigzin Lhundup la’s article that was originally published in Tibetan on bangchen.net. Based on John Maxwell’s bestselling book, Rigzin la has outlined how Kasur Ngodup Dongchung embodies the 21 qualities of a good leader. Rigzin la is a PhD scholar at the Central University of Tibetan Studies, Varanasi, India.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s political vision and leadership over the last six decades has ensured that today, stateless Tibetans have the opportunity to exercise our democratic rights, a condition that is not guaranteed to even many citizens of independent nations. From 2001, we began electing our political leader, then known as Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister). Since 2011, we have been directly electing our own Sikyong (President). These are the steps in the direction towards a democratic society and it is both our right and responsibility to exercise our vote.Every five years, we elect both Sikyong as well as People’s representatives (Chithue). Without falling into regional or sectarian biases, it is important for us to choose someone on the basis of being a “Tibetan Sikyong” and therefore, we need to think about the qualities that are needed for a political leader.
In search of qualities required for a political leader, I have been looking at many written works published all over the world in democratic countries. I came across John C. Maxwell, a renowned American author’s book, “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.” Having carefully read his work, among the Sikyong candidates we have so far, I found Kasur Ngodup Dongchung best embodies these qualities.
1. A person of character
When one constructs a house, the structure is stabilized by the initial foundational stones. Just as a stable house needs good foundational stones, whether someone can make a good leader depends on their character. Their character can be seen from their behavior or conduct in daily life. This conduct and behavior come from patterns of habit that are built over time.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung, in prioritizing the collective cause, has spent 40 years in public service. Those who know him well, such as the former civil servants as well as many of his junior colleagues unanimously speak of his decency and integrity. The older civil servants also comment on the way he nurtures and mentors many of the younger staff, thus confirming his good character.
Charisma is a type of presence that draws people towards you. A person who is charismatic inspire confidence and respect in one’s won ability and is secure enough to recognize and acknowledge the potential and skill that each individual hold, be it one’s colleague, a younger staff or anyone from the public.
Charisma does not refer to a leader’s conduct among the public that is intentionally made to bolster one’s own image and achieve one’s own personal gain.
The staff of Department of Security, with whom Kasur Ngodup Dongchung, worked for the longest, speak of his disposition as someone who does not seek publicity of his own name. Instead, by treating all his colleagues equally he emphasizes the collective efforts put by the team and inspires cooperation and sincerity from people he works with, thus setting him apart as a charismatic leader. This is a sentiment also echoed by many young as well as experienced civil servants from other department.
3. Conviction of heart
It is not enough for a leader to dream of achieving something. Practical experience allows them to set realistic plans and once set, they should work on implementing the task with conviction of heart.
The fact that Kasur Ngodup Dongchung has worked from 1977 until now is a greatest testament to his conviction of heart. I do not need to express it any further with my words.
4. Building connections
A leader’s ability to forge connections can be most clearly seen through their work performance. Throughout his professional career at the Department of Security, he puts in tremendous efforts to build and bridge a connection between Tibetans inside Tibet and the ones in exile.
He was not merely collecting information from others. He personally went to Tibet and met with political prisoners as well as leaders of underground. This is one example of how built new connections and relations.
He has built connections with Tibetans from all walks of life- be it an educated person, a monk, a tulku, a lay person- and worked to fulfill the heartfelt hopes, wishes and concerns of all.
The nature of relations and connections he has built are firm, wide-ranging and low-key.
A person’s competence can be seen from the results of their actions and should not be based simply on grand plans or impressions. The core factor to successfully carry out task is to have a leader who is meticulous, sharp and holistic in their undertaking. The person should create an environment where each team member can effectively bring out their individual strengths for a united goal.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung’s competence is best known by those who have worked closely with him in the past and have come forward today to endorse him.
Courage is not about putting a show of bravado or being the most boisterous person in the room. It is the ability to differentiate right from wrong and truth from lie. A courageous person should be able to stand by this truth and sacrifice what may come their way.
To see Kasur Ngodup Dongchung’s courage, one only needs to look at the times when our society faces threats and how he always stands up to overcome such challenges.
I was talking to a 73-year-old Tibetan gentleman who had worked for the Indian intelligence for 30 years. When I asked him about Kasur Ngodup Dongchung, he told me that Ngodup la is someone who can successfully analyze and discern all the essential issues. With “issues,” he was referring to those related to political secrecy.
His past service focused on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s security and protection. Working in the Department of Security, he also took responsibility for the security of Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan society from both external and internal threats.
This service was not only for days or months but continued for many decades. His successful service demonstrates how he is a discerning leader.
An intelligence leader is able to find, understand, and rectify the root causes of greater societal issues.
Over the span of Kasur Ngodup Dongchung’s lifelong service, he has carefully dealt with many crises and has put efforts in preventing certain societal problems from arising.
For instance, by exposing the wrong doings of Dhogyal society during a parliamentary session, eh addressed this issue from the root cause. Due to such reasons, his name constantly comes up when the CCP intelligence interrogates people to find more information about the exile Tibetan society.
His personal demeanor, as seen in the remarks of former political prisoner Tenpa Dhargyal la is of someone who is calm and composed in dealing with various affairs.
A leader’s most precious gift to the public is trust and hope they can build in the society. The group of people who have sacrificed the most for the larger Tibetan cause are the political prisoners.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung is someone who has earned and kept the trust and hopes of political prisoners alive. As former political prisoner Tenpa Dhargyal la remarked, “for someone who has suffered countless times under the brutal torture of the CCP, to meet a leader who shows no arrogance and is respectful to others, it leaves a lasting impression on them.” This sentiment is unanimously echoed by other former political prisoners as well.
