Many consider Mahatma Gandhi one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century. His great leadership can be attributed to different leadership theories and approaches. But the servant leadership theory should be on or near the top of any list of theories or approaches describing Gandhi’s leadership, throughout his life, Gandhi the displayed of the ten characteristics of servant leadership identified by Spears (2002) from Robert K. Greenleaf’s work on the subject.
Gandhi showed great awareness of what was going on around him in South Africa and he considered different courses of actions in dealing with oppression that Hindus and Muslins were faced with. While sitting on a train platform after being forcibly removed from a train, he considered his options to deal with the oppression he and the other Hindus and Muslins were facing. Instead of just accepting the oppression, mounting attacks against the ruling class, or just returning to India. Gandhi chose to organize the Hindus and Muslins to resist the oppression by non violent means.
Gandhi was able to use his influence to keep his followers from resorting to violence even in the light of the Amritsar massacre of 1919, where thousands of his followers were kill by order of the British government. He also was able to stop the fighting between the Hindus and Muslins by going on hunger strike until the two stopped fighting.
The way that Gandhi conducted his salt march of 1930 showed his ability to conceptualize and it also showed the foresight that he had. He took his time, only covering 10 miles a day for 24days, allowing time for the world press time to arrive and cover the event. He knew this would bring the British oppression of the India people to the world stage and garner support for their cause throughout the world. This slow pace of his march also allowed him time to stop in each village along the way and listen to what the villagers had to say and treated each of them as an individual, valuing what they had to say.
Gandhi showed his empathy for his followers by remaining to reside in his modest home and wearing the same simple clothing of his Hindu followers, even though, he had risen to the champion of the fight for freedom from British rule.
Gandhi never wavered from his community building efforts. His last effort, which resulted in his death, was a walk from village to village along the border between India and Pakistan trying to unite the Hindus and Muslins and stop the border violence.
Northhouse, P. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (Sixth Edition). California. Sage. 2011049043. Ch. 10.
Penn State World campus, The Pennsylvania State University. (2015). Leadership in Work Settings. Retrieved 25 March 2015 from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp15/psych485/002/content/11_lesson/printlesson.html
Morowitz, N. (Producer), & Morowitz, N. (Director). (2000). Gandhi: Pilgrim of Peace [Documentary]. New York: A&E Home Video. Retrieved 13 April 2015 from http://documentaryheaven.com/gandhi/