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Asoka and Paul: transformations that led to effective transformational leadership

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Abstract

Asoka, the third Emperor of the Indian Mauryan Dynasty, was once a violent, acquisitive ruler. After spearheading an exceptionally bloody battle, he experienced a tremendous transformation. Leaving his brutal past behind him, Asoka reverted to a life of compassion and peace. As he promoted Buddhist principles, his own transformation led to the transformation of his many followers. Asoka became a magnanimous historical leader who is recognized for Buddhism's transition from a sect to a world religion. Paul, the Apostle, too, is acknowledged for his effective evangelization of his beliefs. He is known by many as the second founder of Christianity, by others as the actual founder. Paul's Christianity was a result of a profound personal transformation that was experienced on the road to Damascus, Syria. At that time referred to as Saul, he was intent on destroying Christianity until he witnessed a vision that convinced him to convert. This conversion catalysed the transformation of followers throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, resulting in Christianity becoming a world religion. By examining the pair's actions before and after their personal transformations, as well as the subsequent results, applicability to contemporary leadership is gleaned.
Asoka and Paul: transformations that led to
effective transformational leadership
Cheryl Patton*
PhD student of Organizational Leadership, Eastern University, St Davids, PA, USA
Asoka, the third Emperor of the Indian Mauryan Dynasty, was once a violent, acquisitive
ruler. After spearheading an exceptionally bloody battle, he experienced a tremendous
transformation. Leaving his brutal past behind him, Asoka reverted to a life of compassion
and peace. As he promoted Buddhist principles, his own transformation led to the trans-
formation of his many followers. Asoka became a magnanimous historical leader who is
recognized for Buddhisms transition from a sect to a world religion. Paul, the Apostle,
too, is acknowledged for his effective evangelization of his beliefs. He is known by many
as the second founder of Christianity, by others as the actual founder. Pauls Christianity
was a result of a profound personal transformation that was experienced on the road to
Damascus, Syria. At that time referred to as Saul, he was intent on destroying Christianity
until he witnessed a vision that convinced him to convert. This conversion catalysed the
transformation of followers throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, resulting in Chris-
tianity becoming a world religion. By examining the pairs actions before and after their
personal transformations, as well as the subsequent results, applicability to contemporary
leadership is gleaned.
Keywords: Asoka, Ashoka, Paul the Apostle, Saul of Tarsus, transformational leadership,
charisma, personal transformation, Buddhism, Catholicism
1 INTRODUCTION
The transformational leader motivates followers to accomplish more than expected
(Bass 1985, p. 20). The leader does so by expressing an attractive vision, role model-
ing, and persuading followers to collaborate in order to reach intended goals (Schuh et
al. 2013, p. 630). Two charismatic followers of major religious figures played a trans-
formational role in the rise of their faiths. Asoka,
1
a follower of Buddha,
2
and Paul, a
* The author thanks Joy Smith, Jeff McLean (posthumously) and two anonymous reviewers
at Leadership and the Humanities for their very helpful comments on earlier versions of this
paper. She is also thankful to Dr. David Greenhalgh for leading her to transfer her thoughts
into writing for this work.
1. Alternate spelling: Ashoka.
2. Some historians argue that Asoka did not specifically convert to the Buddhist faith (Jain
and Jain 2003; Molloy 2009), though there is a plethora of evidence to the contrary (Chaurasia
2008; Dhammika 1993; Smith 1901 [2013]; Thapar 2012). Smith (1901 [2013]) is one of a few
scholars who believe that Asoka did not merely convert to Buddhism but actually became a Bud-
dhist monk.
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disciple of Jesus Christ, enriched their own faiths after personal transformations. In
turn, they transformed others through successful leadership behaviors.
2 ASOKAS TRANSFORMATIONAL EXPERIENCE
Accounts vary greatly regarding the life of Asoka, as much relies on oral tradition.