Although there are many leaders in this world, it is rare to find one who has the generosity of heart to serve selflessly so that they can keep the trust and hope of people alive.
A leader should be able to initiate new things for three reasons:
1) it shows the leader understand his/her responsibility well,
2) he/she is truly engaged int their work that they can see which direction to take it forward, and
3) if any challenges arises, they should be able to initiate reasonable actions without being indecisive.
The initiatives he took in strengthening the infrastructure of the Department of Security and establishing new intelligence contacts speaks to the presence of his leadership quality in him.
His professional career has set a positive example for younger civil servants as well.
11. A leader who listens
As the former U.S president Woodrow Wilson remarked, “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people”, Kasur Ngodup Dongchung is someone who deeply and sincerely listens to everyone regardless of their status. When he engages with people he does not judge the person on the basis of whether they can peak in a polished way or has a certain dialect or accent.
Many people who have met with him share that they come away feeling reassured and satisfied because he takes people’s concerns seriously and listens to them patiently.
Due to the way he conducts himself in dealing with the public, there is also a saying among the staff of the Department of Security, “Listen more, speak less.”
The main factor that affects how someone performs their assigned duty is passion. Meaningful passion does not simply mean to be stubborn, but to pursue one’s work with a sense of enjoyment and purpose. This sense of satisfaction comes when one genuinely loves their job.
As the saying goes, for a person without passion, achieving anything is difficult. With passion, hard work comes easily.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung’s passion for his work requires no further explanation. It is exemplified by his continued service.
13. Positive attitude
As the saying goes, “one’s mindset is a form of power, “one’s attitude and motivation are the basis that grounds everything the person does. Someone who can think positively his not only able to face challenges but can look at adversities as opportunities to grow. A leader with a positive attitude has confidence in one’s abilities and will also acknowledge and appreciate others for their achievements.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung has the positive attitude and ability to take on challenges with careful analysis and introspection.
14. Problem solving
We say that a qualified leader recognizes hardship as an opportunity. Many would try toa void hardships, such that the problem would not be resolved in the long run. Problem-solving is the ability to determine its root cause and to tackle it head on irrespective of how big or small is, so that it would be prevented from happening in future.
Whenever Kasur Ngodup Dongchung had to face any hardships, he has skillfully solved it through careful introspection and analysis.
Responsibility is not about being authoritative or protecting one’s position of power. It is about clearly understanding one’s duties and working to fulfill those.
The way Kasur Ngodup Dongchung undertakes his responsibilities has won appreciation from former Trisur Professor Samdhong Rinpoche. He said of Ngodup la, “it is rare for a civil to service for four decades in a single department working resolutely on security matters”.
What this demonstrates is that the person can carry out the responsibilities of the job and ha the motivation and conviction to persevere and continue in this line.”
Security involves providing welfare and protection for the country, society and administration. A leader who is in charge of security also needs to analyze past and present events and should stay alert to recognize security threats and risks. For those striving for Tibet’s political future, the question of security is important from an individual to a national level.
It is very rare to find someone who has thorough knowledge and understanding of security issues of both Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. In an independent country, this would be the work of the highest intelligence bureau. With Kasur Ngodup Dongchung’s 40 years of service, he can be called the Tibetan Ajit Doval.
The law is above an individual. A democratic leader is chosen as a people’s representative to protect the law.
A democratic leader shoulders many responsibilities and needs to uphold the duties to be worthy of representing the people.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung personifies self-discipline and conducts his public duties by honoring the law.
18. Civic duty
While every country has civil servants, who work for the collective welfare, it is rare to find someone who wholeheartedly embodies the values of public service and takes duty with sincerity. Kasur Ngodup Dongchung was a highly dedicated and well-loved civil servant. Those who had known him from his student days speak of his natural inclination towards helping those in need.
This sentiment continued when he worked at CTA for many years, a period during which the dignity and wholehearted effort with which he completed his duties earned him admiration from his colleagues.
19. An analytical thinker
For a political leader, one is bound to receive different kinds of information on a daily basis. The ability to analyze the credibility of the information and prioritize what warrants further attention is a required skill.
A leader needs to have a strong analytical skill to evaluate and make sound decisions.
This is what Samdhong Rinpoche said of Kasur Ngodup Dongchung, “I have worked with Ngodup la for ten years. It was in the course of these close interactions that I realized when it comes to investigation and analysis, he is someone who can conduct these works on the same level as modern researchers in academic settings.”
As the thirty-second president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt said, “keeping friendly interpersonal relations is an important aspect of doing any political work.”
There are three ways in which leader usually builds relations, by demonstrating and acting with consideration, empathy, and support. Kasur Ngodup Dongchung embodies these qualities, as clearly espoused by those he worked with, and is therefore able to maintain a genuine and sincere relationship with many of his colleagues.
Vision for future gives clarity and decisiveness to the leader so that they can guide and work towards building the desirable future. A vision that is built on deep insight and well-rounded experience, is important to build sustainable and long-term policies.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung’s vision is built on his in-depth understanding of the pan-Tibetan society, particularly, the collective thoughts and aspirations of common people. Thus, whatever he strives to achieve in his position as a public servant, he has prioritized the common good. It is with the same principle that his vision for the Tibetan future is built.