A website based on Radhanath Swami's Leadership Lessons

When little things make a big difference

Two striking contrasts in sporting history reveal a critical leadership lesson:

Ben Johnson had created a sensation. He bagged the coveted 100 meter gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, having achieved the feat in 9.79 seconds. Cameras flashed on the fastest man on the planet; he was now the most sought after and a legendary figure.

Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson

Few hours later the world sat stunned to discover that celebrity Ben had been doping; he was disgracefully stripped off the medal, and banned from athletics. Overnight he was reduced from a hero to a villain. Contrasting Ben is Muhammad Ali who became an Olympic champion, despite growing up facing racial discrimination. Against all odds, he became an overnight hero with his gold medal at the 1960 Olympics, and in 1999, the BBC declared Muhammad Ali to be the ‘sportsman of the century’.

It’s not an ‘overnight’ affair

While noting the dramatic rise or fall of these two men, we need to carefully observe the word ‘overnight’. Does one become a hero or a villain overnight? Muhammad Ali slogged for months; his arduous workouts and spending many hours daily in the gym had an effect that night; he was crowned the world champion that night, but he earned it after years of struggle against prejudice.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Similarly Ben Johnson wasn’t a disgrace that night; his long deception got exposed one day. He confessed later that he had been doping for long; the clandestine cheating wasn’t known to the world until that night. Therefore often in life it isn’t an overnight affair. Its years of neglecting or paying attention to the little things that pay off one night. One night the world recognizes you as a hero or a villain but a lifetime would have been spent on climbing the ladder of success or digging your own grave.

Spiritual leader works on principles

We are so often attracted by National crusaders and heroes, sports stars, and charismatic leaders. But have we ever wondered about the rigorous discipline, determined efforts and most importantly the small but critical things that these leaders have given importance to for years? A spiritual leader (a leader who’s guided by spiritual principles) recognizes that real success in life is not determined by how many fans adore you, or how many billions of dollars you amass; it’s more to do with how we lead our lives in congruence with sacred universal principles. An unassuming housewife, a principled school teacher or a sacrificing mother can have a deeper impact on our lives. They are indeed successful leaders for they work on small but critical principles like sacrifice, charity, humility, service and discipline, day in and day out. And as a result such men and women leave a more lasting influence on our consciousness. Some of them may be glorified as super stars by the media but that’s secondary; the primary greatness of a leader is in his or her adherence to timeless principles. One such principle is to give importance to apparently small but sublime factors.

Little things can have tremendous consequences

A friend shared an important lesson he learnt in life. He is the Head of department of our youth outreach services; his day is packed with many duties and appointments. Often he’d be careless about being on time; he’d be late for meetings, but thought that wasn’t a big issue. His team members fumed but didn’t have the courage to open up. What really irked them was his casual approach to the issue. On a couple of occasions when they mentioned to him about his delays, he was apologetic but didn’t break the habit. He is definitely good at heart but his goodness got clouded by this ‘small’ irritable nature. Over a period of time the perceptions about him that floated in the monastery got serious; ‘he doesn’t respect me and my time’; ‘he’s rude and inconsiderate’; ‘I can’t trust him’. As I heard these remarks, I wondered if he was actually rude, untrustworthy, disrespectful etc. I realized he isn’t necessarily like that but his little neglect was costing him his reputation. I reflected, “Being late once or twice may be unavoidable, but being late consistently makes you unreliable.” Here was a talented and competent manager, but sent negative vibes and made others uncomfortable to be around him; people instinctively disliked him. I also realized that although perceptions may be far off from reality, perceptions are reality when it comes to relationships. It’s difficult to convince a person to like or trust someone based on facts and figures. Perceptions get embedded in the consciousness over a period of time when people notice your adherence to little but significant behavioural patterns or habits.

One day he came up to me and confessed his disappointment with the ashram residents; he felt they don’t appreciate him or his tireless services. He felt he lacked a real friend. As I heard him, the cause of his plight—neglecting little things that make a big difference—became clearer to me. Fortunately he was humble and open minded to accept my candid observations which might have led to his being alienated from the ashram. He’s now begun working on this aspect of his personality and perceiving tangible results. Both of us recently concurred, ‘Being on time may be a small thing, but it can have a big difference in our lives’. I recollected the words of Bruce Barton, the American author and Republican, “sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.”