Only in the 1800s were inscriptions credited to Asoka deciphered. Asoka ruled as
the third Emperor of the Indian Mauryan Dynasty in the third century BCE, the
dynasty originated with his grandfather, Chandragupta (Gombrich 1994, p. 1). He
was Chandraguptas favorite grandson. That was no small honor as the legendary
Asoka was said to have over 90 brothers and sisters (Kirby and Rich 1926, p. 579;
Smith 1901 [2013], p. 15). Scholars differ greatly on Asokas degree of cruelty in
his early reign, ranging from savage, ruthless, and cruel (Allen 2012; Dhammika
1993; Selvanayagam 1992), killing at least one of his brothers in order to gain the
throne
3
(Dhammika 1993; Hamblin and Peterson 2012; Thapar 2012), to one who
while naturally mild and reasonable, did not lack force and severity when dealing
with felons(Kirby and Rich 1926, p. 586). However, one can safely declare that
he had no qualms about killing people who wronged him or got in his way. Like
his grandfather and his father, Bindusara, Asoka wished to continue to expand his ter-
ritory. During his reign, Asoka began to look with covetous eyes upon Kalinga, an
independent kingdom on the southeast(ibid.). The decision was made; in 261 BC,
4
the Mauryan Empire would invade Kalinga, known today as Orissa (Damon 2000,
p. 10). Though the exact size of Asokas army is unknown, Chandraguptasforces
consisted of approximately 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry,
5
9,000 elephants, and
9,000 chariots (Kirby and Rich 1926, p. 584). Asokas forces were considered to be
of similar size. Thousands of Oriya soldiers were killed on the banks of the Daya
River during the Kalinga War (Nare 2011, p. 104). After witnessing the aftermath
of the bloody Kalinga War, however, this once-acquisitive, ruthless ruler decided to
lead his people under the Buddhist principles of non-violence and compassion
(Allen 2012).
3 PAULS TRANSFORMATION
Paul the Apostle was known at one time as Saul, a Pharisaic Jew. Saul grew up in Tar-
sus, the capital city of Cilicia in southeast Asia Minor (Royse 1904, p. 144). A member
of a strict sect of Pharasaism, Saul received his early religious education from his con-
servative Hebrew parents; when he reached the age of twelve or thirteen he went to
Jerusalem to learn from one of the most respected Rabbis of his time, Gamaliel (How-
son 1909, p. 4). As such, Saul was taught according to the perfect manner of the law
3. The Mahavamsa places the number involved in the fratricide at ninety-nine. Buddhist
sources, in an attempt to magnify the conversion, greatly exaggerate the young Asokas brutal-
ity. Those stories tell of an Asoka who, when he learned that women of his harem called him
unsightly, had all five hundred burned to death, resulting in the moniker, Candasoka, or
Cruel Asoka (Thapar 2012, pp. 3436).
4. The year varies according to literature. Draper (1995) notes that the War occurred around
256 BC.
5. Draper (1995) marks the number of Asokas cavalry at 130,000.
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of the fathers(ibid., p. 4). When this zealous Pharisee witnessed those he regarded as
heretics promoting beliefs that clashed with the law and tradition of his forefathers, he
violently tried to destroy their work. These heretics were Christians, who believed that
Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God, raised from the dead after crucifixion. The
fact that Jesus was crucified led Saul to believe that there was no possibility that this man
was the Messiah. The law clearly stated that this man must be cursed, he who is hanged
is accursed of God
6
(New King James Version,Deut.21:23).Sauls hermeneutical
understanding of the passage convinced him that Jesus, a man who died while hanging
on a cross, was not the Messiah (Awwad 2011, p. 7). Saul was more exceedingly zeal-
ous of the traditionsof his ancestors (Gal. 1:14) and so put it upon himself to prevent
others from straying from Jewish tradition.
