Definition of Leadership

The Oxford Dictionary defines leadership as ‘The action of leading a group of people or an organization.’ A second way of looking at Leadership is to think of it as the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal as in a greater good.

Roles of a leader

What traits define a good leader? And how well does the SGGS ji possess these qualities? Here are nine features that come to mind.




1. Visionary

The vision/goal implanted by Guru Nanak (and enshrined in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji) is simple in that it is inspiring people to realize the spiritual presence of the ‘One Infinite Divine’ within each human being. This is announced in the opening verse (preamble) on the first page of the SGGS ji text.

ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥ Ek Oaangkar Sat Naam Karta Purakh Nirbhau Nirvair Akaal Moorat Ajooni Saibhung Gur Parsaad.

The One Omnipresent God who is in Existence, who is the Creator Being,

Fearless and without Enmity, Timeless and Formless, Does Not take Life Forms, and who is Self- Created, is Realized through the Blessings and Grace (Enlightenment) of the Shabad Guru.

The message in SGGS ji is not only unique and authentic; it is also well-defined and consistent. The preamble itself appears 568 times in SGGS ji to highlight the uniqueness of the message.

2. Courageous

The SGGS ji stands up for the equality of mankind with courage. Hence it speaks dauntlessly against all social discrimination; be it by birth of caste, status or gender. Gurbani also stands unequivocally against exploitation by clergy in the name of religion.

(SGGS 349 Rag Asa M : 1)

ਜਾਣਹੁ ਜੋਤਿ ਨ ਪੂਛਹੁ ਜਾਤੀ ਆਗੈ ਜਾਤਿ ਨ ਹੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Janho Jot Na Pucho Jatee Agey Jaat Na Hey.

Recognize the Lord’s Light within all, and do not consider social

class or status; there are no classes or castes for those on the onward journey of of spirituality.

(SGGS 1245 Raag Sarang M : 1)

ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ ਤਿਨਾ ਕਾ ਜੀਵਿਆ ਜਿ ਲਿਖਿ ਲਿਖਿ ਵੇਚਹਿ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਖੇਤੀ ਜਿਨ ਕੀ ਉਜੜੈ ਖਲਵਾੜੇ ਕਿਆ ਥਾਉ ॥

Dhrig Tina Ka Jiveya Je Likh Likh Vechey Nao. Kheytee Jin Kee Ujrey Khalvarey Kya Thaon.

Damned are the spiritual journeys of those who make a living out of selling the Lord’s name . Their own future is devastated – what will they share with anyone?

(SGGS 272 Rag Gauri Sukhmani M : 50

ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕੀ ਸਭ ਊਪਰਿ ਮਇਆ ॥ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਤੇ ਕਛੁ ਬੁਰਾ ਨ ਭਇਆ ॥

Bhram Gyani Ki Sabh Upar Mya. Bhram Gyani Te Kach Bura Na Bhaya.

The God-conscious being shows kindness to all. No evil emanates from the God-conscious being.

The message of SGGS ji is decisive and assertive and duly ensures that it is respected and is able to entice admiration and loyalty amongst its adherents.

3. Integrity

The core of integrity is truthfulness, honesty and forthrightness.

SGGS ji does not mince words or sugarcoat its messages. Gurbani expresses truthfully the impediments (vices) that are encountered on the path to realization of the Divine.


(SSGS 971 Rag Ramkali Bhagat Kabir)

ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਹਮ ਐਸੇ ਅਪਰਾਧੀ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਪ੍ਰਭਿ ਜੀਉ ਪਿੰਡੁ ਥਾ ਦੀਆ ਤਿਸ ਕੀ ਭਾਉ ਭਗਤਿ ਨਹੀ ਸਾਧੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Gobind Hum Aisay Apradhee.Jin Prabh Jio Pind Tha Deeya Tis Kee Bhao Bhagat Nahi Sadhee.

O Lord of the Universe, I am such a sinner! God gave me body and soul, but I have not practiced loving devotional worship to Him.

ਪਰ ਧਨ ਪਰ ਤਨ ਪਰ ਤੀ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਪਰ ਅਪਬਾਦੁ ਨ ਛੂਟੈ॥ ਆਵਾ ਗਵਨੁ ਹੋਤੁ ਹੈ ਫੁਨਿ ਫੁਨਿ ਇਹੁ ਪਰਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਤੂਟੈ॥੨॥ Par Dhan Par Tan Par Tee Ninda Par Apbaad Na Chutey. Ava Gavan Hoat Hai Funn Funn Eh Parsang Na Tutey.

