The concept of leadership is complex and multifaceted, appealing to both people’s ability to approach a problem objectively and their emotional side. Analyzing the examples of great leaders will allow dissecting the phenomenon of leadership and determining the aspects thereof that help one to set and attain goals. Therefore, an in-depth study of one of the greatest examples of a leader is needed (Lewis, 2003).
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For this purpose, the example of a historical figure of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, will be considered. Embodying the essence of spiritual leadership, Gandhi managed to lead millions of people by setting a personal example of self-sacrifice, intelligence, and empathy. The unique leadership style and the ability to combine persistence with a nonviolent strategy were the key rationale for choosing Gandhi as the focus of this essay. By combining the attributes of several key leadership styles, including transformational one, servant leadership, and spiritual one, Gandhi created a strong following of millions of people who supported his cause and became sympathetic to his plight.
This paper consists of three key parts, including introduction to the topic, the further discussion of Gandhi’s leadership style, and the concluding statement. The discussion, in turn, analyzes the extent to which Gandhi changed the Indian society, the traits that he possessed as a leader, the fundamental characteristics by which his leadership style could be described, and the effects of his leadership. Thus, a profound assessment of Gandhi’s leadership style is performed.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as a Leader: Analysis
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi played a critical role in liberating India and supporting its independence movement. At the time, India remained a British colony, which affected the state politically and economically to a significant degree (Dhiman, 2017).
Therefore, to introduce changes of the political landscape of the state, one needed the force that could motivate the Indian population, at the same time giving people the strength and willpower that they would need to withstand the difficulties that would ultimately ensue. Gandhi was the perfect leader for reinforcing the concept of peaceful resistance and the enhancement of societal change since he embraced the key principles of leadership that introduced people to innovative thinking and social improvements (Project Management Institute, 2017).
As a leader, Gandhi also succeeded in promoting change on a statewide level. The ability to produce significant alterations in people’s perception of the status quo and challenge their views is also deemed as an important trait of a leader, according to Kotter (2012). The skill of transforming people’s concept of the state’s independence and the further subversion of colonialism-oriented thinking among both Indian leaders and its general population should also be characterized as the inherent leadership characteristic that Gandhi possessed. Indeed, for a leader, having a clear vision of goals and desirable outcomes is essential.
According to Kotter (2012), “Without a sensible vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing and incompatible projects that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all” (p. 5). Therefore, it was Gandhi’s ability to convey his ideas, vision, and philosophy that made him so efficient as a leader.
In addition to having a well-developed vision, the ability to communicate it is also a critical characteristic that sets a good leader apart from less impressive ones. The use of a diplomatic approach is typically associated with effective leadership, of which Gandhi is a perfect example of Gandhi’s communication skills. In leadership, the significance of diplomacy remains very high since it allows approaching conflicts from a rational perspective. As a result, the threat of aggravating confrontations is reduced, and the number of losses that either of the opponents can possibly sustain can be minimized.
As a leader, Gandhi managed to prove that a nonviolent approach and the acceptance of change should be deemed as the cornerstone elements of progress. Despite the fact that the conflict between Great Britain and India was growing out of proportion at the time, Gandhi managed to maintain a peaceful dialogue with his opponents, thus cementing his title of a spiritual and political leader for Indian citizens. Specifically, the approach that Gandhi chose allowed to bypass the inertia that could be observed in the Indian society at the time, encouraging a string of immediate yet nonviolent alterations to the Indian political and social environment.
The described characteristics mirror the necessity to incorporate the fundamentals of leadership into one’s approach in order to successfully implement the critical steps for attaining the set goals. Gandhi’s ability to encourage change in people and enhance the knowledge creation within the Indian society as one of the critical aspects of the leadership process should also be noted (Lussier & Achua, 2012).