7
Acts 3:8 reveals he made havoc of the
church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to
prison.Intent on completing what he thought was Gods work, extinguishing Christian-
ity through cruel persecution was Sauls major focus (Phil. 3:6). That is, until one day as
he was heading north from Jerusalem on his way to Damascus, Syria:
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the
high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found
any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from
heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him,
Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?
And he said, Who are You, Lord?
Then the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick
against the goads.
So he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what do You want me to do?Then the Lord
said to him, Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no
one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one.
But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without
sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:19)
This vision
8
resulted in a complete transformation in Saul, who now took on the name
Paul (Acts 13:9) and was baptized a Christian (Acts 9:18).
4 ASOKAS LEADERSHIP POST-TRANSFORMATION
After the Kalinga War, Asoka dedicated much time and energy to promoting
Dhamma,
9
a Buddhist term originating from the root dham, which means to uphold
6. After his conversion, Paul addresses this passage in Galatians 3:13, noting Christ has
redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us..
7. Scholars believe Saul was a Shammaite Pharisee, the strictest sect of Jew. During the reign of
King Herod from 364 BC, a split occurred within Pharisaism. Followers were divided between the
strict teachings of Shammai and the more tolerant teachings of Hillel. A Shammaite was a hard-line
Pharisee what we today would call a militant right-winger(Wright 1997, p. 26).
8. Scholars interpret this vision in numerous ways. Some propose that Saul was overcome by
guilt, which led to hallucinations (Ludemann 2002). Others speculate that Saul was struck by
lightning (Bullock 1994), temporal lobe epilepsy (Landsborough 1987), or a near-death experi-
ence (Morse 2009).
9. Dhamma is the Prakrit version of the Sanskrit word, dharma (Thapar 2012).
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and/or support,among his followers (Asokas Fourteen Rock Edicts, 4; Plamintr
2000). The Dhamma practice encourages charitable acts to be performed to avoid Duk-
kha, or sorrow (Plamintr 2000). The Emperor, otherwise known as Devanampiya Piya-
dasi, meaning BelovedoftheGods,HeWhoLooksonwithAffection,inscribed
monuments, pillars, cave walls, and rock formations with his socio-religious edicts
intended to catalyse positive changes throughout India
10
(Dhammika 1993; Hamblin
and Peterson 2012). His choice of writing in stone was purposeful; he desired his des-
cendants to act in conformitywith the Dhamma (Fourteen Pillar Edicts, 5).
This once-cruel Mauryan ruler openly regretted the devastation that occurred at
Kalinga.
Beloved of the Gods, King Piyadasi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation.
One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many
more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved of the Gods
came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma and for
instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved of the Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered
the Kalingas. (Fourteen Rock Edicts, 13)
His messages revealed that he wished for his sons and grandsons to foregothe pursuit
of conquests, if possible. Alternatively, they should only conquest with forbearance
and light punishmentor by Dhamma alone (Fourteen Rock Edicts, 13).
Asoka was fully invested in fulfilling the highest needs of his people, those which
result in happiness in this world and the next(Seven Pillar Edicts, 1). This type of
leadership behavior aligns with the Bolman and Deal (2013) human resource frame,
which assumes that organizations exist to serve human needs rather than the converse
(p. 117). Specific practices of human resource strategies include build[ing] systems
and practices to implement the philosophy,’‘invest[ing] in learning,and being expli-
cit about the organizations diversity philosophy(ibid., p. 140). Asoka accom-
plishes these three goals. The inscriptions on pillars, rocks, and cave walls became
the marketing tools for the promotion of kindness, generosity, truthfulness, purity,
gentleness, and goodness(Seven Pillar Edicts, 7). These inscriptions aided in the edu-
cation of his followers, as did the instructions from the Rahhukas, who were ordered
by Asoka to explain the tenets of the Dhamma in detail (Seven Pillar Edicts, 7). The
Mauryan leader also expressed the need for diversity amongst his subjects. Though he
was a staunch Buddhist, he was tolerant of other religions, asserting that all of them
desire self-control and purity of heart(Fourteen Rock Edicts, 7). So great was his
inclusivism that it was his hope that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines
of other religions(Fourteen Rock Edicts, 12).
