Posted by: ginalazenby | May 8, 2013

A treasure trove of wisdom from a 97 year old leader


Last night’s sharing with Dadi Janki was very special. It is hard to know what to call it .. not a seminar, not an audience. Dadi answered my many questions about leadership and feminine leadership and she called it a “conversation”. It was indeed a very rich dialogue. Almost too much to digest in one go. Several people have asked if I have recorded it (of course).

The Brahma Kumaris’ warm & loving hospitality welcomed us all
It was an intimate group – about 60-70 who gathered for an early evening start at the beautifully named Global Cooperation House which serves as the UK headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. There was much friendly chit-chat among those arriving as they enjoyed a lovely supper of hummus & couscous salad followed by chocolate cake, all lovingly prepared in the BK’s kitchens. The audience was mainly women for the female-focussed topic but it was lovely to welcome a handful of men who were interested in this conversation about energy balance in leadership as well as meeting Dadi Janki for the first time. About half the audience had never met her before, something which absolutely delighted Dadi. She adores to meet new faces. I opened the session expressing my gratitude to Dadi which she quickly reciprocated by thanking everyone for coming to see her. As much as she is a globally revered spiritual teacher, Dadi is no remote guru and we could feel her genuine delight at being with us. She need not have said a word all night as we were all very present to the fact that just being in her presence, sitting in her energy field, would provide a deep spiritual nourishment in itself.

P1100784Dadi enjoyed seeing the newspaper headline from the Evening Standard about HM The Queen who is apparently giving up long haul travel now that she is aged 87. God bless the woman for all she has done in her 60+ year reign of the UK and the Commonwealth across the world. Dadi however remains a force of nature at 97 years. Sister Jayanti (European Director) who we were also lucky to have with us as Dadi’s translator ran through Dadi’s schedule of flights round Europe and the USA over the next couple of weeks. Quite frankly, it is an itinerary that would wear me out!!

Dadi was keen to share her insights or ‘secrets’ from decades of leading
I gave the context for my inspiration to ask Dadi for this opportunity to ‘download’ her secrets. She joined the organisation back in 1937 and has been a leader for most of that time which means she is really one of the most experienced female leaders in the world alive today … potentially THE most qualified to talk about the qualities required. Queen Elizabeth II would be another example but such is the way our culture works, she is not accessible for the kind of “fire-side” chat which we are able to have with Dadi.  Dadi may not be a CEO of a publicly-listed commercial company as we understand for-profit entities today, but you can easily liken the BK’s global reach to that of any multi-national bank or consulting group. With a network of over 8,000 centres in more than 100 countries and a vast library of educational resources and campaigns, the BKs are no insignificant outfit. It would not normally cross many people’s radar as being worthy of evaluation (which in my mind makes it a hidden treasure for the world when the listening is ready) but what stands out for me is that the whole global network is held together and delivered by over a million volunteers. Not only that but everything they offer is free (except for books they publish) and from the word go in 1937, the male founder stepped back and appointed eight women to lead his vision.

The whole structure could easily have imploded and disappeared when the founder passed away in 1969 and yet interestingly, that is when the real global overseas expansion started spearheaded by the diminutive Dadi Janki (truly, not much taller than Yoda, she is). Brahma Baba, as he was known, left two women as leaders to move the BKs forward .. .Dadi Janki was asked to join them shortly after and very soon she received a message from God to lead the international development out from India so she stepped on a plane to London arriving with what seems like a few pound in her pocket and the equivalent of a prayer book. What I was keen to find out last night was what kept her going when all the odds were against them achieving anything that looked like ‘success’ ….. surely her faith must have been tested many times when it might have looked like her efforts in the early 1970s were as effective as whistling into the wind. Included in her long answer with many insights that I can share later was the virtue and value of PATIENCE.

We never know just how long things take to ripen
Dadi spoke of the tendency to eat unripe fruit … we don’t know how long it takes for our visions, initiatives or projects to take hold, flourish and show results, even a return on our ‘investment’. It is important to have faith in our endeavours and stay true to the path which we feel guided to work on. By staying positive and not feeling tempted to give up before our fruits ripen we will create what we are looking for.

Today during morning class Dadi referred to the questions she had been asked at our evening recalling what sustained her courage during those early days in 1970s London when results were small and certainly not commensurate with the effort being invested. She likened it to travelling in a car up Mt Abu in India and feeling car-sick while being driven up the winding mountain roads. The advice was to face the direction of travel and not to look around sideways. Doing this made scaling the mountain so much easier. If there is any high destination we are aiming for then keeping our gaze forwards and not being distracted is good practical guidance.

A new look at leadership is needed
What we learned from Dadi is how she is not comfortable with the label of ‘leader’. I asked her what she thought might be an alternative and she immediately said ‘servant’ and ‘instrument’. This really runs contrary to what most people think of as a leader. Even though the term servant leadership is a style that is in vogue, the idea of simply being a servant and working without any desire to be recognised is truly outside the norm.

It is not normally Dadi’s style to take so many questions and answer them so succinctly; often a question is given and Dadi’s answer is extensive and encompasses so may other wonderful jewels. On this evening Dadi focussed very much on the theme of Feminine Leadership that we had given her and really kept her answers shorter so we could ask more of her. Several questions arose out of a group discussion prior to Dadi joining us and one, from a man, was about how men could find a way to lead in a more feminine way, particularly in business where traditional styles are so much more of the masculine archetype.

