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Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most influential leaders in all human history, by his devoted efforts he not only succeeded where many other actual leaders of India failed in convincing the British to leave, but he also managed to stop all fighting between Muslims and Hindus both of these he achieved without the use of violence. Within his lifetime Gandhi practiced very successfully a Transformational leadership style, he worked to inspire others to stand up and act believing that even the common man could make a difference (Gupta, A.)
Hamilton describes those with the transformational leadership style as “leaders who transformed society with their visions; that is charismatic leaders who have the ability to inspire and motivate people to do more than they would normally dodespite obstacles and personal sacrifice”. (Hamilton, C.) Looking at Gandhi’s life we see a man who devoted his entire life to the well-being of his country, and the people that lived there. When attempting to assess Gandhi’s success as a leader it becomes important to look at how he thought and his capabilities as a problem solver. The best example of this came early on with how he approached the issue of freeing India from British control. Hundreds of other national leaders before him tried, and failed to remove the British from India, meaning a conventional approach to the issue wouldn’t work, Gandhi realized this early on in his campaign, and it lead Gandhi to look at the issue differently than others before him. He looked to see what reason the British had for their continued presence in India despite having long since taken all of the treasure and riches they could. The answer he came up with was that it was India’s new dependence on European goods that kept the British interested in India. This was a critical discovery as the existence of an economic reason behind Britain’s continued existence in India made the most effective method of removing the British non-violent actions, India would not earn its freedom through war and violence, and in realizing this Gandhi was able to establish his purpose as a leader which was freeing India. With a purpose he came up with a plan to “break the economic purpose of colonialism” through non-violent means which he could be easily spread to the masses. Through his words Gandhi managed to align himself with the common man, gaining their trust and motivating the entire populous to act against Britain in non-violent protest by practicing self-reliance, and non-cooperation. These two things are what he based his leadership on, and by his teachings he convinced everyone to join him to the point where even those who truly believed that they had nothing to offer, and could truly do nothing in the face of the British empire joined in and followed his teachings. This was largely because his teachings were simplistic enough that anyone could follow them, yet also impactful enough that those following felt that they were truly a part of something much bigger than themselves, the struggle for freedom. (Gupta, A.)
A closer look at Gandhi as a person sheds more light onto his success as a leader. Entering into this issue Gandhi had already established a good measure of credibility with the people of India through his success in South Africa where he championed his non-violent methods proving them to be effective to all those who paid attention. This attributed a good deal to the willingness of people to follow him, but this was not the only thing that drew people to Gandhi, nor was it what made him such a beloved figure to Muslims and Hindus alike. Looking at Gandhi’s everyday life it’s as though we are looking at the life of one of his followers, he practiced his preaching to the letter even spinning his own wool for clothes he lived a simple life as the poor did, and in doing so he established a bond with his followers. Coupled with his many speeches given to the public across all of India establishing himself as an easily accessible person Gandhi became a leader so great that the common man could connect to him simply by seeing him. (Gupta, A.) Connected to his way of living were the qualities he possessed, ten of which that stand out to be most important to his success as a leader. Faith in self, this quality afforded Gandhi with long term vision which coupled with his strong principles of righteousness made him one of the great transformational leaders of history. Resistance and persistence; while some might have believed this to be his stubbornness, it was in fact a key part of what allowed him to continue his non-violent actions despite the naysayers who claimed that violence was the only way to accomplish anything. Forgiveness, the capacity to learn from mistakes, strength of character, love but never hate, truthfulness, live in the present, take the first step and do it anyway, and non-violence. (Sharma, A.) Each of these qualities combined were what made Gandhi the ability to not only inspire and motivate those around him to do more than they would normally do, but also served to make him every bit as approachable as a neighbor, or even friend for all those who followed him.
Gandhi’s goal of attaining freedom for India from the colonial rule of Britain were eventually realized, but the victory was short lived as there was a brewing civil war between the Muslims and Hindus of India threatening to destroy India from the inside out, and potentially even provide an opportunity for another European nation to take control over India again putting the country right back where they started. This news led Gandhi to continue in his role as a non-violent leader, traveling across India promoting peace, and trying to stop the fighting and rioting that was occurring, ultimately Gandhi was against a divided India and wanted to see Muslims and Hindus live together in peace, but alas he was shot and killed by a Hindu fanatic during one of his prayer meetings. In spite of this, the great sorrow of both Muslims and Hindus alike following his death quelled the fighting, and is likely the only reason that India didn’t tear itself apart from the inside through a massive civil war. (Biography: Gandhi Back in India)
Finally looking at his leadership style, Professor M.S. Rao a self-proclaimed “leadership Guru” referred to his leadership style as being “soft leadership” a new direction to leadership he coined. In his article Mahatma Gandhi – Soft Leadership he defines “soft leadership” as “the process of setting goals; influencing people through persuasion; building strong teams; negotiating them with a win-win attitude; respecting their failures; hand-holding them; motivating them constantly; aligning their energies and efforts; recognizing and appreciating their contribution in accomplishing the organizational objectives with an emphasis on soft skills. It is based on the right mindset, skill set, and tool-set.” (Rao, P.) Looking back at Gandhi’s qualities as a man I feel this “soft leadership” style the professor has come up with is a great embodiment of all the things that made Gandhi a successful leader wrapped up with a nice bow and presented in a way that can be applied to the management of a business as opposed to a country.
Looking at the impacts of Gandhi’s leadership style we see an entire country freed from British colonial rule, and the prevention of a bloody civil war which would have seen India permanently divided with fighting between Muslims and Hindus likely continuing to this day. As a direct result of Gandhi’s transformative leadership however, the British Empire was forced to leave India with no war having been fought, and while blood may have been shed on each side, the amount was far less than what it could have been had Gandhi used violent protests as opposed to his non-violent non-cooperation. Gandhi did what had never been done before, he forced out a nation larger and more powerful than his own using non-violent methods setting a future precedent for all those leaders to follow him to use as a guide. Even when the British left behind a brewing civil war which had the potential to not only cause mass bloodshed and death, but also allow Britain the opportunity to re-enter India following the bloody war and re-gain control undoing all that Gandhi had worked for so many years to achieve. His impact on those who followed him were such that anywhere he went following the start of the riots and unrest peace followed, and through non-violent means he was able to slowly quell the fighting preventing a civil war, and despite losing his life in the process his teachings remain to this day followed by a great many. Leaders like our president Barrack Obama follow his teachings in leadership to this day.
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