Asoka clearly fit the depiction of the transformational leader. The attractive vision
of delight in the present life and beyond, his dramatic change and apparent sincerity
and dedication to the cause sparked interest in his subjects. A transformational leader
tends to trigger a difference in followersways of thinking, values, goals and stan-
dards(Popper 2012, p. 31). The Emperors social marketing campaign advised his
followers to respect others, be generous, not kill, and be moderate in spending and sav-
ing (Fourteen Rock Edicts, 3). He postulated practicing the Dhamma cannot be done
10. James Prinsep deciphered Asokas brahmi script in 1837, allowing scholars to re-discover
this Mauryan leader. In subsequent decades, many of the edicts were discovered and a biography
of Asoka began to unveil (Dhammika 1993). In Delhi, one can view versions of Asokas edicts
in Bahapur, South Delhi, on the Delhi Ridge, near the University of Delhi, and at Firoz Shah
Kotla (Singh 2006, p. 120).
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by one who is devoid of virtue and therefore its promotion and growth is commend-
able(ibid., 4). Asokas motivational edicts successfully raised his followers to a
higher ethical level; he was an accomplished driver of social change. Asoka referred
to his inscriptions as rescripts on morality(Chakrabarti 1995, p. 196). Leadership
that raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspirations of both leader and
ledtransforms both in the process (Burns 1978, p. 20). Scholars note that Asoka con-
tinued to grow in his Buddhist fervor. This is further illustrated in the first Minor Rock
Edict in which Asoka notes his spiritual growth and continues to encourage his fol-
lowers. The Emperor proclaimed that he repeated the following communiquétwo hun-
dred and fifty-six times while on tour(Dhammika 1993; Minor Edict, 1):
It is now more than two and a half years since I became a lay-disciple, but until now I have
not been very zealous. But now that I have visited the Sangha
11
for more than a year, I have
become very zealous. Now the people in India who have not associated with the gods do so.
This is the result of zeal and it is not just the great who can do this. Even the humble, if they
are zealous, can attain heaven. And this proclamation has been made with this aim.
Role-modeling behavior is indicative of the transformational leader; Asoka aspires that
the zeal he obtained from following the tenets of the Dhamma will be replicated by the
masses. In guiding twenty-first century leaders, Rost (1993) reveals that [r]eal trans-
formation involves active people, engaging in influence relationships based on persua-
sion, intending real changes to happen, and insisting that those changes reflect their
mutual purpose.The fifth of the Fourteen Rock Edicts addresses the Dhamma Maha-
matras, officers who Asoka appointed to practice and spreadthe Dhamma (Thapar
2012). These officials worked among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Gandharas,
the Rastrikas, the Pitinikas and other peoples on the western borders(Dhammika
1993; Fourteen Rock Edicts, 5). Scholars assume the Dhamma Mahamatras visited
areas within and on the outskirts of the empire (Thapar 2012). Asoka made pil-
grimages to Bodh Gaya
12
and Lumbini, the latter being the birthplace of Buddha.
Here, he erected a pillar and stupa
13
to commemorate the journey (Dhammika
1993). In the seventh of the Seven Pillar Edicts, written 27 years after his coronation,
Asoka remarked of his success in his role-modeling behavior, Whatever good deeds
have been done by me, those the people accept and those they follow.
Asoka referred to himself as a parental figure: All men are my children(Kalinga
Rock Edicts, 2). Popper (2012) implies that the psychological effect of the association
of the parental image with the leader addresses the need for security in the follower.
Asokas repeated declarations of concern for his people allayed internal fears in the
empire, resulting in tremendously successful leadership. H.G. Wells (1922, p. 165)
called him the greatest of kings,noting that Asokasreign for eight-and-twenty
years was one of the brightest interludes in the troubled history of mankind(ibid.,
p. 163).