A little act of taking lunch together

Radhanath Swami once emphasised to the monks in our monastery, the need to take lunch together daily. My instinctive unspoken response was, ‘what’s the big deal? How does it really matter? We’ve so many things to do’; the manager within me got the better of my human feelings. It didn’t make so much sense then but I complied with the advice because I trusted him and moreover he appealed, “even if you aren’t convinced about this little thing about taking lunch together, please do it only because I am saying.” That day was also his birthday, and he smilingly quipped, “actually this is the best birthday gift you can give me.” Now six years later I realize the profound effect this little act has made on the lives of our ashram residents. An unspoken message of love and family spirit is conveyed when the members come together and take food. These things are subtle but strong enough for us to perceive; trust and camaraderie get deeply rooted when we informally come together; I can now honestly confess that I eagerly look forward for the lunch hour or our informal get together in the monastery, for it gives me the feeling of close bonding with the other members.

I now soberly muse over Gary Eby’s striking observation, “termites are little but given time, they can eat an entire house. A match is a little thing but it can burn and destroy an entire forest. The tongue is a little thing but life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Years of paying attention to little things certainly pays off one day.

A spiritual leader works hard on his or her spiritual discipline and the building of a strong character. He or she does this with small but significant steps daily. It may be a little thing—for example going that extra mile and giving more than expected—but it makes a big difference… to you and the world.

Tags: , , , , , ,

About the Author

About the Author: A senior monk and a leader at the Radhagopinath Ashram, a monastery in Mumbai guided by Radhanath Swami, Vrajabihari Das is a board member of the CSV, a Council that provides spiritual vision to the Ashram. Also a prolific writer, he is a regular contributor to Back To Godhead, an international magazine on spirituality. And on the web, he blogs on krishnayoga.info and radhanath-swami.net Venugopal topped Mumbai University in International Finance during his Masters. He then did his MBA. Though a flourishing career awaited him, he chose to become a monk, so as to dedicate his life for the welfare of society. And sure enough, Venugopal today serves as a lifestyle counselor for hundreds in India. His spiritual wisdom and genuine compassion flows freely, irrespective of whether he is counseling, discoursing or writing. .


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

There Are 72 Brilliant Comments

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Balkrishan Arora says:

    We generally ignore little things, but Radhanath Swami has shown how it really makes a big difference.

  2. USHA GAONKAR says:

    Amazing realisations. It's so true that little things make a big difference. So go ahead and Take that extra effort or go that extra mile.

  3. Samir Paleja says:

    yes, building a strong character is the most important thing.

  4. Saurabh Devgun says:


  5. santpal goel says:

    Amazing Editorial prabhuji.I read your articles regularly in BTG.Amazing i really liked it a lot.

  6. Ydas says:

    Yes Sriman Venugopalji it is true that Radhanath Swami pays great attention to detail and this "big small" act of lunch together is one of the great pointers.

  7. Arjun K Ramachandra says:

    "They are indeed successful leaders for they work on small but critical principles like sacrifice, charity, humility, service and discipline, day in and day out" – I take this as the lesson for my life from this beautiful article. Thank you so much for posting such empowering articles.

  8. Milind M Churi says:

    In our day to day life many things that happenes and we forget them or dismiss them thinking they are of very little significance.But in this article author has succsessfuly pointed out that these little things makes lot of difference in one's life.Examples of Ben and Mohmmad Ali are very logical.In this world ultimately loving relationships only keeps people together.But in this loving relationship one can not ignore reciprocation however small it may be,considering it is of little value.HH.Radhanth Swami's advice to author is also highly indicative of this concepts.Swamiji oftenly quotes that the family which dines together,that family stays together.Swamiji is a Spiritual leader who has sacrified his life for betterment of others therefore his words are to be taken seriously by seekers of spiritual enlightenment.I thank Author for selecting very sensitive subject matter to pen this article.

  9. Saveeta says:

    Very nice article thanks for sharing

  10. Sumit Sharma says:

    Nice lesson and message.

  11. Rahul Abhay Kamat says:

    Wonderful article.

  12. dhananjay says:

    it is wonderful.

  13. sandeep says:

    I am working as a manager in a company. I am getting here very different views of leadership. I find them very useful. Thanks for posting these views.

  14. rahul says:

    The real life examples used in the article help difficult to learn lesson sink in easily. thank you!!!!!!!

  15. Aishwarya says:

    Liked-'A spiritual leader recognizes that real success in life is not determined by how many fans adore you, or how many billions of dollars you amass; it’s more to do with how we lead our lives in congruence with sacred universal principles. An unassuming housewife, a principled school teacher or a sacrificing mother can have a deeper impact on our lives.'

    Also this article reminds me of a phrase, "Drops of water make an ocean!"

  16. Sunny says:

    Its so rare that stress is given on being principled these days – especially on timeless principles coming from vedic scriptures. Everything is looked at a point of immediate profit and hence people keep changing their principles, every day based on what they want to acheive…at the end – they are not trust worthy and hence cannot have any meaningful relationship…they become quite lonely in their so called success/failure…

  17. vvdd says:

    What vast study, and perfect stories to convince the cause

  18. Pooja, singapore says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Even i have experienced the impact of having lunch together with devotees instead of eating alone.

  19. Arjun K Ramachandra says:

    Thanks a lot for this enlightening article! I liked your point on how a true leader must pay importance to small yet critical things – like taking lunch together!

  20. Aishwarya says:

    Liked the concept that nothing happens overnight.Things which sometimes looks little also has major consequences.

  21. vsk says:

    A great article which gives us a chance to ponder at our direction of thought

  22. navin poojary says:

    Amazing learings from this article esp. the point …" sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things"

  23. saveeta says:

    Thanks for sharing this interesting article!

  24. deepak bagla says:

    Thank you for this amazing article. There are no words to describe the impact this article has created

  25. himanshu bhatt says:

    real success in life is not determined by how many fans adore you, or how many billions of dollars you amass; it’s more to do with how we lead our lives in congruence with sacred universal principles. a million dollar statement

  26. Paramesvara Dasa says:

    Very nice comparison. All glories to Radhanatha Swami.

  27. N.Swaminathan says:

    This article is a confidence booster. One can attain small or big personal victories by making gradual changes on a consistent basis.

  28. vishvesh Jogalekar says:

    very inspiring. Than you for sharing

  29. himanshu bhatt says:

    Becoming a successful leader is really difficult, but maintaining your status as a successful manager is still more difficult.

  30. Samir Paleja says:

    very good article. thank u.

  31. tushar says:

    Thank you very much for your article!

    I am really convinced with this. A leader can not keep discrepancies in his character by neglecting little but managaeble things.

    This consciousness indicates his love for task he is doing & true spiritulist does even little things as an act of devotion to his beloved Lord which he wants to be always perfect for the pleasure of his Lord.

  32. Anand Iyer (Gurgaon) says:

    Excellent write-up! Thanks for the excellent lesson. I am facing the same problem in my day-to-day life dealings. I am very neglectful of things! This article has shown me the way to correct myself. Thank you so much prabhu!

  33. Sumit Sharma says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.

  34. surekha says:

    Generally, we neglect small things in our lives. But, this article really explained the importance of paying attention to little things which makes big difference in our life. Thank you for sharing this article.

  35. anand says:

    sense of self is derived from sense of community. Strong community creates strong individuals and this becomes more so under spiritual auspices. Thanks for posting.

  36. sajeev says:

    Nice one….need to work on my own deficiencies of such kind….

  37. Swapnil says:

    Amazing article!!! Somet times,so called insignificant things have deep impact on our relationship with others

  38. amar solanki says:

    wonderful article.

  39. deepak says:

    Very instructive observations and lessons to learn. Thank you very much for sharing.

