“In the recent past, it has become evident that institutions in our country are all asserting ‘independence’ and seeking greater ‘autonomy’ at the expense of overall harmony. There is limited communication and coordination among agencies and this invariably leads to lack of coherence… I know that each ministry, government institution, parliamentary body or public agencies has its own mandate. Still, you must work together, not in competition.”
– His Majesty’s National Day Address, 2013
Today, institutional coordination is the most significant challenge that we need to address to make the ascent to the next stage of development. As a fledgling democracy, there is a tendency for organizations to interpret independence in extreme terms. While such arrangements ensure checks and balances, we must remember that there is an even more important balance that needs to be achieved- the delicate balance between individual institutional mandates and the larger priorities of a nation.
As developing countries we face significant infrastructure and technology deficits, but we must acknowledge that these challenges are more straightforward. It is not the technical issues that require the most dexterity but rather the inter-personal and institutional issues. Often times we approach issues from a silos perspective that can be detrimental to higher-level priorities. Hence, the type of leadership that is required in today’s socio-economic, political and administrative terrain is one where every person and institution is aware of his or her role in the larger scheme of things. It is indeed the “leadership of the self” that is of paramount importance. A type of leadership that emphasizes action and not position. A type of leadership that can be embraced in any environment, from the diligent sweeper whose day starts at 6:00 am to the Prime Minister whose day ends at 1:00 am.
It is in this context that the Young Professionals Leadership Programme provides the platform for nurturing such an attitude. As young idealistic and malleable minds are cocooned away for a month, they develop an understanding of each person’s professional mandate and the underlying passion behind each other’s pursuits. While we must not discount the importance of the formal lectures and class room sessions, most of the learning takes place after 5 pm. Whether it is the bus ride from the institute to the RIGSS Coronation Hostel at Rinchending, where you share an incident that took place at work with the person sitting next to you, or in the recreation room where you confide in your fellows about how you were the victim of some injustice, you develop an indelible sense of camaraderie. Once such relationships transcend the professional, a personal synergy can take new heights.
The time away from home also provides an ideal setting for reflection. It is an ideal time to assess your own approach to life and work and more importantly the principles and values that underpin your personality. Such contemplation usually raises more questions than answers and this is when the lectures and workshops on leadership or values are critically important in providing some clarity. In most instances they reinforce your convictions but at times they force you to overhaul your perspectives. One of the most powerful approaches to success is comprehending the distinction between a fixed mind-set and a growth mind-set and cultivating the latter.
The final week of formal lectures provide a springboard to dive into national level issues, which every citizen should understand. As we are lost in our narrow sectorial pursuits we tend to overlook the indispensable aspects of our identity and sovereignty or the obstacles towards achieving a just and harmonious society. As we are lost in the waves of the 21st century we tend to overlook the underlying values that make us Bhutanese or the storms that we have weathered through the centuries. As we are lost in the turbulence of politics we tend to overlook the origins and philosophies of our kingdom’s supreme law- the constitution.
A weeklong Druk-path trek is a reality test for the personal synergy developed during three weeks of lecture and time together at RIGSS. It is extremely amazing to witness how challenges and hardship of the trek take trust and relationship to the next higher level. The pristine nature and clean air facilitate the process of self-awareness and reflections. This reaffirms your responsibility as a trustee of the environment protection and conservation for present and future generations. One step at a time is all we need to take to go forward. This stands true – “if you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together”.
It was not more than ten years ago when our Monarchs The Great Fourth and Fifth traversed the length and breadth of the country, laying the foundation for a just and harmonious society forged on the timeless principles of compassion, equality and integrity.
Today we stand at the crossroads. Yes we have come far and earned the commendations of the global community. But a wise King once said “It is one thing to love your country, quite another to love it intelligently.” And to love our country intelligently we must never be complacent and we must acknowledge our shortcomings with fortitude.
Yes, we have been found eligible for graduation away from Least Developed Country status, but we continue to depend precariously on hydropower.
Yes, we have achieved universal primary enrolment, but the quality and relevance of our education is a subject of debate.
Yes, we are a nation renowned for our vibrant culture and Buddhist ethos, but how many of us take the time to walk across the hallway to our next-door neighbor or return to our ancestral homes once a year.
Yes, we are nation poised to reap the fabled demographic dividends so exemplified by the East Asian Tigers, but of late we have only witnessed the burden of a young and unemployed population.
Yes, we are a nation that has mobilized the goodwill of the international community, but we cannot alter the geopolitics of our country, we can only adapt.
The road ahead appears intimidating and our aspirations may seem utopian or formidable, but somebody once said that “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” Yes, our aspirations are formidable but they are not insurmountable. But they can only be achieved through perseverance and coherence. Perseverance of actions and a coherence of vision.
A vision that is coherent and encapsulates the aspirations of the people, for the people and by the people. A vision that is untainted by politics or ideology but grounded in the profound philosophy of our great monarchs.
And in order to realize this vision we must acknowledge that we cannot and shall not for even a moment remain complacent. That we cannot and shall not inherit or perpetrate a silos mentality.
That we shall resist polarization of objectives but shall indulge in the depths of debate on methods and systems, for a better tomorrow, for a secure tomorrow, for a self-reliant Bhutan. We are a small country, a fledgling democracy. While we do not have the luxury of divergent destinations, we have the luxury of divergent roads. But they must all lead to one common destination. A destination of a nation that has broken free from the strangles of foreign aid. A destination of a nation that does not have to grapple with the gaping distance between the shining mansions sitting comfortably on the hill and the bleak slums that weep silently.
A destination of a nation with one foot in the past and one foot in the present. A destination of a nation with one foot in the serene villages of the rural hinterlands and one foot in the vibrant but cohesive towns of the urban landscape. A destination of a nation with one foot in the thriving wilderness and one foot in the dynamism of industry. A destination known as Gross National Happiness.
In moving forward we must pay homage to our inspirations. Your Majesty, Your visions will guide us when lost in the maze of doubt, and your actions will lead us when faced with the dilemma of decisions. It is through your shining example that you have made us a caring son and daughter, a more responsible father and mother, an accommodating brother and sister, a persevering citizen, and most importantly a better human being.
Dy. Chamberlian to His Majesty The King
Director, Royal Institute of Governance and Strategic Studies