The prolog in the opening chapter, “Editor’s Note” launches Embracing Compassion: A Revolution in Leadership by Daisaku Ikeda, appropriately establishing “a leader’s mission is to put everyone’s mind at ease.” At the outset, Ikeda’s book seizes its purpose and enables the reader to visualize the gaps in competent leadership sorely missing in this era. Daisaku Ikeda is president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Japan and a lay Buddhist organization. The name Soka Gakkai, which translates to Value Creation, subsists of a mission for peace, culture and education; and the abolishment of nuclear weapons. Ikeda presents an annual proposal to the United Nations in furtherance of these purposes. Daisaku Ikeda transforms the paradigm of a more typical religious leader by introducing a revolutionary leadership model suited for any domain. In addition, he articulates leadership as exhibiting the highest principles inherent in all personages. This publication is Volume 1 of 3 and comprises Ikeda’s speeches from 2001 through 2003 of the annual Soka Gakkai Nationwide Executive Conference which convened in Karuizawa, Japan in August 2001. The series of speeches, aimed at executive level leaders in attendance for SGI leadership training, are rich with substance and germane to all leaders.
In this publication, Ikeda exhibits a profound gratitude for the mentor and disciple relationship as an exemplar leadership model. He attributes maximum repute for his life lessons to the enduring bond with mentor, Josei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai International. Ikeda illustrates extraordinary leaders throughout, such as, Chuko K’ung-ming, ancient Chinese hero quoting the ideals of renowned leaders. Ikeda consistently raises the reader’s awareness of eminence as a common theme which lends the atmosphere of an exodus towards great leadership reminiscent of the lead character Don Quixote in The Impossible Dream. In fact, Ikeda, fashions recurrent reference to triumph and achieving the impossible, noting increasingly affluent character role models. A democratic choice of leadership examples is the mainstay of this book. Ikeda chooses the most relevant quotes from exceptional leaders, such as, Greek dramatist, Aeschylus, Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, defined as “a brilliant statesman, lawyer and orator.” Ikeda quotes French writer, Victor Hugo, American poet, Walt Whitman, and Greek dramatist Sophocles. Exploiting their remarkable achievements and countless others, Ikeda synergizes a comprehensive assemblage into a resource for veteran and emerging leaders.
Worthy of note is Ikeda’s high esteem for the contributions of women to the evolution and maturity of an organization. He accentuates the consequences of respect for women and decisively applauds the power of women in leadership positions. As the book progresses, Ikeda cites paragons of good and bad leadership from the vantage point of the Buddhist organization. He stresses how corruption within an organization can be its demise and particularizes temperament and physiognomies of leadership types to be wary of.
The primary strength in Embracing Compassion: A Revolutionary Model of Leadership is in the abundant similarities to the books on general leadership principals while broadening the paradigm beyond the traditional. Ikeda parallels Kouzes and Posner’s tenets in Encourage the Heart which are to recognize contributions by expecting the best and personalizing recognition. Ikeda demonstrates this ethic by awarding assiduous leaders with certificates and accolades. Ikeda’s speeches correspondingly plot to Kouzes and Posner’s Model the Way as evidenced in his robust record of achievements. Ikeda has received numerous literary awards as well as over 300 honorary doctorates and professorships.
The distinction in Ikeda’s book from the other readings is the absence of lists and tables of leadership characteristics and leadership types. This absence detracts nothing from the value added as a business and academic leadership resource since it provides large doses of evidence of good character.
Some readers with religious restrictions within their private conventions may find a Buddhist text difficult to digest. Predominantly, the book maintains a universal approach; however, there are digressions where Ikeda speaks directly to Buddhist leaders on Buddhist tenets. Those points may leave some generic readers non-plussed. It is worthy of note, first, Ikeda does not attempt to influence the readers current belief system; rather, he enhances it. Second, it is important to keep under consideration, this is a collection of speeches from a Buddhist conference. It is also worthy of consideration, Ikeda’s work has a side effect of being a useful leadership tool for general audiences seeking non-traditional, yet, substantive approaches to leadership. Ultimately, Embracing Compassion: A Revolution in Leadership is an easy read, even for the novice, without being too heavily laden with religion or too one-sided. Instead, it brings a refreshing approach delivered through quotes and anecdotes from poets, philosophers, heroes, history and Buddhist theory.
The dominant lesson from Ikeda’s book was in the application to the simulation. There was a parallel experience of transiting through the simulation while simultaneously being appointed to a new leadership position in the Buddhist organization. Surreally, it became a proving ground for compassion as an effective leadership tool. The ordeal, which is an appropriate use of terminology, became both objective and subjective and the lesson was unquestionably one of inner reformation as noted in Ikeda’s book. In the final period, Period 6, the principles of compassion were actually employed during a difference of opinion, resulting in a successful final outcome for the sector.
Buddhism, as a religion, melds documentary, theoretical and actual proof. Buddhism may be a step or two beyond faith only based religions. It emanated quite naturally in the reading to accede to mapping Buddhist theory to pragmatic capability in leadership. Most of what we have learned from leadership and organizational management precedents has comprised Clawson architectural framework type protocols, requiring significant graphic retention and memorization. The myriad of figures, diagrams, tables and charts becomes such an imposition; the actual espousal of leadership becomes elusive. Then, we harvest experts who parrot the schematics with supreme perfection, while, genuine leadership, and admirable leadership qualities, often never materialize.
Existing leaders or aspiring leaders should read this book. It is suited for the spectrum of leaders; government, corporate, academic or religious because beneath the cover of Buddhism is a superior agnostic tool. The model of compassion in leadership should be a requirement for the leader, period, especially in government. In the past, the foci of leadership training have subsisted, principally, on strategic proficiency when shaping leaders. Current events have corroborated we must recommence our leadership edifice and eradicate the old paradigms. They have outlived their usefulness for contributing to a better society.
Ikeda has succinctly met the objectives of this book. In this collection of speeches he has, indeed, afforded a revolutionary model of leadership. The SGI lay Buddhist organization exists in 192 countries which practice Nichiren Buddhism. The SGI Buddhist philosophy has been studied at; Harvard University, Columbia University, Boston Research Center and adopted by 103 universities in the United States. Armed with new models, such as, Daisaku Ikeda’s Embracing Compassion: A Revolution in Leadership, we are well armed to challenge traditional models with creditable reinforcements.
Embracing Compassion: A Revolution in Leadership
by Daisaku Ikeda
World Tribune Press, Santa Monica, CA
Copyright 2009, Soka Gakkai International
ISBN 978-932911-82-4 Price: $3.95
Daisaku Ikeda: Buddhist philosopher, peace builder and educator. Retrieved from: http://www.daisakuikeda.org/sub/resources/records/degree/by-date-order.html
Ikeda, Daisaku. (2009).Embracing compassion: A revolution in leadership. World Tribune Press, Santa Monica, CA.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2003). Encouraging the heart: A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.