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Mahatma Gandhi, An Exemplary Leader

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Author Note
B.P, Department of Business Management, Wilmington University, Delaware Keywords: leadership, traits of leadership, emergent leader, credibility, honesty, integrity, visionary, follower-centric, transformational and charismatic, quality

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, (born on October 2nd 1869 in Porbandar, India – died January 30th 1948 in New Delhi, India) was a leader of Indian Nationalist Movement opposing British rule, considered to be ‘Father of the Nation’. His father Karamchand Gandhi served as a high official to the ruler of Porbandar State (Rajkot).

When he was 13 year old he was married to Kasturbai Makhanji according to the customs of the region which believed in early child marriage. In 1885 his father died along with the son which was born to the couple earlier in the same year. Later they were blessed with four more sons.

At the age of 19 he went to London to study Indian Law at University College of London where he was trained to be a barrister. In 1891 he returned home to practice law at Bombay when failed he traveled to South Africa in 1893 on a one year contract with an Indian Firm located there.

Political Career
Civil Rights Movement in South Africa
The political career started here where he launched a Civil Disobedience Movement against the racial behavior meted out to Asian immigrants. It was here in South Africa that he developed his political views, leadership skills and ethics. Racial humiliation and discrimination was met by most of the Indians which was not new in the culture hence led Gandhi to defend his dignity as a human not accepting any injustice. In 1894, he founded the Natal Indian Congress of which he himself became the diligent leader. Through this organization, he infused a stream of solidarity in the conglomerate Indian Community. In 1987 when he returned to Durban he was assaulted by a white mob, later the government of Natal put charges on the guilty men but Gandhi refused to further prosecute his assailants. He addressed saying it was not his principle to seek redress of a personal wrong in the court of law.

Anglo – Boer War (1899-1902)
On the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, Gandhi argued that the Indians who claimed the rights of citizenship in the British crown colony were bound to defend it. He gathered 1100 volunteers, included were barristers, accountants, artisans and even laborers. Gandhi instilled in them a spirit of service to those whom they claimed as their oppressors. By his efforts; British victory about the war, brought solace to the Indians in South Africa.

Emergence as Leader of Nationalist India
In 1914, he returned to India declining to join any political agenda, instead he favored of supporting the British in World War I and also recruiting soldiers for the British Indian Army. At the same time, he did not avoid criticizing the British officials for acts of arrogance or from taking up the trouble of the long-suffering peasantry in states of India. Provoked by the rule of the Rowlatt Bill of 1919, empowering the authorities to imprison those suspected without trial led Gandhi to the announcement of Satyagraha Struggle.

Gandhi tried to draw the Hindu and Muslim communities out of their suspicion by reasoning and persuasion and after a serious communal outbreak led to a three week fast to arouse the people into following the path of truth and nonviolence. By 1920, Gandhi was the dominant figure charging an influence never procured by any political leader. He employed non-nonviolence, cooperation and tranquil resistance as his weapons in the struggle against British. He further altered the Indian National Congress into an effective political instrument of Indian ethnocentricity.

Leadership Qualities & Style
Gandhi is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. Many other leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama and Barak Obama were inspired by Gandhi’s philosophy and leadership quality. Gandhi said: “The history of the world is full of men who rose to leadership, by sheer force of self-confidence, bravery and tenacity”.

Gandhi had many positive leadership qualities which led him to be the Father of the Nation. Few of which are described below:

Honesty and Integrity
Integrity is consistency between words and deeds. (5) Kouzes and Posner conclude: Honesty is absolutely essential to leadership. After all, if we are willing to follow someone, whether it be into battle or into the boardroom, we first want to assure ourselves that the person is worthy of our trust. We want to know that he or she is being truthful, ethical and principled. We want to be fully confident in the integrity of our leaders (Kouzes and Posner).(2) A high degree of self-efficacy and integrity, which Gandhi possessed as a boy, stayed with him throughout his adult years.(4) He said that he never resorted to untruth in his profession, and that a large part of his legal practice was in the interest of public. He preached forgiveness, and there was consistency between his words and action. “Nonviolence and truth are inseparable and presuppose one another… There is no god higher than truth” (Mahatma Gandhi).

Forward Looking or Visionary
Gandhi’s vision was to see India independent, and after independence and partition, his vision was to see that all the communities live in unity without looking for revenge and retaliation. He said that I plead with all the earnestness at my command that all the communities should meet together in cordial embrace and set an imperial example to the rest of India or to the world. This will claim the proud privilege of having broken the vicious circle of private reprisal and retaliation. He said “A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes”.

