The Seventh-day Adventist Church in India has been commissioned by God to be a witness to the 1.3 billion people in India of whom 80% are from a Hindu background. After a hundred years, the Southern Asian Division has a membership of 1.5 million people. There are many reasons to celebrate the success of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in India, particularly the success of the Adventist school system and the health care provided by the health institutions. However, the organization that is responsible for leading South Asians to Jesus Christ may not be able to celebrate the same success as the schools and hospitals.
An evaluation of leadership practices in the Southern Asian Division is a logical place to begin. The Seventh-day Adventist model of leadership is followed to various degrees by its entities worldwide, including India. Research shows that organizations in India struggle when trying to follow Western leadership styles because Indian society is autocratic (Mehrotra and Sinha 2017:835). Researchers are convinced from years of research that a leadership style from the West is not effective when “transplanted” to India (835). This could be one of the reasons for the failure of the typical Adventist model of leadership in India. However, researchers agree that a model of leadership from within the Indian context is a possible solution because it is part of the cultural context unlike Western models that fail to consider the Indian culture and worldview.
Studies show that two styles of leadership originate from Indian culture: autocratic and mentoring. The autocratic leadership style is the most prevalent because it closely follows the Indian family system. The family leader is called the karta and is an autocratic leader who leads from a “high-power distance, hierarchical and dependency prone” culture (Mehrotra and Sinha 2017, 840). The mentoring or guru style is connected to the religious heart of India. Under this model, a master leads with the goal of preparing subordinates to replace himself, perhaps becoming even better leaders than the master (Gayen 2018).
The central issue in India is that the leaders of the Southern Asian Division subscribe to the autocratic style of leadership found in the Indian karta family system. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is like an extension of the Indian family. This model of leadership is contrary to the model of leadership suggested in the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual and the Bible. Jesus’ model of leadership is very similar to the mentoring or guru model of leadership.
Shameerudeen, Clifmond L.
"A Mentoring Model: A Leadership Style for Seventh-day Adventists in Southern Asia,"
Journal of Adventist Mission Studies:
Available at: https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/jams/vol17/iss1/7