If a leader needs followers, he will never let them be free || Acharya Prashant (2015)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.

Question: Sir, you have said that a real leader does not need followers. I want to understand this.

Speaker: To understand this statement, you will have to go into the word need.

What is a need? When does one need something outside of himself?

Followers are people, other people.

When does one need other people? What is a need?

A need is a feeling of incompletion. A need therefore is a dependency. A need therefore is a sense of being weak, of being inadequate, of being not total without something else or somebody else. And hence, to have a need of another person or another thing is a kind of an inferiority complex. If you are with this, till this point; what follows will be readily clear to you. Do you understand need?

Listeners: Yes Sir.

Speaker: ‘A’ and ‘B’, two human beings, they have a relationship, right? Leaders and followers they too have relationships. What must the relationship of two people be based on? The fact that both are incomplete and they need each other. Then in that case, both are beggars. And that relationship cannot give them completion, just as two beggars coming together cannot become a millionaire. If two beggars come together, will they become a millionaire? This one is needy, this is also needy; but they are both coming together and thinking that together their incompleteness will turn into completeness. No, that cannot be the basis of relationship. Need cannot be the basis of any relationship, including a leader-follower relationship. Any relationship cannot be based on need, because when you need something from somebody then you will not let that person free. It will inevitably result in exploitation. Are you getting it?

How do people relate to each other? I need you for my physical cravings. I need you for my financial security. Is that not how you see people in the world are related to each other? And if the need is not being fulfilled, then what happens to that relationship? What will happen if the other person starts denying money or house or mental security or identity or physical pleasures to the partner, what will happen? The relationship breaks down. This is what happens to a need-based relationship. “Why am I with you? Because of my need”. And that is what is called as base selfishness. Are you getting it?

Fulfill my needs and you are very nice. In fact, we have coined adages to this effect. We say, “A friend in need, is a friend indeed.” You may have heard this, right? A friend in need, is a friend indeed. Such a stupid thing to say. Isn’t it? That means you are my friend only till the point you meet my needs and I meet your needs. And your needs could be anything. Your needs are as per the demand of your ego.


No, the basis of relationship cannot be need or incompleteness. The basis of relationship has to be once own fullness. “I am so complete in myself that I am not begging something from you, I have come here to give. This is what is love. Two people who are perfectly alright in there aloneness, when they get together. That is a healthy and beautiful relationship. They do not need each other, yet they are with each other.

“We do not need each other, yet we are with each other, in our freedom”. That is a healthy relationship.

Now, if there is a fellow who still needs crowds around him, called followers. Then that fellow certainly feels bad when the followers are not there. And don’t we see that? Don’t we feel bad when our post do not get likes on Facebook? Just as you count you Facebook likes, leaders count their followers. And just as we do anything to get Facebook likes, leaders do anything to get followers. And you know what we do to get Facebook likes. We put fake photos there. Don’t we? We click forty pictures and out of those we see which is the one that will be liked by others? We do not say, “Which is the most genuine one?” We say, “Which is the one that the others will like?”

So, what will a leader utter? Will he utter genuine words? No, he will utter words that the followers will like. Otherwise, why will they follow him and why will they vote for him? And that is slavery.

Listener: Sir, we don’t like to portray that image which people like.

Speaker: Seriously? Do you portray that image which is the real you or do you portray that image which you know will make you look handsome in the eyes of others. Please be honest. Please be honest about it.

And you use Instagram and thousand things to get a genuine image. Seriously? You know one of your seniors was telling me that one of his batch mates brought an imported sports car to the college. And half the college was upon that car to get a photo clicked. Seriously is that genuine you, or is that happening so that you may display it to others? Let us be little honest towards our self. That is what I am saying, “That when you need others, you enter into all kinds of fakeness”.

How can you lead others if you are still dependent on others? The leader must first and foremost be a person who has attained his inner completion. Only then he can be of genuine use to anybody. “If I need others, I will exploit others. If I do not need others then I can give something to others. If I do not need others then I am in a position to give something to them and that is a healthy relationship”.

Listener: Sir, if a leader does not have a team then whom will he lead?

Speaker: There is a beautiful seen from the novel ‘The Fountain Head’ by Ayn Rand. A few of you would surely have read it. It is a very beautiful novel, every young man and woman deserves to read it. So there is this architect, Howard Roark. And he is sitting at the edge of a cliff. And opposite to him is another mountain on which he has erected beautiful small houses. And the place is absolutely free of anybody. It is a silent place. Opposite to him, there are these rows of new freshly made unoccupied houses and he is sitting on the edge of a cliff.

And a young man comes there, eighteen-twenty years of age. Silently he comes, he has come to commit suicide. He has come because he has stopped seeing any meaning in living. He is saying, “What is the point in going on living like this?” So, just when he is about to jump down that cliff into the valley. He looks at those houses there and then he turns around and he looks at Roark looking very intently at those houses. Roark is looking at those houses as one looks at a deity in a temple. As if it is something very, very sacred. Roark has built those houses, he is an architect. The young man instead of jumping down, instead of committing suicide stands for a few minutes attentively looking at Roark and looking at his creation there.

He asks Roark just one question, “You did that?” Roark says, “Yes.” One word answer, ‘yes’. The boy turns back and says, “Yes. One can live. There can be beauty in living; there can be sense in living”. He does not commit suicide. Now, the process of leadership has happened. Roark has led someone. Roark has inspired someone. Without even knowing, he has already become a leader. And the process of followership has also happened without any declaration, without any announcement.

Leadership is happening, followership is also happening. The follower needs the leader, so the follower has learned what he wanted to learn. The leader did not need the follower; he is only doing what his life mission is. So, when it says, leaders do not need followers; it does not mean that leaders will turn away followers. “I am doing what I must be doing. If you want to come close to me, you are welcome. But I would not need you; I will not go to invite you and welcome you and beg you to come. I do not need you but if you come to me, welcome. Most welcome. You are most welcome to come and you are also most welcome to leave when you want to”.

~ Excerpts from a Samvaad session. Edited for clarity.

View the session at: Prashant Tripathi: If a leader needs followers, he will never let them be free

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