Rising Leaders

What is Sikh leadership? What practical steps can an individual take to be a better leader? What are leadership traits according to gurbani?

10553687_677385952336012_7938419833245574491_oThese are a few of the questions that conference participants tackled this weekend in Manhattan at Surat Initiative’s Sikh Leadership Conference.

About 50 young Sikhs gathered to explore ideas on leadership and personal development from a gurmat perspective. The conference featured interactive workshops and guest speakers, and was geared towards individuals who wished to create positive change. Participants ranged from students who have attended retreats for years to newcomers who were passionate about community engagement.

The Sikh women who attended the conference left with ideas on how they can be stronger leaders and help empower Kaurs.

“I learned practical things I can do everyday not only to become an effective leader, but also how to become a more compassionate, well-rounded person,” said Nimita Kaur of New Jersey. “I can pull things from gurbani and put them into practice.”

Participants got the opportunity to listen to Sapreet Kaur, the Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition.  In addition to general leadership lessons, Sapreet touched on gender-specific challenges that women face in leadership roles. This proved to be very impactful for many of the participants.

10557491_677386852335922_7213002431735512864_o“I was speaking with Sapreet after her speech,” said Sharan Kaur of Pennsylvania, “and I came away believing that being more vocal can be a good leadership quality. Even if your inclination is to pause and think, taking that first step quicker than normal can go a long way in making your voice heard, and making you more visible. Kaurs need to start taking more steps like that. It will help in making us more present and in the forefront.”

Sapreet Kaur’s wisdom on empowering Sikh women extended beyond her speech and into the workshops, where she made observations on how Kaurs were interacting with their peers.

“It was awesome how she called out the women in the room for not participating and reaming silent,” said Sharan.

Nimita also reflected on how small steps can positively influence Sikh women’s leadership potential.

“I learned that there are little things I can do to elevate women’s position in society,” she reflected. “Instead of having outbursts in reaction to inequality, I can work on slowly brining awareness to those issues. For example, when talking about Mata Gujri, I can talk about her accomplishments, instead of defining her based on her relationships to men, like ‘daughter of’, ‘mother of’, ‘granddaughter of.’ ”

10562980_676369602437647_2714054275930134427_nThe day was divided into three themes: inspiration, reflection, and action. During the inspiration section, participants read gurbani to understand the qualities of leadership according to Sikhi. The reflection section allowed participants to answer the question, “Where do I stand on these qualities?” Finally, during the action section, participants developed practical steps on how to become leaders and embody the servant-leader attitude.

Hopefully, Sikh women and men will be able to benefit from conferences like this one and develop a better version of themselves to lead the panth along the gurmat path.

The Surat Initiative aims to provide innovative educational materials and educational advocacy on key issues pertaining to the Sikh community. Surat aims to inspire people to live a purposeful life through education. For more information, visit their website: