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Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership


Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

Introduction and Overview
The present topic deals with a great leader who managed to influenced many and is known as a
successful leader throughout the world. Counted among the great names like Gautama Buddha,
Prophet Mohammad, and Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi is a considered to be a legend, one of
the greatest spiritual and political leaders of all times. Hailed as the father of the nation, he was
the pioneer of the non violent movement also called the Satyagraha against the British tyranny
in India in order to bring about a social change. The policy of non violence was not just a
political strategy, but it was based in spirituality because of which Mahatma Gandhi became a
name to be reckoned with not only in his own country but throughout the world (Hatt, 2002).
His legacy includes a brilliantly organized struggle against racism in South Africa, active
contribution in the freedom struggle of his own country and using his policy of non violence in
order to bring about a positive change in the society.
The word Mahatma means great soul and great leaders of the world like Nelson Mandela and
Marin Luther King Jr have called Mahatma Gandhi an inspiration, a motivation in their struggle
for fighting for the rights and equality for the people.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had said about him Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the
Background and Personal life
Mohandas Karam chand Gandhi was born to a Hindu family in a small town called Porbandar in
the state of Gujarat on October 2
1896.He was the youngest son of Karamchand Gandhi and
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

Putli bai. His father was the advisor to the local ruler of the three native states of Kathiawar. He
was always known for his loyalty and steadfastness.
From his early childhood he was deeply influenced by his mother who was the embodiment of a
traditional Indian woman. She was a devoted wife and mother along with being austere and
pious. Her qualities had made a deep impression in the young Gandhi.
He was also influenced by the life Kind Harish chandra, his sufferings, his loyalty, his devotion
towards truth. As a boy he had aspired to become like the great King. In his later stage of life he
was also impressed by visionaries like Ruskin and Tolstoy.
Gandhi had completed his schooling from Albert high school located in the nearby town of
Rajkot. His school he was average and showed no brilliance. He was not into games and also a
loner. He however showed deep respect for his teachers.
From his early childhood Gandhi was bent on the spiritual side of existence. Little incidents like
his confession at stealing, refusal to cheat even at his teachers bidding, unwillingness to eat
meat pointed at his deeply introspective conscience.
Gandhi got married at the age of 13 to Kasturba who was of the same age as him and had four
children with her.
After completing his school education, Gandhi went to England to study law despite several
objections from his elders. Before leaving he promised his mother, a religious and devout woman
that he would not touch meat, alcohol or women during his time in London.
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

It was in London that he came across vegetarians, theosophists and many other fringes of the
English society who were disillusioned by the very thought and concept of industrialism. He also
became attracted to texts of different religions and traditions and ironically it was in London that
he got introduced to Bhagavat Gita, the religious text of the Hindus.
In the year 1891, Gandhi became a part of the bar council and also became a part of the London
High Court. But later that year itself he returned to his country India.
But in 1893, after unsuccessful law practice he accepted the position of a legal adviser to an
Indian businessman in South Africa named Dara Abdullah.
His Challenges and Achievements
Gandhi had returned to South Africa with the expectation of earning money and learning more
about law but it was South Africa that moulded him into a leader who stood up against
discrimination and converted the shy man into one of the most powerful leaders the world had
ever seen.
This change occurred during a business trip from Natal to the Transvaal province. He was forced
was by some officials to transfer to the third class passenger car even though he had a first class
ticket. When he refused to do so, he was thrown off the train by some policemen.
After talking to some of the other Indians in South Africa, Gandhi found that these situations and
incidents were very common. In fact the Indians in South Africa were derogatorily called
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

