24 Mar 5 Leadership Lessons from Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, at Porbandar, in the present-day Indian state of Gujarat. Born to a privileged background he studied for the bar (although a poor student in Bombay), and went to London to study law at age 19. Following his admission to the bar, Gandhi took a year’s contract in South Africa – where an experience on a train changed the direction of his life…..
- You must be the change you want to see in the world.
When Gandhi was thrown from a first class train carriage for a white European man, despite having a valid ticket, it sparked his desire to fight racial segregation. As Gandhi observed the racial segregation at all levels in society, he established the Natal Indian Congress which developed his theoretical belief of non-violent protest to political behaviour.
After 21 years, as he returned to India, Gandhi developed his belief in non-violent civil disobedience leading protests against the British masters, encouraging boycotts of British products and promoting economic independence by advocating the manufacture of khaddar to replace imported textiles from Britain. He even invented a small portable spinning wheel to ensure textile workers could be economically independent.
- A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, avoid trouble.
Although Gandhi was the leader of the Indian National Congress Party, from 1921, he refused to participate in sporadic violence conducted by some of its members. As this violence went absolutely against his convictions he announced the end of the movement. In later years, he continued to lead according to his own stringent beliefs despite opposition from a growing frustrated minority. He absolutely refused to condone the violence of the minorities and retreated from public each time.
- A man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks, he becomes.
Although he was born to a privileged background, he embraced the belief of his faith and refused to participate in the segregation in which he had been brought up.
Gandhi’s eloquence in speech and his lifelong embrace of his ascetic lifestyle of peace, prayer, meditation, non-violence, Hinduism, and vegetarianism earned him the reverence of his followers who named him Mahatma (the great-souled one) Gandhi.
- Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from indomitable will.
Gandhi’s major beliefs that led to his rise in politics and as a national and global leader were formed through non-violence and non-cooperation.
Gandhi’s fasting methods in the 1930s and early 1940s led the British officials to negotiate directly with him to alleviate poverty and grant status rights and improve women’s rights.
His will power in fasting, protests, and boycotts inspired the Non-cooperation Movement which directly led to the ultimate downfall of the British Raj in India.
- Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse on 30th January 1948 who believed Gandhi favoured Pakistan and was against Gandhi’s non-violence movement. He was shot as he approached a platform to lead a prayer meeting – still completely committed to his beliefs and leading his followers to live in harmony and peace.
Gandhi’s lifetime learning had many influences which guided his actions. In London he followed the Vegetarian and also Theosophical Societies, and he studied Buddhist and Hindu literature. He was heavily influenced by his wide reading including Tolstoy and following international politics.
Gandhi’s legacy of his learning, beliefs and actions can be seen ever since. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Steve Bilko all followed Gandhi’s non-violent and non-cooperative movements to lead directly to change for the people in their countries.
To learn more about Gandhi’s life, his beliefs and his actions: