The Life of Mahatma Gandhi and His Influence as a Leader

Table of contents

During the course of the history, the world has had its share of leaders. Some of them had their leadership approaches transform their country for ever while others. The vision of George Washington lead to the formation of the modern America. Other leaders such as seasoned entrepreneurs such as J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Andrew Carnegie led to the growth of the modern American economy. Despite their limited education, they rose above all odds to become business acumen whose wealth surpassed the government at the time (Keller, 2000). Resilience and determination of Nelson Mandela saw South Africa produce a leader whose humility and honesty melted the hearts of many in the world. However, the world had its share of infamous leaders. Power obsession of Adolf Hitler and Benito

Mussolini resulted to the Second World War. The war led to death of millions of Jews and soldiers. But among all those leaders, Mahatma Gandhi stands as my favorite leader. His approach in leading Indians to independent using no violence led to the most peaceful transition into independence. His was an inborn trait meant to show people the way. His charisma made the whole world admire and even after his death, many people still remember his legendary deeds (Keller, 2000).

Moreover, his resolve to fight for the right of the oppressed in India against oppression by Britain and later organizing them to fight for the country’s independence informs the works of today’s civil rights groups in the world. His selflessness helped India get independence from Britain with no struggle part from religious violence that broke after Britain divided the country along religious lines leading to formation of today’s Pakistan. Consequently, he is my favorite leader as I subscribe to his leadership approach. Accordingly, the paper evaluates Mahatma Gandhi’s life as a leader and lessons that we can learn from his leadership.

Mahatma Gandhi exhibit both acquired and inborn leadership traits. Moreover, using leadership theories, Gandhi’s qualities cuts across numerous of them. As such, from his leadership, there are numerous lessons that leaders could learn to help improve their performance. In addition, Gandhi is an epitome how leaders could exercise judicious use of power to help bring change in their organization.

Family History

Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar state of the then Indian Empire. He was born to Putlibai, his mother, and Karamchand, his father. His father was an influential chief minister in British government despite having low standards of education. While young, her sister describes him as restless as mercury. As such, he was start to exhibit what it takes to be a leader as Draft (2013) notes. In his book, Draft relates restlessness to curiosity. Most leaders have the desire to know things in depth. Due to his parent’s privileged status, Gandhi receive comprehensive education. In 1879, he joined a local district school in Rajikot where he studied mathematic, Geography, language, and history. In 1880, he sat and passed his exams enabling him to join high school in the same place.

At high school, he extensively studied English which would later prove invaluable in his leadership role. Having good grasp of primary language of communication, Drat (2013) notes, gives good communication skills much needed in leadership .However, due to his restlessness, he proved a mediocre student as his performance was not exemplary. After completing high school education, he Joined Samaldas collage. At that period he married his first wife, Kasturba Makhanji, in a traditional wedding arranged by his parents. However, he did not complete collage citing boredom and homesickness (Keller, 2000). In the same year, he joined University College London.

In the collage Gandhi studied law and jurisprudence. Moreover, he pursued philosophical studies particularly Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism by enrolling at the inner temple. In his studies, Gandhi never professed to any religion. As such, after his return to India, he found it difficult to land into a job. His attempt to establish law practice in Bombay failed due to his inability to cross-question witnesses in addition, after returning to Rajikot, he tried to work as a civil litigator but was banned after running afoul of a British officer. . Therefore, he accepted a one year contract to work with Natal, an Indian firm, for one year.

Life if South Africa

Gandhi arrived in South Africa while he was twenty four years. His work was to represent Muslim Indian Traders based in Pretoria. It is here his political leadership skills grew as he developed political views, and ethics. This in line with Draft’s view that leadership can be learned. While representing Indians in South Africa, Gandhi came to understand his fellow Indians had limited rights. Moreover, while working, Gandhi faced numerous discrimination due to his color further increasing his desire to change the world. While on a train, Gandhi was thrown out at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move out of first-class. At another instant, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to make a room for a European passenger.

