Characteristics of a Good Leader

As I read the passages from the homework on the Indian Nationalist Movement, one of the things that I noticed was that Gandhi evolved into a powerful leader. According to the assignment (pg. 17): “[b]y 1920, Gandhi was recognized as the most powerful leader in India. He was known and revered by millions of villagers and was popular even in the Muslim community.” These sentences made me think about what makes someone become a powerful leader and about what makes someone become “known and revered by millions.” Gandhi had the know-how and the ability to understand the situation in that moment. When Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1914, he recognized that in order to help the masses of India improve their living conditions he would first have to unify them. Building on his early organizing experiences in South Africa, he brought together farmers, textile workers and other groups in non-violent campaigns for better pay and improved working conditions. Later, in helping India develop a nationalist identity, Gandhi inspired the Indian people to join together in demanding and ultimately attaining independence from Great Britain.

Not only did Gandhi strive to better his country, but he also strove to better himself. According to his autobiography My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi sought to improve his own understanding of the world by reflecting on his actions in the past, acknowledging his faults and flaws, and pledged to deny himself material items so that he could be and feel more in common with the people of India. This made people love Gandhi more.

When I think about Gandhi and all that he achieved, I see him as a great leader. What characteristics do you feel made Gandhi a strong and beloved leader? Are these characteristics found in leaders today? Which ones? What characteristics do you think true leaders have?

Below is a picture of Gandhi, inspiring fellow countrymen.

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5 Responses to Characteristics of a Good Leader

  1. AlexP says:

    Madison, you make a great point here. I completely agree with you that Ghandi was a great leader. In my opinion, one of the main reasons why I think he was a great leader is due to his ability to put his people and his country before himself. As you said before, he gave up material items (he also starved himself when necessary and suffered prison time for his people) in order to make him feel more unified with his people. Just because one is officially more powerful than its people, it does not mean that the person has to act like it. Yes, a leader can rule over its people with authority and direct people in certain directions, but he also must be compassionate and sympathetic with his people, as Ghandi was. In addition, I believe that discipline is another great quality that all leaders should have. Discipline with the use of power is very important, but in Ghandi’s case, I’m referring to his ruling against the use of violence. The easy way out would be to use violence, as some of his people did, but because of his great discipline, he controlled them when they did and further enforced the rule, even when times were tough. Despite what happened and what the circumstances were, he stuck to his ideals.

  2. Heather Milke says:

    I think you raise some interesting ideas, Madison. I agree with Alex that it is interesting that Gandhi never acted better or more powerful than any other Indian peasant. Alex said, “Just because one is officially more powerful than its people, it does not mean that the person has to act like it,” which I think sums Gandhi’s leadership up really nicely. He recognized that change required the masses and everyone working together. It seems that although Gandhi was powerful as a leader, he believed that the power came from the people, not from the leadership of a single person. I think this quality makes Gandhi stand out from other leaders in history. I am not saying there are no other leaders like Gandhi, but I think that Gandhi offered a revolutionary type of leadership and way to make change using self-discipline and nonviolence. Gandhi was completely selfless. He did not lead India for himself or some thirst for power that he had. Gandhi led for the people and the improvement of their lives and more broadly, the improvement of India as a nation.

  3. sweiswasser2015 says:

    Alex, what I find most compelling about your argument is the idea that Gandhi did not act like he was better than everyone else because he had power. Adding on to that, I think what made Gandhi such a revolutionary leader and man was the fact that he truly believed that he wasn’t better than everyone else because he was standing up for unity and a government that honors Indian human rights more. Gandhi was humble in this pursuit because he did not consider himself revolutionary, but he rather considered himself a man that was doing not only the right thing, but what was necessary. He therefore considered himself no different than the man who agreed with Gandhi’s ideals and participated in Gandhi’s campaigns. Heather and Madison, I definitely agree that his nonviolence campaigns were revolutionary, especially considering the fact that previous revolutions such as the American Revolution or Russian Revolution were successful (or for the Russian Revolution partly successful) because of violence. As Alex pointed out, violence would have been easier in the short run. Gandhi’s nonviolence campaigns show us, however, that nonviolence and peaceful compromises are the most effective way to achieving one’s goals.

    In regards to Heather’s discussion of Gandhi leading the masses, I think that Gandhi shows us that the most successful of revolutions depend on the masses. The power of the masses, however, relies on a leader or an initiator, in this case Gandhi. What is essential in this idea, however, is that the leader is only the leader to the extent that he/she is the initiator of a mass movement. After initiating this mass movement and encouraging others to join, Gandhi shows us that the “leader” must not, at any point, be any better than the mass and must be part of the mass, rather than a single leader.

  4. Will says:

    I think Gandhi was such a powerful leader because he was selfless. Not only was he able to put the masses before himself, he was willing to sacrifice everything for them. Moreover, the desires of the masses were the desires of Gandhi. Basically, Gandhi encompassed the entirety of the masses into one person. This is interesting, because as Heather said, revolutions require masses, or popular support. These masses, however, are so large and at times so fractioned, that without out not just a strong leader, but also a revered and legitimized one, they cannot accomplish much. In this sense I agree with Sarah who believes a powerful leader must be at the forefront of the masses. I disagree, however, in that I believe Gandhi was a single leader. Although he certainly was a part of the masses and encompassed every ideal the masses held, Gandhi stood at the forefront of the masses and single-handedly led them forward. Paradoxically, the Majority is nothing without a small minority to lead it onward.

  5. lcharpentier2013 says:

    In my opinion I believe that Gandhi was a great leader as well. Many people argue that even though he had good morals and leadership skills, the violence that continued despite his wishes was an indications of Gandhi’s weak leadership skills. I believe that in order to determine if Gandhi was a good leader, one has to determine if a good leader means meeting ones goals, or how these goals are met. I believe that a good leader is based on how these goals are met. Gandhi’s persistent nonviolent methods were not a sign of weakness at all, even though this may have prevented improvements for India. Based on past history it is easy to believe that violence is the quickest way to make change or gain success, but accepting this mentality is what continues this belief in the first place. Leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King were striving to be the change the wanted to see in the world.

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