Gandhi was described further as “a profound visionary looking for solutions to problems faced by mankind all over the world” (Saha, 1997). (3)
People looked at Gandhi with trust because of his achievements and movements in South Africa. They had great hopes and honor from him by what he achieved there through his non-violent methods. He empowered the general public by establishing himself as a slave of the people of India. Hence gaining trust and people looked at him as one of his own.

Follower-Centric Leadership
Gandhi’s leadership style was also follower-centric; one that took into account existing conditions before determining the strategy. (1) Leadership is about the follower not the leaders.
Gandhi said “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people”.
Apart from these inspiration, perseverance, resilience, empathy, courage, strategy were his other leadership qualities.

Transformational or Charismatic Leadership
According to Yukl (2002): (1) “with transformational leadership the followers feel trust, admiration, and loyalty and respect toward the leader,” (2) “they are motivated to do more than they were originally expected to do,” (3) that he/she makes them “more aware of the importance of outcomes” thereby having a motivational effect, (4) “induces them to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the organization or team,” and (5) “activates their higher order needs”.(7)

Mahatma Gandhi is a great example of a transformational leader because he satisfied the need of his followers, but instead of riding those needs to power, he remained sensitive to a higher purpose and believed in satisfying the needs of all that followed him.

‘Charismatic leaders are often described as supernatural, superhuman or exceptional’.(6) Gandhi was very effective in using his words and
furthermore, through his actions, people felt his sincerity and that he cares for his country and managed to help influence the people into following him thus making him a charismatic leader.

“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”(Barak Obama).

Lessons Learned
(a) Determination: A great leader has strong determination to succeed in what he has undertaken. Initiating stupendous willpower without being overly obstinate. He/she will focus on the objective yet realize when, transition is necessary. (b) Trust and Honesty: Without having his followers trust in him/her one can never be proclaimed as a leader, it is the most essential trait of being a successful leader. Honesty plays a vital role in building the subordinates trust in a leader, if the leader himself/herself is not honest then how would the follower trust him/her which would gradually decline the importance of the leader and his role as a leader. (c) Strategy and Vision: A supreme leader draws out a line of action, along with one or more substitute course, in order to comprehend his/her vision. (d) Intelligence: A leader need not have high education but it is crucial for him/her to have excellent knowledge about their stream of interest in order to determine directions to his/her followers. (e) Hard work: Strong leader will always establish trust by showing hard work, knowingly that subordinates or followers would get persuaded when they learn that their leader puts into efficient efforts, time and energy.

(f) Communication Techniques: Powerful leader communicates to his/her followers in order to ensure their support, assuring the successful completion of their plan. Tactful and positive communication builds strong relationships with the subordinates and gains their trust. It also ensures that tasks are understood, accomplished and supervised (g) Resilience: Powerful leaders not necessarily get discouraged by setbacks but will move on with their emotional intelligence skill routing an efficient and better plan and takes those setbacks as a part of the learning process. (h) Courage: Oftentimes decisions are need to be made without all the desired information at reach, which leads to taking seemingly tough decisions and responsible risk courage; is part of positive leadership. This trait is borned only by great leaders of all times because it is at criticality when it is implemented. (i) Confidence: A worthy leader needs to learn where he/she desires to approach and believe in himself/herself in the way to realize that target. (j) Envisioning Objectives: It relates as the act of perceiving the facts without distorting the wish, prejudice or desire. If one wants to lead people, he shall help them to distinguish fact from fantasy and assist them in separating their facts from opinions.

References and Citations

1. Arindham Chaudhari, Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch. 2. Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge: How to get Things Done in Organizations. In Pierce, J.L. and Newstrom, J.W. (Ed.). (2011). Leadership Development and Change Management (pp. 115). USA: McGraw-Hill Custom Publication for Instructors of MGT-6503, Wilmington University 3. Saha, S.C. (1997) Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action. Modern Asian Studies, 31, (pp. 219-221) 4. Schwartz, R. (2008) Gandhi’s formative and transitional years in South Africa History (pp. 489) University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. 5. Sendjaya, S. (2005) Leaders as Servants, Monash Business Review, (pp. 1-7) 6. Weber, M (1947) The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. In Pierce, J.L. and Newstrom, J.W. (Ed.). (2011). Leadership Development and Change Management (pp. 364). USA: McGraw-Hill Custom Publication for Instructors of MGT-6503, Wilmington University 7. Yukl, (2002) Leadership in Organizations. In Pierce, J.L. and Newstrom, J.W. (Ed.). (2011). Leadership Development and Change Management (pp. 406-407). USA: McGraw-Hill Custom Publication for Instructors of MGT-6503, Wilmington University

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