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BAPS women’s conference meets with big success

April 02
22:23 2014
Group of women participants at the BAPS Women Conference in Chicago

Group of women participants at the BAPS Women Conference in Chicago

Chicago: To recognize the leaders we know and admire in society around us, to acknowledge the leaders amongst us, and to enrich the leaders within us, BAPS hosted a Women’s Conference themed “Lead from Within” at 10 centers across North America at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (BAPS) in Bartlett, a northwest Chicago suburb, on March 22.

This annual event, the seventh in a row, was participated by over 450 women from across the country. The conference is inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, in an effort to highlight the empowering role of women in today’s society and also to ensure their spiritual growth as it will help them sail smoothly through life’s vagaries.

In the opening presentation, Mrs. Ilupi Patel (MBA in Finance, University of Houston), examined who we may consider to be leaders and why.

She put a question to the audience, whether we are not leaders when we take charge of a task or project at work, in educating our children, when we care for aging parents, when we make everyday decisions impacting our careers, homes, and families? In truth, everyone is a leader in her own way, as she takes charge of her life and remains unwavering in the vision for herself and the family. But question is still needs to be addressed: what makes a good leader? How can we grow as leaders?

The conference proceeded to discuss leadership essentials that would make everyone a good leader. Ms. Sonal Pakvasa, an IT program manager, emphasized the need to understand one’s self, one’s belief system, one’s values, and one’s spirituality. Her talk focused on the need for a connection with one’s conscience as it plays an important role in day-to-day actions.

She mentioned observing that “when we have a firm understanding of who we are, the values we hold in esteem, the beliefs that guide our choices, we have a solid spiritual foundation. A spiritual foundation is essential in leadership as it speaks to our qualities, to our character.” The conference aimed at portraying real life accounts of people who have not only cultivated, but also strengthened, their leadership qualities with spirituality.

In delivering the closing presentation of the conference, Mrs. Kailas Sanghani, an accounting/finance professional, shared fundamental qualities exemplified by leaders she emulates. She spoke of her ultimate role model, her guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj; conveying touching examples from his life exemplifying sacrifice, humility, stillness, and courage. In closing, she emphasized how his examples provide courage and stability in life’s challenging situations, guide her in everyday interactions and choices, and how that enables her to be an effective, poised leader in all her roles.

The Chief Guest, Ms. Andrea Sreshta, CEO & Co-Founder of LuminAID, conveyed the message to “Lead from Within” through her various educational and business endeavors. Sharing her thoughts on leadership, she said, “Realizing the opportunities that you have and not taking them for granted because they aren’t a guarantee to so many other people in the world is a lesson in leadership that I’ve learned so far through different situations in our business.”

She also mentioned that part of leadership is admitting when you don’t know something and that it’s important to ask the questions as to why because that’s when we come up with the best ideas about how to solve those issues.
The audience took inspiration from the conference and realized how they faced similar challenges in their lives. They understood that the choices they make everyday make them true leaders. Some of the interesting observations and conversations centered on topics like – What is leadership.

Society ascribes leadership in politics, religion, communities, sports, etc. based on actions, achievement, and at times, popularity. Typically, we limit our view of “leaders” to people in position of power: CEOs, politicians, athletes, and perhaps community leaders. There are leaders who have a strong work ethic and who win and accomplish major tasks; but are they life’s leaders? Are their characters worth emulating?

True leadership is rooted in people’s character, in their actions, and in the examples they set. But are those the only leaders? Everyone has the potential to be a leader in his or her own right. What about people who give their best everyday to care for their communities, schools, and homes? Are they not leaders as well? In fact, do we recognize ourselves as leaders? Should we?

After the conference, attendees also enjoyed the opportunity to network and share their perspective on the talks of the day. Members of the audience took notice of their own belief system and gained confidence in their ability to lead in their pursuits. Others recognized their strengths, contributions, and recognized themselves as leaders, some for the very first time.

BAPS is a worldwide socio-spiritual organization in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is dedicated to community service, peace and harmony. Motivated by Hindu principles and strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals.

Through a number of social and spiritual activities. Its 9,000 international centers, including more than 5,000 youth centers, support these activities of character building. Under the guidance and leadership of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, BAPS aspires to build a community that is morally, ethically and spiritually pure, and free of addictions.

Sushma Patel

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