"Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here." --Thomas Carlyle, 1840
1. Be that kind of person. Are you a person that has little ego or commits to selfless behavior for the betterment of the human race? Have you thrown yourself away from this seductive world? To be a spiritual leader it means saying "NO!" to the flesh and saying "Yes!" to Humanity, God, Allah, Yahweh, Dharma, Qi, the Buddha nature and the other spiritual realms which envelope us each and every day.
2. Have a great idea. You need a plan, a system, a manifesto, a mission. Write it down. It can be a book, an unpublished manuscript, an essay, a drawing, a diary, a couple of poems, a draft for a constitution, or just a few lines of your thought. Something! Think about Chairman Mao's Little Red Book. Your idea will become the genius sitting on your shoulder and attending your actions; it's your guiding spirit, your talisman, and your protector. Having it will forever distract the critic's eye away from your over-the-top personality toward that genius.
3. Become historically aware. You must spiritually connect with historical events and famous people in history. You do so by comparing your idea with already existing ones, ideally from two thousand years ago, as if your thoughts were, say, the logical conclusion of the teachings of Confucius, Buddha, or Jesus Christ, etc. Your idea is universal and was previously known to other great men in history, so you are the obvious heir to the kingdom of thought.
4. Be a force of creation. To create is to know, they say. Great leaders are constantly creating new connections between themselves, their followers, and the movement to current domestic, economical, cultural, and political affairs. Everything is interconnected, that is the essence of all spirituality. In addition, just as companies like Google or Apple are putting out new software products and patents, so your spiritual enterprise, too, must constantly produce new consumer products, videos, articles, and new word-creations.
5. Keep your socio-economic status high. This is essential because it determines what kind of people you will meet and how they will see you. In short, people want to see you have a job. Or superior credentials. Did you win prizes and medals when you were young? Are you a chess master or martial arts champion? Do you own a company; are you affiliated with a university, a religion, or a political party? Are you a professor, entrepreneur, director, or president of something? If not, you better become some; the more the better. If you don't come from money and influence, you can always marry into it. If, however, your social status remains low, you are unlikely to reach the next levels.
6. Know that followers will follow. The truth is there is no planning for followers. It's the followers who come to the spiritual leader, and that is that. In fact, since by now you are that movement by constantly creating connections to the happenings around you, people are already drawn to you like moths to a flame. Every remark they make, every piece of paper they send, every gesture, every meeting, every conversation they will have with strangers about you will surely enhance your own reputation, for good or bad that is. Obviously, they will shower you with favors, gifts, their money and their time, sometimes even their real estate and other useful things. Imam Khomeini is often said to have possessed only about $12 on the day he died. Yet, he practically commanded the entire Iranian nation.
7. Give back. People who don't have cannot give. But by now you have a lot to give, and I don't mean just all that money and material props, but also more abstract forms of empowerment like access to resources, titles, jobs, or simple the credit of being in your presence. This is an important function of any leader: to distribute resources among his subordinates. Treat all people that work for you as if they were your family and distribute among them your favors (or withhold them), just like a king or pasha. Be benevolent and give and you will be given even more back in return.
8. Manage your image. Most spiritual leaders adopt an iconic look and style and stick to that a life-time in order to remain universally recognizable. Now, how to get your image and your idea out to the people? The key is public relations. Many times people will write articles about you, some will publish your stuff, but in order to stay in control over your universal image you must produce in-house. Get a management team and agent(s); create your own newspaper, journal, show, magazine, and publishing house.
9. Become a founder. Josei Toda once advised his disciple Ikeda that in order to achieve greatness he must travel the world, talk to great scholars, and build a university. Daisaku Ikeda did just that. He even founded two universities, high schools, kindergartens, and hundreds of other institutions. You, too, must now establish a school, a label, a temple, a research center, a foundation, a non-government organization, a political party, a religious movement, your own country, whatever suits you best, and the more the better.
10. Become an exemplar person. If you can, become a hero. Save little children from starving in Africa, help the victims of natural catastrophes in Japan or Indonesia. And let the public know that you helped those homeless. On the other side of the spectrum, always remember to connect to important people and forums, and let people know about your connections. Your life has turned into a work of art. You are now a force of nature, and you believe, like all people with great power, that you have the highest ethical standards anyway. Write more books about it. Go on TV.
11. Engage in diplomacy. Like head of states do. Search dialogue. It's been road tested. You are now in a different ball game than most of humankind. Meeting with ordinary people gives you nothing intellectually; you must search for those very few who are your equal. Presidents meet other presidents, CEOs meet other CEOs, and spiritual leaders meet other spiritual leaders. Dialogue is essentially the greatest promotional tool of spiritual leaders that exists today.
12. Carefully plan your legacy. Ideally, you should have died before 40. The shock will make many people say good things about you that they would never have said about a living or elderly person. Think about Bruce Lee who died at the age of 33 or Vincent van Gogh who died at 37, or Kurt Cobain who died at 27. If you live longer, your genius has probably left you, but has manifested in your works. Here’s what to do next: Do not take your money into the grave. Keep creating, do saintly work, and when you retire establish a fund or foundation or scholarship or prize in your name that does good work for society.
In the end, it all boils down to this: Have you left traces and have you laid claim on future affairs so that historians will have plenty of ways to know about your existence?
Image credit: SeanPavonePhoto/Shutterstock.com
Based on the work by Thorsten Pattberg, Teresa, Rhi112, Catdog, Maluniu, Votebot, and anonymous writers. Working title: 'How to Become a Spiritual Leader'. Contribute to the living document at Wikihow.