In addition, he defied a Judge’s order requiring him to remove his turban as he regarded at as discriminative. Such occurrences changed Gandhi’s life and poised him as a leader. His experiences awakened him to social justice and social activism. Accordingly, Draft (2014) notion that leadership could be learned holds ground. Gandhi became subject of racial discrimination in South Africa. Instead of feeling dejected, he realized the need for leadership in changing the situation in South Africa.

Draft (2014) notes that there needs for leadership in inspiring people to pursue a common purpose. Gandhi realized that for his fellow Indians to secure more rights, they needed a leader.

As such, he extended his stay in South Africa by 20 years. During this period, he organized nonviolent protest against registration of Indians in Transvaal. Though the Indians were incarcerated while others were shot to death for participating in the peaceful protest, Gandhi’s policy later paid out Jab Christiaan was forced by South African government to negotiate with Gandhi (Gandhi, 2012).

Moreover, Gandhi’s interaction with Africans also helped him learn how to be a leader. In 1906, British declared war on the Zulu Kingdom. Gandhi took the opportunity to negotiate for participation of Indians in the war in attending to patients so they could gain full citizenship. Gandhi amassed the support of 20 medical trained Indians whole helped treat wounded British Soldiers. During the two months experience, Gandhi learnt how it was futile to directly challenge the British military. As a result, he concluded that the best weapon to reject British rule was only via no-violent means.

Later, he used the same strategy to push for India’s independence. In 1910, Gandhi founded Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg where he nurtured his peaceful resistance policy resistance with Africans fighting for voting rights. Resultantly, after gaining voting rights, South Africans proclaimed Gandhi as national hero by erecting monuments in his honor. Gandhi returned to India in 1915 amid immense reputation of a leading Indian nationalist, organizer, and theorist.

Struggle For Independence in India

Upon returning to India, Gandhi was bearing influence huge than him. He directly joined the Indian national congress where he interacted with Indians while learning their issue. As such, he was acting as a relation builder. According to Draft (2014), leaders need to build relationship with those to whom their mandate falls. In so doing the leader should be conversant with the issues affecting his subjects. Consequently, the leader can act as a source of motivation for the subjects to pursue certain goals and objectives (Draft, 2013). After joining congress, Gandhi adopted a liberal approach while working in parliament by replacing Whiggish traditions and transforming them to look like wholly Indian.

In 1918, Gandhi teamed up Champaran and Kheda agitations where they fought for local peasantry who were forced to grow indigo and sell it to British planters despite the produce being non-productive. Gandhi used his non-violent policy where he surprisingly won concession from authorities. As such, it is evident that Gandhi was quiet aware of what his followers wanted rom him (Draft, 2014). His followers only needed someone who could speak for them with courage and resilience. Similarly, in 1918, Gandhi used the same principal to force the government reduce taxes on peasantry famers in Kheda after they were hit by floods and a subsequent drought.

Gandhi used creative thinking style of followership to organize score of supporters and volunteers external to the region to oppose payment of taxes even if their land would be taken (Draft, 2014, pg. 166). Gandhi worked hard and got public support where five months after launching protests, British government suspended collection of taxes in the Area until the famine was over.

In 1920, Gandhi took congress leadership where he continued lobbying for more independence for Indians to run their own affairs. In January 26, 1930, Indian National congress declared India as an independent state though Britain did not recognize the declaration. As such, intense negotiation intensified until 1942 when Gandhi and some thousands of congress leaders were imprisoned. Gandhi was released on May 6, 1944 due to his failing health (Gandhi, 2012). In 1947, against Gandhi’s terms and stand, British partitioned India Empire to today’s India and Pakistan.

Consequently, there arose religious conflict between in Hindu’s in India and Muslims in Pakistan. At some Point, Gandhi advocated for India to pay what it owed to Pakistan and was opposed to use of any violence against Pakistan. In so doing, he was exercising what Draft (2014) notes as leading a change. However, his philosophy resulted to his assassination on January 30, 1948 by a Hindu Mahasabha extremist, Nathuram Godse. He held Gandhi guilty of favoring Pakistan and adopting the doctrine of nonviolence. In his honor and to celebrate his adorable leadership, over five million mourners joined hands in his home to give him farewell as the whole world mourned his death. His assassin and other perpetrators were tried and executed in 1949

Leadership Theories Explaining Gandhi’s Leadership

Three theories of leadership could help giver a better understanding of Mahatma Gandhi’s unique leadership approaches. Influence theories is one of the theories. According to Draft (2013), influence theories explain influence process between leaders and followers. The theories envisions charismatic leadership as the primary form of leadership influence as opposed to influence derived from formal authority. In most cases, leader’s vision helps form a culture by inspiring vision for the future in people’s mind. Regarding Gandhi, it is evident that his charisma influenced his followers.

While in South Africa, Gandhi had no authority that could help him create influence. However, he had a vision for securing more rights for his fellow Indians in the country. Consequently, his vision made him win the hearts of his followers making them adopt his nonviolence approach to register their grievances. Similarly in India, Gandhi’s charisma gave him much influence both in the congress and among Indians due his vision. Moreover, he was able to influence a culture of non-violence due to his charisma (Gandhi, 2012).

Relation theories evaluates how followers interact and influence one another (Draft, 2014). In the theory, leadership is viewed as a relationship formation process where all the participants paly their roles in achieving their vision. As such, the theory envisions transformational and servant leadership as the main form of leadership. Gandhi exhibits both servant and transformational leadership. As a servant leader, Gandhi helped bring together peasant farmers to fight against oppression in India. Moreover, Gandhi exhibits transformational leadership where he fights for the improvement of peasant farmers affairs. For instance, he protested the government’s move to force peasant farmers to cultivate indigo despite the plant’s declined returns.

Draft (2013) points out some personal traits needed to build effective relationships. Such properties include emotional intelligence, integrity and high moral standards. These traits seems inherent in Gandhi’s personality. During all his struggle for the rights of the oppressed, Gandhi was never involved in any corruption scandal or those involving hidden relationships. As such, he served to motivate his followers to work hard for their rights. In addition, Draft points out leaders build relationships through team leadership, embracing diversity, and motivation.

Gandhi uses similar approaches in his leadership role. For instance, Gandhi fought to withhold religious diversity in India by opposing dividing the country along religious lines. Moreover, he used empowerment and motivation approach in his leadership. Gandhi fought to empower oppressed Indians in South Africa by securing more rights for them. Similarly, in India, Gandhi helped Indian farmers and workers by forming civil rights group for them. As such, he was able to form a good relationships with his followers.

Lastly, behavioral theories would help to better understand Gandhi’s leadership style. According to the theories, the way leaders behave towards their followers determines the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their leadership (Draft, 2014, pg. 17). For instance, Gandhi behavior towards his followers was that of a servant rather than the boss. As such, he always stood by those he was fighting for until their rights were secured resulting to the effectiveness of his leadership.

Leadership Traits and Virtues as Portrayed by Gandhi

Gandhi’s leadership succinctly outlines the personal side of leadership and traits needed to make effective leaders. Draft (2013) defines personality as a set of unseen characteristics and processes underlying a relatively stable pattern of behavior in response in response to ideas, people, and objects in the environment. Accordingly, personality influences a leader’s traits and virtues that determine the success or failure of their leadership.

To succeed in their leadership role, leaders need to be extroverts (Draft, 2014). Extroversion influences an individual behavior to socialize, share ideas with other people, and making relationships with new people. Mahatma Gandhi had exhibits high level of extroversion in his as a common man and as a leader. While in college in London, Gandhi is able to form quickly relationships with other students where he joins a group of philosophers to study religion. Moreover, as a leader, Mahatma quickly establishes friendship with his followers making them to belief in his approaches in fighting for their rights.