  40. bipin says:

    A very beautiful lesson of spirituality. It shows how important are virtues to become a successful leader, be it a spiritual world or material world.

    Hare Krishna.

  41. Vinay Jain says:

    A very insipiring article indeed. Thank you very much Pr and Radhanath Swami!

  42. anmol londhe says:

    Hare Krsna PradumnaMishra prabhuji..

    dandavat pranaam..

    thank you for putting up such an amazing website..

    hats off to your brilliant work..

    n also i have heard that you are very strict in moderating the comments posted..!!! hehe.. 🙂

    ys anmol..

  43. Rajendra prasad says:

    Hare Krishna Prabhu Ji,

    Thank you very much for such a good article. Definetely if we are able to cultivate the habbit paying attention to little things, the definetly miracle can happen in our lives be it spiritual or material.

  44. Pawan Sabharwal says:

    A successsful leader leads by example …

  45. shirish says:

    excellent….Thank you radhanath swami for such a valuable words.

  46. madri says:

    This article is an eye opener, the author has so beautifully explained on the basis and teachings of Radhanath swami with excellent egs, how it is very important to pay attention to every small things as it will surly pay off. Very beautifully explained. Thank you for sharing.

  47. mukund says:


  48. Pranjal Dixit says:

    Thank you very much prabhu ji. Little things look little if our consciousness is shallow but one who is deep in consciousness goes in the details of those apparent little things and realizes how deeper will be the impact of that thing on our life on larger scale.

  49. santpal goel,pune says:

    Amazing article.From this we can understand how very small things can make a lot of difference.

  50. Sumit Sharma says:

    Our life should be based on character.

  51. Nilesh says:

    It was really really inspiring to read the article.. If I can learn the lessons from this and implement it would make a big difference in my life.

  52. Sumit Sharma says:

    Wonderful. Thanks for sharing it.

  53. Advay Pathak says:

    The people in this world have misguided men as their ideals it's really a unfortunate thing.

  54. vvdd says:

    “sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.” what a profound statement, and apt for all occassions

  55. sundar ananda das says:

    the part on lunch taking together is very revealing!

  56. achyuta govinda says:

    Many thanks for this wonderful advice and wonderful blog. MANY THANKS TO RADHANATH SWAMI FOR GUIDING THE STUDENTS OF HIS ASHRAM IN MUMBAI

  57. Chandrika says:

    Thank you for this article.

  58. dhananjay says:


  59. gopasana says:

    This is a very very inspiring and motivating article to me personally.

  60. sarath vikram says:

    this article shows clearly that what we are is the collective habits of the past put together, our character cannot be altered overnight. we cannot become a devotee of God in a night it requires continues endeavor from our side

  61. madhura says:

    Amazing article.

  62. Mahaprakasha Das says:

    Vow thats so true

  63. Sundar says:

    Spiritual leader works on principles. Very relevant not to get carried away by the rituals at the cost of losing the priniples

  64. bipin says:

    All Glories To H.H Radhanath Swami Maharaj.

    How even small things as they may appear to our mundane vision are so important, if told by our Guru Maharaj, is something what none of the person practicing spirituality should forget even for a moment. All the instructions are like golden words, they will never let us down in our life, but have the power to elevate us to another level.

    Hare Krishna.

  65. Pankaj says:

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful article!
    Inspired by your article, I also will work in my life for this small principle of PUNCTUALITY – Being In Time.

  66. Pankaj says:

    You have so nice articles on this website! Is there any option to get these articles in printable format…If it is there, it will be of great help.

  67. Radha Menon says:

    The family that eats together stays together. This is how Radhanath Swami strives to keep the congregation of devotees together for the upliftment of the people in general.

  68. Kalpana Kulkarni says:

    “Little” things make a “Big” difference!

  69. rekha says:

    Most of us overlook the small things that happens in our lives. But, this article explains us how small things makes a big difference in our life. Thank you for posting these articles in this site with the views of Radhanath swami.

  70. avni says:

    well said!Trust and camaraderie get deeply rooted when we informally come together.

  71. satyam says:

    Little things really makes big difference. Well said

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *