Leadership From the Ground Up

  • Leadership at Ground Level The concept of "servant leadership," which creates compassionate, hands-on leaders, is the focus of research at the Asian Rural Institute in Japan. Image Credit: Flickr / Bertconcepts

  • Leadership at Ground Level The concept of "servant leadership," which creates compassionate, hands-on leaders, is the focus of research at the Asian Rural Institute in Japan. Image Credit: Flickr / Bertconcepts

Leadership From the Ground Up

“That we may live together.” Motto, Asian Rural Institute

The compassionate form of authority known as “servant leadership” is the focus of research being conducted among graduates of a successful Japanese school for rural leaders with support from the Fetzer Institute.

The Asian Rural Institute is an educational institute based in Tochigi Prefecture in Japan with a creative approach to developing leadership and other skills for grassroots leaders throughout the world. The communal style and full division of labor and responsibilities has been successful in developing leaders imbued with the ideal of “servant leadership,” an ideal which entails a greater appreciation of the values of love, forgiveness, empathy and compassion.

The results of the proposed impact study will measure the impact and results of the school, then will be used to publicize this creative model of education and leadership training to different regions.

“Our goal is also to know more about what has been most and least useful to ARI Graduates and their communities around the world,” says ARI’s website.

ARI was founded in 1973 by Christian Rev. Toshihiro Takami after he noticed a dearth of local leadership following 1970s earthquake in Bangladesh. Witnessing Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists joyfully working together in restoring rice production, Takami envisioned a "multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, interfaith community" that could build empathetic leadership skills in community work with the poor and marginalized.

Takami designed the institute’s curriculum around intensive, small-scale, organic farming, and animal husbandry, linking these activities to building a vibrant community. All members, including participants, volunteers and staff, engage in all levels of daily food production, meal preparation and community care at the institute. “Sharing food is sharing life,” is one of Takami’s most well known phrases. ARI participants also share in decision making. The painstaking process of achieving consensus among a diverse group of committed, quick-to- action persons, Takami believes, helps ARI’s rural leaders become more effective change-makers in neglected communities.

Fetzer’s involvement in the research came about after another earthquake, in March 2011, disrupted plans and funding for ARI to do the work. The next step is to conduct an impact study in order to evaluate, improve, publicize, and enlarge its program.

This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Education Professions.

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