In addition, a leader should be agreeable. According to Draft (2014), agreeableness is the degree to which a person can get along with others due to being good-natured, compassionate, understanding, trusting, and cooperative. While in South Africa, the agreeable nature of Gandhi enabled him to gain trust of South African’s government that allowed him to treat injured British soldiers in war against Zulu kingdom (Keller, 2000). Similarly in India, Gandhi was able to reach to concession with British repressive regime on how to treat Indians.

Self-conscientiousness is another trait in Gandhi that characterizes effective leaders. Conscientiousness refers to the degree to which a person is responsible, persistent, dependent, and achievement oriented. Those whom Gandhi fought for could depend on Gandhi for their voice to be heard as he was fearless. Moreover, Gandhi was persistent enough in his struggle for the rights of the poor both in South Africa (Keller, 2000). For instance, while protesting against registration of Indian works in South Africa, Gandhi persistently fought for over seven years before he could be heard.

Emotional intelligence is another trait that defines effective leadership as exhibited by Mahatma Gandhi. According to (Draft, 2014), emotional intelligence is the degree to which a person s well adjusted, calm, and secure. As such, the leader is able to handle stress, criticism, are not prone to personal failure. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi helped recruit Indians to fight for British during world war one in hope that Britain will grant India independence. Consequently, he came under hot criticism to those who said he violated his own principal of non-violence. However, he exercised calm, and he was able to ward off the criticism.

On the other hands, there are certain virtues that Mahatma Gandhi uses that helps characterize effective leadership. First, effective leaders lead with heart and heart. According to Draft (2013), leaders especially in the field business have to use their head to tend to their organization’s goals, strategies, production schedules, operation issues, and finances. Moreover, they have to use their heart to attend to human issues such as understanding and developing others. Gandhi exhibits leadership with mind and heart in equal measure. He used his head to stop violence between India Pakistan as he supported India to give to Pakistan what it owed them. By so doing, Gandhi was using his head to avert war between the two countries (Gandhi, 2012). On the other hand, Gandhi used his heart to fight for the empowerment of poor Indians in South Africa by advocating for their increased rights.

Moreover, effective leaders lead with love but not fear (Draft, 2014). Draft notes that initially, leadership was based on inspiring fears in employees as organizations were very aggressive for profits. For instance, in the late 17th century, Carnegie had hired police fire live bullets at its employees for protesting for better working conditions. However, for effective leadership, Draft argues that leaders need to lead with love. Mahatma Gandhi extended love to his followers by fighting for better terms for them. His display of love clearly shows itself when he overcame racial barriers by helping black South Africans secure voting rights.

Lastly, leaders should possess effective communication as Gandhi clearly illustrates. While in college, Gandhi mastered English language thereby developing excellent communication skills. To achieve effective leadership, Mahatma Gandhi used communication to persuade influence strategy. He achieved this by first listening to his followers to establish their grievances. Then, he established credibility of the information. Upon establishing credibility, Gandhi organized his followers to build goals on a common ground. Lastly, he made position compelling others to follow his approaches. For instance, he made his followers uphold use of non-violence methods to fight for their rights.

Using Leadership to Bring Change

Draft (2014) notes that in the context of business, a leader’s job is to institute organizational change that would help their organization to respond to its threats, opportunities, or shifts in the environment. Similarly, Gandhi used his leadership to lead change wherever he worked. While working as a layer in South Africa, Gandhi experienced discrimination due to his race. His experiences stimulated him to lead other Indians to change their status in the country where they were treated equally to Africans. Their mistreatment was equal to a threat while the difference in Indian’s color with that of Africans was an opportunity to his followers (Gandhi, 2012).

Consequently, he organized his followers to first show South African government that Indians were not equal to Africans. As such, he fought to show that Indians deserved better treatment that Africans a goal he achieved by having Indian nurses treat British soldiers injured in the war with Zulu kingdom.