The observed alterations in people’s perception of their identity and political stance can be deemed as a graphic example of an effective leadership system at work. By encouraging people to view themselves as independent agents and the active participants of their community in regard to the state politics, Gandhi managed to relieve India of the British rule not through violence but through the power of empathy, compassion, and compromise.
Moreover, the significance of Gandhi’s emotional appeal as a motivational and charismatic leader is not to be underrated when evaluating the factors that led to India shaking off the shackles of the British rule. Specifically, the focus on diplomacy as the core of his leadership strategy allowed Gandhi to convey the messages that had “a profound impact on followers” (Lussier & Achua, 2012, p. 337). As a result, the philosophy that Gandhi promoted finally became ubiquitous in Indian culture of the time, creating the premise for an uprising against British rule.
Finally, Gandhi demonstrated effective thinking quite clearly in his choices as a leader. Although one may disagree with the position that Gandhi took in order to fight British rule in India, his ability to use critical and analytical thinking was undoubtable and unparalleled. Gandhi used his skill of critical thought to reconcile differences between Indian citizens, addressing the conflict based on differences in religious beliefs (Dhiman, 2017).
For example, Gandhi aimed at avoiding biased decisions by utilizing the idea of objective analysis (Dhiman, 2017). Thus, as a leader, he managed to encompass a wide range of social and political issues, reducing the probability of infringing upon the rights of any particular social group in India (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009).
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Among some of the key examples of Gandhi demonstrating leadership, one should probably mention his ability to prove his words by his actions. For example, the fact that Gandhi always tried to reduce the amount of used resources to the barest minimum and lead a humble life showed his ability to promote his philosophy and values effectively to the Indian population (Dhiman, 2017). Therefore, Gandhi should be given credit for his willingness to change people’s mindset by using his own example.
The sensibility of the political strategies that Gandhi used to address the conflict between Great Britain and India could be debated, yet the fact that he embodied the essence of perfect leadership can hardly be doubted. By encompassing the essential aspects of leadership as a concept, including its foundational values, effective thinking, and emotional intelligence, Gandhi managed to further the Indian political agenda and make a very powerful statement in the political arena of the time.
As a leader, Gandhi incorporated the characteristics of the transformational, spiritual, and servant leadership approaches since he focused specifically on the needs and well-being of the Indian people and viewed the pursuit of historical and social justice as the ultimate goal of his efforts. Therefore, Gandhi’s teachings and example of leadership can be deemed as a source of inspiration and a subject of leadership studies which could produce an efficient leadership model for the promotion of peaceful change within any setting, be it a political or an organizational one.
Representing a unique combination of transformational, spiritual, and servant leadership styles, Gandhi managed to inspire people and, thus used empathy, kindness, and intelligence as the pillars for building his leadership framework. Although Gandhi was primarily a political leader, it was the absence of any self-indulgence or selfish intentions in his leadership approach that made people follow him and trust his statements, providing the active support for his cause.
While one may critique Gandhi’s political views and philosophy, his leadership style is worth using as an example of a truly extraordinary one. Without resorting to any strategies that would have been deemed unethical, Gandhi managed not only to gain an immensely big following among Indian people but also to alter the political system of India, practically starting a revolution.
Deserving praise and acknowledgement, the leadership style that Gandhi chose was an amalgam of spiritual, transformational, charismatic, and servant leadership approaches that allowed challenging to people’s need for independence by appealing to their emotions. Therefore, the success of the leadership approach used by Gandhi could be explained by the fact that it encompassed the concepts of emotional intelligence, effective thinking, and the cornerstone fundamentals of leadership as a notion.
Bradberry, T. & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional intelligence 2.0. San Diego. CA: TalentSmart.
Dhiman, S. (2017). Holistic leadership: A new paradigm for today’s leaders. New York, NY: Springer.
Kotter, John P. (2012). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Lewis, James P. (2003). Project leadership. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Lussier, R.N & Achua, C.F. (2012). Leadership: Theory, application, & skill development (5th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Project Management Institute (2017). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 6th Ed. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.