By looking viciously at the beauty and wealth of others, slander, conflict, jealousy and backbiting keep occurring within me. This cycle of such mindsets happens continuously and remains unbroken.

(SGGS 598 Rag Sorath M : 1)

ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਲੋਭ ਬਹੁ ਝੂਠੇ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਨਾਵਹੁ ਕਾਹੀ ਜੀਉ ॥ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਸਦ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਅੰਤਰ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਤਾਹੀ ਜੀਉ ॥੩॥ Antar Mael Lobh Bhou Jhutey Bahar Navho Kahee Jio. Nirmal Naam Japho Sad Gurmukh Antar Ke Gatt Tahee Jio.

There is immense filth of greed and falsehood within; why bother to cleanse the body on the outside? Inculcate God’s virtues through the Guru’s teaching and the inner being will be cleansed.

4. Humility

The teachings of the SGGS ji are couched in humility wherein the Guru addresses himself as a slave, a servant and a seeker. He is a common man like the followers.

(SGGS 1083 Rag Maroo M : 5)

ਨਾਨਕ ਦਾਸੁ ਦਾਸਨ ਕੋ ਕਰੀਅਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਭਾਵੈ ਦਾਸਾ ਰਾਖੁ ਸੰਗਾ ॥੨੧॥੨॥੧੧॥

Nanak Daas Dasun Ko Kareaho Har Bhavey Dasa Raakh Sanga.

Nanak is the slave of Your slaves, O Lord please keep me with Your slaves as it pleases Your Will.

(SGGS 938 Rag Ramkali M : 1)

ਰਹਹਿ ਇਕਾਤਿ ਏਕੋ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਆਸਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰਾਸੋ ॥ ਅਗਮੁ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਦੇਖਿ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਤਾ ਕਾ ਦਾਸੋ ॥੫॥ Raheh Ekaant Eko Munn Vasiya Asa Mahe Niraso. Agum Agochar Dekh Dikhaye Nanak Ta Ka Daso.

One who enshrines the One Lord in his mind and inspires others to see the inaccessible, unfathomable Lord, Nanak is his slave.


(SGGS 599 Rag Sorath M : 3)

ਮੇਰੇ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਹਮ ਬਾਰਿਕ ਸਰਣਿ ਤੁਮਾਰੀ ॥ ਏਕੋ ਸਚਾ ਸਚੁ ਤੂ ਕੇਵਲੁ ਆਪਿ ਮੁਰਾਰੀ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Merey Thakur Hum Barak Saran Tumhari. Eko Sacha Sach Tu Keval Aap Murari. Rahao.

O my Lord and Master, I am Your child; I seek Your Sanctuary.

You are the One and Only Lord, in Permanent Existance; You Yourself are the Destroyer of ego.


The Sikh guru is indeed engaging and disarming in the approach to convince the followers of the truth of the message.

5. Ethical

Gurbani is morally upright with values and principles to guide its followers. Strong moral values are emphasised by the SGGS ji as a precondition to spiritual gratification.


(SGGS 1354 Rag Sehskritee M : 5)

ਸਬਦੰ ਰਤੰ ਹਿਤੰ ਮਇਆ ਕੀਰਤੰ ਕਲੀ ਕਰਮ ਕ੍ਰਿਤੁਆ ॥ ਮਿਟੰਤਿ ਤਤ੍ਰਾਗਤ ਭਰਮ ਮੋਹੰ ॥

Sabdung ratung Hitang Mya Keertung Klee Karam Kritua. Kitant Taatragat Bharm Mohung.

Be imbued and attuned to the Shabad; be compassionate and kind. Sing the Lord’s Praises –then all doubts and attachments will get dispelled.


(SGGS 140 Rag M : 1)

ਜੇ ਰਤੁ ਲਗੈ ਕਪੜੈ ਜਾਮਾ ਹੋਇ ਪਲੀਤੁ ॥ ਜੋ ਰਤੁ ਪੀਵਹਿ ਮਾਣਸਾ ਤਿਨ ਕਿਉ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਚੀਤੁ ॥

ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਉ ਖੁਦਾਇ ਕਾ ਦਿਲਿ ਹਛੈ ਮੁਖਿ ਲੇਹੁ ॥ ਅਵਰਿ ਦਿਵਾਜੇ ਦੁਨੀ ਕੇ ਝੂਠੇ ਅਮਲ ਕਰੇਹੁ ॥੧॥ ੧੧੪੦

Jey Rutt Lagey Kaprey Jama Hoey Paleet. Jo Rutt Peevey Maanusa Tin Kio Nirmal Cheet. Nanak Nao Khudaye Ka Dil Hachey Mukh Leho. Avar Divajey Duni Kay Jhutey Amal Kareho.

A garment when stained by blood becomes filthy; then how can the mind of one who sucks blood, be pure? O man acquire Godly virtues; such cleanses the mind. Sans virtues, spirituality is fake exhibition for display to others.


(SGGS 62 Sri Rag M : 1)

ਸਚਹੁ ਓਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਉਪਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥੫॥

Sacho Urey Sabh Ko Upar Sach Aachar.

Living in Godly virtues is the highest order of spirituality.

The path of Sikhi lays stress on personal virtues as the basic characteristics of a righteous and good moral being.

6. Focussed

The message in SGGS ji maintains a positive focus on the achevement of its mission to bring spirituality to its followers. Gurbani shows the devotees the rightful path to realisation of the common objective – union with God.

(SGGS 111 Rag Maajh M : 3)

ਜੋਤੀ ਵਿਚਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਮਾਣੀ ਸੁਣਿ ਮਨ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਵਣਿਆ॥੧॥ ਹਉ ਵਾਰੀ ਜੀਉ ਵਾਰੀ ਹਰਿ ਕੈ ਨਾਇ ਸੋਭਾ ਪਾਵਣਿਆ ॥ Jotee Vich Mil Joat Samanee Sun Nunn Sach Smaveniya. Hao Varee Jio Varee Har Kay Naye Sobha Pavneya.

I am a sacrifice to the Lord’s Virtues, which bring glory. My mind obtains enlightenment upon internalizing them.

(SGGS 502 Rag Gujri M : 5)

ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵੈ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਦੀਨ ਦੈਆਲਾ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਤਰੈ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਸਭ ਉਧਰੈ ਬਿਨਸੇ ਸਗਲ ਜੰਜਾਲਾ ॥੩॥ Aath Peher Har Kay Gunn Gavey Simrey Deen Dyala. Aap Trey Sangat Sabh Udhrey Binsey Sagal Janjala.

One who strives to constantly remember the kind and gracious Lord and internalizes His virtues emancipates oneself from all attachments.

Time and again the followers are reminded that realization of the Creator within is an achievable goal. What is required is commitment and a positive attitude from the followers.


7. Co-operative

Gurbani exhibits a deep understanding of people’s emotional make-up to move people in the direction of its message. Followers are addressed as family members and close friends, each on a journey of spiritual fulfillment.

(SGGS 611 Rag Sorath M : 5)

ਏਕੁ ਪਿਤਾ ਏਕਸ ਕੇ ਹਮ ਬਾਰਿਕ ਤੂ ਮੇਰਾ ਗੁਰ ਹਾਈ ॥ ਸੁਣਿ ਮੀਤਾ ਜੀਉ ਹਮਾਰਾ ਬਲਿ ਬਲਿ ਜਾਸੀ ਹਰਿ ਦਰਸਨੁ ਦੇਹੁ ਦਿਖਾਈ ॥੧॥ Ek Pita Ekas Kay Hum Barak Tu Mera Gur Hayee. Sunn Meeta Jio Hamara Bal Bal Jasee Har Darsan Deh Dikhayee.

One God is our father; we are the children of the One God. You are my soul O Guru, my friend, I will be forever indebted if you can reveal to me the Blessed Vision.

(SGGS 496 Rag Gujri M : 5)

ਪੂਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਕੀ ਆਸੀਸ ॥ ਨਿਮਖ ਨ ਬਿਸਰਉ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਕਉ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਭਜਹੁ ਜਗਦੀਸ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

Poota Mata Kee Asees. Nimakh Na Bisrao Tum Ko Har Har Sda Bhajo Jugdees. Rahao.

O Sikh, this is your Guru’s blessing. May you never forget the Lord even for an instant.

(SGGS 653 Rag Sorath M : 3)

ਸਭਨਾ ਕਾ ਮਾ ਪਿਉ ਆਪਿ ਹੈ ਆਪੇ ਸਾਰ ਕਰੇਇ ॥ Sabhna Ka Ma Pio Aap Hai APey Saar Karey.