Similarly, Gandhi served to lead change in India by choosing to lead people who were not like him while using nonviolent approach. In India, there were religious tension between Hindu and Muslims in the country. Resultantly, most people advocated for the separation of the two population demographically. However, Gandhi resolved to have the two religions live together in peace in harmony. Draft (2013) points out choosing to lead people who are different from us leads to increased harmony in an organization (Gandhi, 2012). Similarly, since Indians looked up to Gandhi to lead them, his policy of having the two religions peacefully co-exist with others helped to consolidate the whole nation’s support in their push for self-rule. However, upon independence, there broke a religious inspired war between India and Pakistan after Britain dividend the country to India and Pakistan.

Leadership Lessons from Gandhi

Modern leaders have numerous lessons they can learn from Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership. First, leadership requires continuous learning and improvement. For instance, Gandhi in all his told his followers that if any of his two sentences did contradict each other, and that in their opinion he was sane, then they should ignore the second sentence and adopt the second one.

As such, it shows Gandhi’s learning and growth mindset as well as anticipation for his followers. Resultantly, leaders should always look for new ideas as the might enhance their leadership approach.

Being an excellent listener is another lesson that leaders need to learn from Gandhi. Generally, Gandhi did not possess excellent public speaking skills. However, he was exceptional at listening as his ability to discern was regarded unmatched. In one of his rallies, Gandhi pointed out it would be unwise for him to be too sure of his wisdom. As such, he paid much regard in listening what other’s point view were as even the wise may err. Consequently, modern world leaders should learn to listen to other people’s ideas in order to strengthen their leading capability.

Moreover, proactively identifying barriers to make change sustainable is another lesson leaders can learn from Gandhi (Gandhi, 2012). Mahatma Gandhi was quick to identify barriers that prevented India from attaining self-rule. For example, in the 1920s while being interviewed by an American Journalist, Gandhi pointed out that biggest challenge for India at the time was callousness of intellectuals. This was converse of what people expected their response would be. Most thought his response would be that the major problem was slavery and oppression by British rule. As such, it is evident that Gandhi was not only thinking about achieving self-rule, but he also envisioned building as sustainable society. As such, leaders should identify barriers that their areas of dispensation are facing and then solve them in order to build as sustainable future for their organization.

Moreover, being the conscience keeper is another lesson leaders can learn from Gandhi. Gandhi initiated and led non-cooperation movement. However, tin numerous of its activities, the movement resulted to violence. Being the conscience keeper, Gandhi aborted the movement saying that the movement violated non-violence approach, one of its key tenet. Moreover, Gandhi believed that the ends does not justify the means. He always advocated for purity of the path in order to achieve a desired goal. As such, other leaders especially in the fled of business should learn how to use legitimate means to drive the company’s profits by keeping their conscience. They should avoid compromising production safety or exploit employees in order to increase their organization’s profit margins.

Lastly, heavily emphasizing on self-awareness and discipline is another lesson that can be learnt from Gandhi’s leadership. Self-awareness helps leaders understand how they ae feeling and why they are feeling so. On the other hand, self-discipline helps leaders train their mind to control perceive harmful urges such as using public resources for personal development (Gandhi, 2012). Mahatma Gandhi valued discipline by adopting nonviolent policy for fighting against injustices and diligently following the policy until it cost his live.

Due to his humility and disciplined leadership, Gandhi still serves as benchmark of what influential leadership is all about. Growing from humble beginnings, Gandhi grew to gain world prominence mainly due to his path-goal leadership approach that helped India gain independence. His resolve and motivation left a lasting legacy for the whole world. Many of Gandhi’s principles helps to characterize what makes a good leader. Moreover, his leadership demonstrates how leaders can use their leadership to institute change. Moreover, his achievements provides numerous lessons that leaders can learn from him. As such, despite his untimely death, Mahatma Gandhi leadership approaches makes him my favorite leader.

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