Another successful leadership tactic that Asoka employed was his readiness to hear
complaints at all times and in all places(Smith 1901 [2013], p. 30). Shenhar (1993)
states that an open-door policy builds trust, encourages open communication, and
11. Sangha, or samgha is a Buddhist Order of Monks (Smith 1901 [2013]).
12. Bodh Gaya is the site where Gautama Siddhartha received enlightenment: the foundation
of Buddhism (Myer 1958).
13. A stupa is often a dome-shaped mound, which serves as an object of veneration. Early
Buddhist stupas contained relics of the Buddha, the historical beginning of the purpose of ador-
ation (Singh 2006, p. 448).
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increases motivation. In the sixth of his Fourteen Rock Edicts, Asoka notes that in the
past, state business was not transacted nor were reports delivered to the king at all
hours.Yet he reminds his people that he is always available to them, willing to attend
to the welfare of the followers. Undoubtedly, this support was greatly appreciated by
his followers.
Another key element in Asokas transformational leadership style is that of persua-
sion. Within the Seven Pillar Edicts, Asoka reflects, The progress among the people
through Dhamma has been done by two means, by Dhamma regulations and by per-
suasion.Of the two, he credits persuasion as a more effective measure than laws: it is
by persuasion that progress among the people through Dhamma has had a greater
effect in respect of harmlessness to living beings and non-killing of living beings.
5 PAULS LEADERSHIP POST-TRANSFORMATION
Paul was completely filled with zeal in spreading the vision of the kingdom of God,
since his ontological change took place. He immediately went to work in proclaiming
the Gospel (Good News) he had tried to dispel in the past. The Good News entailed the
crucifixion of Christ being the victory over sin and death for followers (Wright 1997,
p. 48). Paul thought of his transformation not as a change in faiths, but as a revelation
of Gods plan for the salvation of Israel (Sheler 1999).
Paul set out to spread the Good News to far-reaching areas. He formed networks
and acted as a mentor to his traveling companions. It was during his first mission-
ary journey (see Figure 1) that he began to be referred to as Paul instead of Saul.
Paul left the familiarity of Hellenistic Antioch of Syria to the pagan, Roman-led
Cyprus (Davis 2012). He and his traveling companions, Barnabas and Mark,
continued the journey north into mainland Asia, which is present-day Turkey. In
Pamphylia, Paul and Barnabas ventured to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:1314)
where Paul delivered his first recorded address (Acts 13:1647). They were soon
expelled, and visited Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe before returning to Antioch of Syria
(Acts 14:127).
Silas accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40). Paul
returned to previously established churches in Lystra and Derbe, exhibiting his contin-
ued support. The two moved on to Phrygia, Galatia, and into Europe, where they
established churches in Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea). The final
leg of the journey was to Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and Caesarea. Paul made a
third mission, where he spent three years in Ephesus, and traveled to Greece through
Macedonia.
During his travels, Paul faced persecution, even death. However, he continued to
preach the Gospel, both verbally and through his writings. Ladkin (2010, p. 101)
asserts that vision is an essential ingredient of most leadership theories.Paul was suc-
cessful, dedicated, and articulate in describing the vision of salvation through Christ.
He ranks his vision greater than his life itself: But none of these things move me; nor
do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the min-
istry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God
(Acts 20:24).
Bass (1999) reveals that transformational leaders utilize their charisma that is, their
idealized influence(p. 12) to persuade their followers to look beyond self-interests.
The modern-day definition of charisma actually stems from Pauls writings, in which
he meant the gift of Gods grace(Potts 2009, p. 23). However, the contemporary
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characterization of the term, derived from Max Weber,
14
was evident in Pauls actions
as well. People were drawn to his bold declarations and persistence through persecu-
tion. Immanuel Kants theory of the sublime offers that followers are empowered by
the idea that they can overcome an overwhelming circumstance. The charismatic
leader will place the follower in a critical place of importance(Ladkin 2010,
p. 91). Those devotees whom Paul transformed were clearly warned of the critical nat-
ure of their followership: For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will
come in among you, not sparing the flock(Acts 20:29).