He Himself is the father and mother of all; He Himself cares for us.

8. Socially skilled

Gurbani text is poetry that can be sung to musical notes. It is written in the common man’s language and script. Spiritual messages are delivered in poems that centre round the common man’s activities – days of the week, months of the year and festivities around social events such as a marriage.

(SGGS 134 Rag Maajh M : 5)

ਆਸਾੜੁ ਸੁਹੰਦਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਲਗੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਮਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਚਰਣ ਨਿਵਾਸ ॥੫॥ Asaarr Suhanda Tis Lagey Jis Munn Har Charan Niwas.

The joy of Aasaarh occurs when the messages of the Shabad abide in the mind.

(SGGS 774 Rag Suhi M : 4)

ਜਨੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਬੋਲੇ ਚਉਥੀ ਲਾਵੈ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਅਵਿਨਾਸੀ ॥੪॥੨॥ Junn Nanak Boley Chauthee Lavey Har Paiya Prabh Avinasi.

Servant Nanak proclaims that in the final state of my spiritual journey, I have realized the Creator.

Gurbani’s speech engages, educates and connects with its followers; therefore it can convey the mission clearly to them. The follower is able to understand the profound message.

9. Empowering

SGGS ji allows followers the freedom to make their own choices, giving them the tools and processes to make those choices effectively and productively. There is no force-feeding or threat, only gentle persuasion.

(SGGS 508 Rag Gujri M : 5)

ਜੀਅ ਦਇਆ ਮਇਆ ਸਰਬਤ੍ਰ ਰਮਣੰ ਪਰਮ ਹੰਸਹ ਰੀਤਿ ॥੭॥ Jee Dyua Mya Sabatar Rumnung Param Hanseh Reet.

Show kindness and mercy to all beings, and realize that the Lord is pervading everywhere; this is the way of life of the enlightened soul.

(SGGS 474 Raag Asa M : 1)

ਜਿਸ ਕੇ ਜੀਅ ਪਰਾਣ ਹਹਿ ਕਿਉ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਮਨਹੁ ਵਿਸਾਰੀਐ॥ ਆਪਣ ਹਥੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਵਾਰੀਐ ॥੨੦॥ Jis Kay Jee Praan Hai Kio Sahib Manjo Visareay. Aapan Hathee Aapnaa Aapey Hee Kaaj Swareay.

He who owns our soul, and our very breath of life – why should we forget that Lord and Master ? With our own hands, resolve our own affairs.

(SGGS 1412 Vaaraan and Vadheek M :1)

ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥ Jao Tao Prem Khelan Ka Chao. Ser Dhur Talee Galee Meri Aao.

If you desire to play this game of love. Then step onto my path with your head in your palm.

The SGGS ji as the supreme leader of the Sikhs

Those who are devoted followers of SGGS ji are termed Sikhs (students/seekers) and their teacher is the Guru. The choice of SGGS ji as the supreme head of the Sikhs is an indication of the far-sightedness of the ten Sikh Gurus who physically led the new faith from 1469 to 1708 as it encapsulates (in the form of the shabad) the complete messages they had imparted. And this message is accepted by the Sikhs (followers) as verbatim from the Divine.

(SGGS 463 Rag Asa M : 2)

ਜੇ ਸਉ ਚੰਦਾ ਉਗਵਹਿ ਸੂਰਜ ਚੜਹਿ ਹਜਾਰ ॥ ਏਤੇ ਚਾਨਣ ਹੋਦਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਘੋਰ ਅੰਧਾਰ ॥੨॥

Jau Sau Chanda Ughvey, Sooraj Chareh Hazaat. Etay Chanan Hondeya Gur ben Ghor Andhar.

If a hundred moons were to rise, and a thousand suns appear; even with such light, there would be pitch darkness without the Guru.

(SGGS 596 Rag Sorath M : 1)

ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਖਾਈ ॥ ਪਾਇ ਪਰਉ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੈ ਜਿਨਿ ਸਾਚੀ ਬੂਝ ਬੁਝਾਈ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Munn Maneya Naak Sakhayee. Paye Paro Gur Key Balhare Jin Sachee Bujh Bujhaye.

My mind is comforted by Godly Virtues. I fall at the Guru’s feet – I am a sacrifice to Him; He has given me true understanding.

Yes, SGGS ji is the supreme spiritual authority and head of the Sikhs as it has been annointed as the Guru in Granth form. And it is the unique leader of a unique faith.