What can men do to embrace a change of leadership style?
Dadi pointed out that it is not so easy for men to develop feminine qualities but what is more possible is for them to deal with the negative side of their personality which is their ego. “The heart of a woman is very soft and tender, and it comes into feeling very quickly and she can get hurt very easily which is the negative aspect for her.  Men have a tendency to be bossy” …. so when the BK organisation developed, a key aspect was for the sisters to learn how to strengthen their hearts. As a result of doing that “nobody can show their authority or bossiness to us. So it’s not a question for men of developing feminine qualities, it’s about letting go of the bossiness and ego”.

Dadi continued: “Sometimes there is the external show of the bossiness but internally they are upset that we are not doing as they want us to do.” Dadi pointed out that today it is easy for couples who don’t get on to get divorced but men and women who follow the path of spirituality learn to work with each other so there isn’t the question of divorce (real or metaphorical). “Being able to value each other’s qualities [is important]…. it’s a fact, men can do certain things, women can do certain things, and so to be able to recognise the differences and be able to value them. If we learn to give respect it makes our own life elevated; no matter what may happen, never give up respect.” Dadi counselled not to remember ‘situations’ but to continue to give respect.

Women in the majority – learning new ways of being for the future
When the BK community started in 1937 there were 350 women and just 5 men… and now in India the community is more or less equal. Men are very much part of the organisation, the women give them respect, and the men reciprocate which makes for success. “What works is for men not to exercise authority or bossiness and for women not to have a heart that is hurt easily. A true heart and a strong heart, then it is good for men and women.”

I have reported Dadi’s exact words here because I feel they are true pearls of wisdom and actually, they contain simple, practical guidance for both men and women. This is something we can all practice at home and in the world of business.

I am interested in the feedback from those who joined us for this evening (and I will write more from Dadi’s answers). Please do leave a comment, thank you.

A transcript is now available from the evening (it still needs a bit more editing but do take benefit from it now in case it never gets any further polishing!…) : Dadi Janki May 7th Transcript



  1. Gina, thank you for such an accurate and precise summary of Dadi Janki’s guidance. Although she is 97 and softly spoken, how she spoke and what she said was telling of a someone who wields a great deal of knowledge, wisdom, experience and grace. I loved her humour and charm, too. I was most interested in how she left us realising that the word ‘leader’ has to be changed or redefined. You are right about servant leadership being in vogue for a number of years. Also, her explanation of the dynamics within and between men and women was so succinct and true, I can’t believe I hadn’t spotted it sooner.

    Thank you for inviting myself and so many other wonderful souls to this most extraordinary night.

    Love and gratitude,


    • Thank you Harun, and thank you for being part of what was a very special evening. In her morning class the next day Dadi said a quality teacher needs a quality student … interesting isn’t it?! Of course she delights in being a student, like us, rather than being a teacher 🙂
      I think we will realise just how wise and enlightening Dadi’s wisdom about leadership and gender relations is as time goes by.

  2. Dear Gina, Thank you for organising a very special event, I feel privileged to have met Dadi, her wisdom and presence speaks clearly of her inner leadership that naturally radiates out and inspires others. I also loved her fruit analogy and the stomach upset that comes from sour fruit! And I took that the ripening of the fruit can only come from the inner nutrients of the tree, thus her continued focus of our success as an instrument coming from ripening our values and qualities of Being.

    I also felt deeply nourished in my own fruit ripening process by her comments on having unquestioned self respect and dignity and how that changes everything. If we only act in alignment with our Soul, then there is never stress, we are not influenced by the need for approval or applause and we are fulfilled (in being the tree) even before the fruits ripen. She added the keys to self respect and dignity coming through honesty, trust and love. I really felt how she both is totally clear on the ‘royalty’ of her soul (and everyone’s soul) as a vehicle for the divine and she values that absolutely, and this in turn means no attachment to anything else, she becomes free to operate in the world. Her gifts can be abundant and yet her load is light.

    I know I will continue to reflect and be nourished by the evening. Many thanks again for creating the opportunity for especially those of us who have not met Dadi before to learn so much. Clare

  3. Felt like I was there, receiving that insight and wisdom, just reading your beautiful synopsis of her answers.

    • Thank you .. pity you were not able to make it, although Dadi is flying to the USA this month, possibly East Coast.

  4. You invited comment and therefore I would like to add a few additional points I took away from the session.

    1. Expectations… Her words on gifting without expecting a return resonated with me. Non attachment was a powerful message I took away. “Not to expect but to accept” were her words

    2. Purpose. “Where there is attention there is no tension” was another lovely phrase she used and I took this to mean that if you are focused on your purpose there is no conflict

    3. Inner voice. “When i stay in awareness of my own value I am unaffected by those outside” ” I Judge myself instead of judging others”. These words reminded me of the importance of checking in with ourselves and remaining aligned to our own internal drivers and motives and to use this process as an internal barometer to ensure we remain on course.

    It was a great evening made more special by your gentle and skilful facilitation

    Thank you for hosting and I hope to meet you again soon


    • Yes Lynn, I so resonate with this and point 3 … it is so tempting to judge others. Dadi counsels to bring our awareness with in and take our judgement there. So simple … so very powerful indeed! thanks for sharing what you took away.

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