The train incident changed something within him and he decided to raise his voice against the
injustice and discrimination.
He spent the next two decades working for the rights of Indians in South Africa. During the first
few years he learnt a lot about the problems that Indians faced, their grievances, he organized
petitions, sent letters to the countrys officials. He was assisted in his endeavours by European
staff like Kallenbach and Polak.
The Natal Indian Congress was established by him on May 22, 1894 which though began with
wealthy Indians but soon expanded its membership to other classes. They fought against the
restrictions imposed on the Indian trade, residence, movement etc. Gandhi soon became a
renowned activist and the press of England and India began to cover his activities. The Indian
community of South Africa soon had found a leader in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It was
then that he coined the word Satyagraha because Gandhi considered himself a seeker of truth or
Satya which he wanted to accomplish through the practice of non violence. He recorded the
struggles of the Indians in Africa in his book Satyagraha in South Africa.
M.K Gandhi returned to his country India in the year 1915 and soon became actively involved in
the local struggles like Champaran Satyagraha in Bihar 1917 where the evil system of Indigo
plantation was put to an end.
Gandhi played an important role in Indias freedom struggles. The big movements like salt
Satyagraha, Dandi March, Non-cooperation movements, Civil Disobedience movement, Quit
India movement was all led by him. Not only this, he also played an active part in maintaining
the delicate Hindu-Muslim relationship in the country. He never accepted that Hindu Muslims
were different strata of the Indian fabric and passionately worked to unite them. He also worked
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

zealously to uphold the rights of the untouchables also called the Harijans or Dalits. These Dalits
were the lowest caste in the Hindu caste division and were the most oppressed of the classes.
He inspired many
I am not a saint who has strayed into politics, Gandhi wrote once I am a politician who is
trying to become a saint. Gandhi had wanted independence but his approach to leadership was
much different from that of others. While great leaders like Churchill, Roosevelt, and Hitler had
taken up the path of war and genocide to achieve their means, Gandhi had been an unfailing
follower of Satyagraha and non violence. His own life was the reflection of his own beliefs. He
lead a disciplined austere life, gave up the basic pleasures. His views had influenced many
people throughout the world and many eminent people developed their own versions of non
violence. Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa and the activist against apartheid
found Gandhi as an inspiration. Albert Einstein called the Mahatma "a role model for the
generations to come".
Gandhis influence on Martin Luther King was immense was influenced by the fact that it
challenged the truism that non violence means passiveness. From an early age Martin Luther
King believed that to combat the evils of racial discriminations, war, poverty bravery and
strength must be applied. But his core Christian beliefs compelled him to wish good for all, love
his enemies and not use violence. This was a dilemma that he had faced throughout his life. But
Gandhis policy of non violence had showed him an alternate path where it was possible to stand
up actively against all wrong doing without resorting to violence and arms.
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

Gandhis influence is strong even in todays leaders. Before becoming the President of the
United states of America , the then Senator Barack Obama had once said that "Throughout my
life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of
transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do
extraordinary things. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate office: to remind me that real
results will come not just from Washington they will come from the people."
The other leaders like Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and
Philippine leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. have found Gandhi and his views a hope and inspiration.
Some other opinions about Mahatma Gandhi
The fact that the father of the nation was shot is cold blood by one of his own countrymen says
a lot about his stature in his country. He was a beloved leader and had many followers but there
was a section in the society that opposed him and considered him to be a threat in the balance
and the well being of the country. In fact recently some realities and facts have come into the
picture that questions Gandhis image and his strategies. Gandhi had arrived at the scene of the
national struggle rather late and contrary to what many believe that Gandhi was not anti British
or a revolutionary when he first arrived in the country. In his biography on Gandhi, Martin Green
says that "Though Empires have gone and fallen, this empire may perhaps be an is
an empire not founded on material but on spiritual foundations....the British constitution. Tear
away those ideals and you tear away my loyalty to the British constitution; keep those ideals and
I am ever a bondsman."
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

In fact Gandhi actually found a spiritual foundation in the British Empire, a sentiment that
many Indians found revolting since the British based its foundation on economic exploitation of
It has also been recently come into limelight that Mahatma Gandhi had not actually been an
active participant in the black peoples struggle for liberation. In fact he was solely concerned
with the Indian populace in South Africa and their problems and grievances. Gandhi had once
said about the black people the British rulers take us to be so lowly and ignorant that they
assume that, like the Kaffirs who can be pleased with toys and pins, we can also be fobbed off
with trinkets ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon
us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is
hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and,
then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilised the convicts
even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals.
He is alleged to have conspired with the British government to promote segregation of the blacks
from the Indians in order to elevate the latters status. Indians apparently suffered from a sense of
superiority and wanted separate special treatments from the blacks.
Gandhi wrote In the Durban Post and telegraph offices there were separate entrances for natives
and Asiatics and Europeans. We felt the indignity too much and many respectable Indians were
insulted and called all sorts of names by the clerks at the counter. We petitioned the authorities to
do away with the invidious distinction and they have now provided three separate entrances for
natives, Asiatics and Europeans.
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