Charismatic leadership is necessary when the status quo is threatened. Ladkin
(2010, p. 84) notes: In much of the charismatic leadership literature, an often utilized
behavior of charismatic leaders during such times is to communicate high expectations
and confidence in their followers.The following passage illustrates these behaviors as
shown by Paul:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now
much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is
God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
New Testament Acts map
Paul’s 1st and 2nd missionary journeys
Source: Reprinted from Biblical Foundations for Freedom, by P.J. Bucknell (n.d.).
Figure 1 Map illustrating Pauls first (4648 AD) and second (4952 AD)
missionary journeys
14. Webers definition of charisma implies a character trait of leaders that sets them apart from
others, attracting followers. Pierre Bourdieu and John Kotter are among the scholars who oppose
this particular trait theory that proposes a mysticalor mysteriouscharacteristic inherent in a
person(Potts 2009, p. 3).
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Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and
harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may
rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your
faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice
with me. (Philippians 2:1218)
Paul understood the importance of role-modeling, such a crucial aspect of transform-
ational leadership. He encouraged his followers, Imitate me, just as I also imitate
Christ(1 Cor. 11:1). To model the way, leaders need to be clear about their own
values and philosophy(Northouse 2013, p. 198). Paul reminded them that he acted
in simplicity and godly sinceritytoward them (2 Cor. 1:12). The transformational
leader often takes on the role of coach or mentor (Bass and Steidlmeier 1999). Initially,
Paul (Saul) began his mission as Barnabass apprentice in evangelization, eventually
assuming the responsibility of leader. Early in Lukes account in the Acts of the Apos-
tles, Barnabas appeared first in the order of names, seemingly ordered in importance
(Stenschke 2010). However, once he took on the name Paul in Paphos on the island of
Cyprus, after he correctly announced Elymas would be stricken blind for opposing
him, the order changes. From then on, Paul is the first mentioned (Acts 13:812). It
is then that Paul does the mentoring. One such mentee was Timothy. Timothys rel-
ationship with Paul began in Lystra where Paul carefully chose him for his stellar repu-
tation and his potential for ministry work. In the mentoring process, Timothy is
reminded of his value to Paul, is empowered for realization of his duties, and is per-
iodically assigned challenging roles that help him grow in his work (Hoehl 2011). Paul
passes on not only the spiritual teachings of faith, charity, diligence, and patience, but
also the mission responsibilities of instruction, suffering, and behavior (Berding 2013).
He exhibits trust in Timothy to properly administrate duties in his absence (1 Cor.
4:17). Paul expresses his mentoring and near-parental role in Philippians 2:1923:
But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged
when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your
state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his pro-
ven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope
to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.
Another of Pauls mentees was Titus. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul refer-
ences Titus on nine occasions. He writes that Titus serves as my partner and fellow
worker concerning you(2 Cor. 8:23). Like Timothy, Paul entrusted great responsibil-
ities to Titus. Paul left him at Crete to finish the work that was started there; that he
should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city
(Titus 1:5) and to remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to
be ready for every good work(Titus 3:1).
6 OUTCOMES OF EVANGELIZATION EFFORTS
As a result of the successful leadership skills of Asoka and Paul, Buddhism and Chris-
tianity became world religions (Chaurasia 2008). Smith (1901 [2013], pp. 21) asserts
that Asokas propagation of the Buddhist faith by dispatching missionaries to Ceylon
(now Sri Lanka), Mysore (southern India), Bombays coast, Mahratta country (central
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and western India), Pegu (now Bago), and to the mountaineers of the Himalayas and
Kashmir,transformed Buddhism from a regional sect to a world religion. Hirikawa
(1990) specifically mentions Asokas missionaries evangelizing in Macedonia,
Egypt, and Syria. Asokas own life transformation created a rippling effect, spreading
Buddhism throughout India. Asoka successfully employed the aspects of the transfor-
mational leader to become one of the most magnanimous rulers of the Indian subcon-
tinent (Dhammika 1993).
