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Social Leadership To Accelerate Inclusive Development


Strong leadership is significant in achieving social change. India boasts of a rich history illuminated by the power of eminent leaders who have worked to abolish social evils, overcome social norms and create significant social change. A collective sense of responsibility is an undeniable necessity to catalyse positive social change. However, social leaders are critical in addressing complex issues with innovative approaches to lead strong organisations and create community-level impact.

Who is a social leader?

The term ‘social leadership’ was coined by Esade Professor Jaume Filella, who highlights that social leadership focuses on uniting people. Social leaders have the ability to facilitate dialogue in communities and drive collective efforts in the direction of social development. A leader creates a network of engagement, performance and growth towards positive and actionable solutions to societal issues.

Social leaders in India

India has a growing community of individuals who have scaled their innovative and sustainable projects into large social movements that play a vital role in nation-building. These passionate individuals have created extraordinary value and impact by actioning solutions for India’s developmental challenges. Anshu Gupta- Founder, Goonj and Magsaysay Awardee and Shaheen Mistri- Founder, Akanksha Foundation and CEO, Teach For India spearhead some of the largest non-governmental organisations in the country. Under their leadership, they have developed high-quality, low-cost, and replicable interventions to address gaps in the ecosystem.

Nurturing a community of social leaders

To maximise social impact, leadership must be more inclusive and networked. Developing a cohesive ecosystem of social leaders would facilitate fresh perspectives and insight.

Although social leadership maybe built on conventional and innate abilities such as commitment to social causes, empathy, resilience, accountability and moral imagination, there are critical competencies which can be refined through training and practice to create dynamic social leaders:

  • Critical competencies of a social leader:
  1. Social Innovation: The magnitude of contemporary social challenges in India necessitates an elemental reinvention of approach. Leaders with social innovation proficiency, view this challenge as an opportunity to create initiatives and processes that maximise social impact
  2. Sustainability and Scale: A leader will strategise initiatives that are sustainable and aligned with the emerging social trends and also focus on scale thereby ensuring maximum and widespread impact on communities
  3. Ability to mobilise: Social leaders are known for their ability to bring people together from diverse sections of the society and mobilise them to work towards a common goal. Leaders like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are examples of how a great social leader can organise a large group of people in the right direction

Dasra, India’s leading strategic philanthropic organisation, runs an accelerator program for the heads of NGOs and social businesses across India to help them develop transformational leadership skills critical to building sustainable and scalable organisations.

Several corporates also play a critical role in identifying, supporting and nurturing innovative solutions by changemakers. Apart from supporting NGOs and social enterprises to set up systems and processes, corporates are also actively mentoring leaders of these organisations and facilitating an ecosystem of social leaders.

Leveraging such an ecosystem could nurture leadership talent and create a significant social impact in India.

Inculcating responsible youth social leadership

India has the world’s largest youth population, with 50% of nation’s population below the age of 25 years. And the young generation is actively engaging in issues like politics and government. Hence, it is imperative to channelise the power of these potential social leaders into nation-building initiatives.

Rana Kapoor, Co-Chairman & Chief Mentor, Yes Foundation has rightfully said that the only way to accelerate India’s development is through mindset and behavioural change where youth social responsibility is not a singular journey but a vector with both direction and speed. He emphasises on intensive and sustained youth engagement with social causes to create a tectonic change in India’s social landscapes.

Programmes such as UNICEF’s Building Bright Future program, which develop young adults as social leaders by providing them platforms and resources to contribute to community development and Fellowships like the Gandhi Fellowship and Teach for India Fellowship hone the leadership skills of young minds and empower them to emerge as changemakers of the future.

Exceptional social leaders are rare and in their success is the success of the nation.


PreranaPrerana Langa is the CEO of Yes Foundation, social development arm of Yes Bank. She developed YES! i am the CHANGE, a mindset transformation project, innovatively using the medium of films to ignite the spirit of driving positive social change amongst the youth enabling them to become agents of social change.

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.

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