In his own country too Gandhi had created enemies by some of his policies that were considered
as detrimental to the Indians and India on a whole. He was assassinated by Nathuram Godse who
was called a Hindu fanatic and until recently no information was available on him since his
statements and letters were kept under lock and key. His letters which was recently brought into
public show that he was not a fanatic but was of sound mental disposition. In his letters he
attacks Gandhis strategies and the immense misery to the Hindus of the country. The partition of
the country had left the country and particularly the Hindus in dire poverty whereas Gandhi fast
unto death forced the government to give Pakistan 55 crores.
I dont refute Gandhis theory of non-violence. He may be a saint but he is not a politician. His
theory of non-violence denies self-defence and self-interest. The non-violence that defines the
fight for survival as violence is a theory not of non-violence but of self-destruction. The division
of the nation was an unnecessary decision. What was the percentage of the Muslim population as
compared to the population of the nation? There was no need for a separate nation. Had it been a
just demand, Maulana Azad would not have stayed back in India. But because Jinnah insisted
and because Gandhi took his side, India was divided, in spite of opposition from the nation, the
Cabinet. An individual is never greater than a nation. Nathuram said. I am going to assassinate
him in the open, before the public, because I am going to do it as my duty.
Gandhi as a leader
Leadership refers to the way by which an individual organizes a group of people so as to achieve
a common goal. Leadership is a process of social influence in which an individual attempts to
gain the support and help of a group of people to accomplish a common goal.
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

Leadership can be classified into the following kinds:
1. Transformational Style- in this style the leader guides and transforms the staff. The leader
makes continuous efforts to address the grievances of the employees and motivate them for
improved performance. Here open communication between the staff and the leader is always
encouraged and the leader follows participative style of management. The followers get highly
influenced by the leader in Transformational Leadership Style.
2. Transactional Style- Here the main focus of the leader is on objectives. In this style the
leader constantly motivate his followers by offering rewards for completed tasks. These leaders
are mostly work oriented; they usually follow a particular structure and practice directive style of
management. In this style of management, innovativeness and creativity are ignored and people
are often motivated by the use of extrinsic motivational factors like incentive and holiday trip
3. Laissez-faire Style- This is also termed as Passive Leadership which exercises least
control on the staff. The managers avoid the responsibility of setting objectives and making
important decisions. It allows the scope for macro management and self management. Here the
interaction between the leader and his followers happen on a rare basis.
4. Mixed Styles- Most of the managers chooses the good element from all the styles and led
their organizations with the help of a mixed style of leadership. This style motivates the
employees from both the intrinsic and extrinsic viewpoint. When the transformational leadership
attitude and the transactional leadership related rewards are used, a positive co-relation can be
noticed among the staff of the organization.
Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

Gandhi provided a new perspective to the world through his policy of non violence and passive
resistance. He showed that it was possible to stand up for ones rights without actually resorting
to violence. He united the people together for a cause and bound them together in spirit as well.
This is true quality of a transformational leader.
Inspite of all the controversy surrounding his life no one can deny the fact that Mahatma Gandhi
was a true leader. It was not just his unique policies and beliefs that had earned him so many
followers, but it was his personal charisma and the ability to connect with the masses that made
him truly great. He led a life of austerity, practiced what he preached, he shunned all pleasures
and gave himself for his country. He did not care for his life and fearlessly braved the
policemens ambushes. He sat for fast unto deaths, not caring for his heath until the Government
assented to give the countrymen what they rightfully deserved. Gandhi definitely had all the
qualities of a great leader and was instrumental in bringing about many positive changes.

Mahatma Gandhi: A New Perspective in Leadership

Hatt, C. (2002). Mahatma Gandhi. Hong Kong: Evans Brothers.