Paul has been referred to as the most important figure in primitive Christianity and
in the Church in general(Ludemann 2002, p. 10) and perhaps the greatest Christian
missionary and theologian who ever lived(Whittington et al. 2005). Many scholars
assert that he is the individual most responsible not only for the spread of Christianity
throughout the Roman Empire, but also for it becoming a world religion (Ehrman
2004; Whittington et al. 2005). While often called the second founder of Christianity,
some scholars, including Tabor (2012), posit that Paul should be considered the foun-
der of Christianity as it is known today, rather than Jesus and his original Apostles
(p. 6). Bruce (1977) eloquently summarizes Pauls transformational leadership quali-
ties, stating that Paul is one of the few individuals who leave their mark on their
time, who mold their contemporaries, and exert an influence which stretches far
into the future(p. 462). Paul, compared to Jesus, exercised beyond all doubt the
stronger influence(Wrede, as cited in Dunn 1998, p. 3).
7 APPLICATIONS TO CONTEMPORARY LEADERSHIP
First, and possibly most important to bear in mind, Paul and Asoka were both unethical
before they became wildly successful leaders. It was the complete dedication to ethical
behavior that propelled their ability to persuade followers; [u]nethical charismatic lea-
ders are manipulators who pursue their own personal agendas(Ciulla 2012, p. 528).
The true transformational leaders are those that act on socialized, rather than personal-
ized, bases of power(ibid., p. 528). By caring for their followers and striving for the
greater good, Asoka and Paul increased their transformational leadership abilities.
Asoka and Paul modeled the behaviors they requested of their followers. By giving
subordinates clear behaviors to emulate, displaying confidence in their vision, and set-
ting lofty expectations for themselves and their followers, they inspired and motivated
others to pursue their vision (Antonakis 2012). While both men used force to attain
their visions prior to conversion, they actually became greater leaders afterward,
when persuasion was accomplished without force.
Furthermore, Paul and Asoka were leaders with vision who had the ability to trans-
form those around them, and beyond. Asoka clearly defined his vision for his fol-
lowers, not only orally but also via the written word. His edicts were written in
language that was readily comprehended by all. Iteration was another technique he
used to ensure comprehension of his vision (Dhammika 1993). Contemporary leaders
must clearly define their vision for the organization as well, making sure that each
member understands the direction of the company. Periodic reminders are warranted
in order to keep followers on target.
Both leaders were quite zealous in their roles and paid much attention to their fol-
lowers, without hovering over their shoulders. Modern-day leaders need to show con-
cern and care for their subordinates, while being careful not to micromanage.
Additionally, it is of the utmost importance for leaders to be aware of their followers,
to consider the audience when leading. Asoka could have had his edicts written in the
Transformations that led to effective transformational leadership 141
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most eloquent prose. However, he realized his followers had a simple vocabulary and
the edicts were written accordingly.
Finally, both mens leadership styles accomplished the higher levels of morality
that Burns (1978) attributes to the transformational leader. The pair also exhibited a
spiritual and value-based component in their leadership, which Ritscher (1986) advo-
cates in the transformational leader. It would behoove contemporary leaders to aspire
to this type of leadership, as executive greed and corporate scandals prove destructive
to organizations.
8 CONCLUSION
Asoka and Paul, once violent men, each underwent a personal transformation that, in
turn, led them to become transformational leaders. The results of these occurrences led
to the men being credited for making their respective beliefs, which at that time were
narrowly focused, into world religions. They accomplished this significant task
through various dimensions of transformational leadership. Their tenacity in promot-
ing their visions, role modeling, confidence, and attention to followers should be emu-
lated in todays organizations that are in need of their own positive transformations.
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