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G.M.A. Kodjo: Spiritual Values as a Foundation for Leadership

Address to World Summit on Peace
Seoul, Korea, June 2009


We are being given three precious teachings for people in leadership positions:

First of all, it is important to clarify whom you want to rule. We often believe that the leader is a boss who gives orders to others. And it is true that a leader should not shy away from the position and the titles which give him/her a power over others.

You have to take decisions which will have an impact on other people, for good or for bad. You try to guide them, to influence them, so that others will obey you and will follow your instructions. The first power a leader should have is not a power over others, but a power over his/her own life. If you cannot conquer yourself first, control yourself, you will never have any real power over others.

When I see the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., for instance, I can see him as a man who wanted to change things in the United States. He was a great social reformer. But he always made it very clear that first of all he was a pastor, a spiritual leader. His most difficult battles were battles against himself, in order to conquer his own life. His internal victories were later reflected in social changes for millions of Americans.

In order to conquer ourselves, we need to welcome the presence of the Divine within us. If we close our heart to the presence of God almighty, the absolute source of all power, we shall always have a very shaky and unstable leadership, we will lack the real legitimacy or authority. If a leader is really living in peace with God and with himself, people around the leader will feel this. Then even if the leader cannot find all the solutions immediately, still he will be trusted, he will be respected. But many leaders pretend to know everything, to have all the solutions, whereas they have not been able to conquer themselves first.

The second lesson is that the true leader should not impose himself but should serve. Think about Jesus: he came as the King of kings, he was the most powerful person in a way and he actually frightened many people who sought to kill him. Obviously, Jesus did not shy away from showing his power and leadership, he was a true leader and commander in chief for his disciples, and he expected the best from them, only the best. But he mostly tried to serve people, all kinds of people, and he actually said that the greatest among the disciples would be the one serving the most. I myself understand that if I have to guide my country one day with the help of God, I should first of all serve my fellow countrymen and help them fulfill their aspirations.

The third lesson of leadership is that a true leader should first of all be a parent. Of course as a leader, you need to have more knowledge than other people, and you need also to have many technical abilities and various skills. A leader in our world does not come out of the blue, and you need long training and sometimes many academic qualifications to lead people.

But look at the example of Mr. Muhammad Yunus, who receive the Nobel Prize of economics in 2006. He studied economics for many years and graduated from the top schools where he was trained in the art of creating prosperity and wealth. The problem of these academic studies is that they work in affluent nations, but are irrelevant for poor people, who are the majority in Bangladesh. Yunus had learnt that banks never lend money to poor people, because poor people never give back the money. If he had remained a scholar, Yunus would have kept teaching the same “orthodox” economics to his disciples. But Yunus did not see economics from an academic or technical viewpoint only. He saw wealth and poverty with the heart of a parent, a parental heart. This parental heart is essential in leadership.

I understand that good leadership should first of all the conquest of the self. Then it should be serving others. Finally, leadership is parenthood even if a leader is also a teacher and a master.

Through the Universal Peace Federation, we discover the situation of the world not from the viewpoint of media or scholars, but from God’s point of view. God is our heavenly parent, a parent of heart and love. We also discover that the solution is within us.

This spirit comes from Dr. Sun Myung Moon and his wife. They have worked very hard all their life to create this brotherhood among all human beings. They are like parents who give us love and joy. This gives us a taste of the ideal world that God originally wanted. In the beginning, we can hardly believe that it is possible, but after a few hours and a few days, something is moving in our hearts. We have a stronger desire to love others, serve others, listen to others. It is because God, our parent, is with us. I feel that Dr. and Mrs. Moon have a special power to make God much more real to all of us. And we feel this love of God present in every Ambassador for Peace. We feel that this living God wants to express Himself in our lives and in the lives of all Ambassadors for Peace.

Originally, the United Nations should have been able to create this brotherhood among all people of the world, but without accepting God, you cannot achieve the same. Often, in leadership meetings, you can hear the right analysis, you can have the right diagnosis and the proper information about the real situation of the world and the reformations that would be necessary. You know what is to be done, but because our heart is not moved, the situation often remains unchanged.

The principles of the Universal Peace Federation have the capacity to help us transform our lives, giving us an energy, a light, a power which naturally attract other people. And we are also attracted to others. The Universal Peace Federation fosters an atmosphere, a certain culture, a certain spirituality, and this is then reflected in our behaviours. Whenever we participate in UPF meetings, we feel that the world is better than we think. We feel more hope.

The sense of being part of one family under God that we experience as Ambassadors for Peace shows us that a world of sharing, of understanding, of tolerance is indeed possible. It is not at all an impossible dream, or a utopia. Such a world should be a natural reality. This gives us the confidence that we can live such a life.