Profile of Exemplary Moral Leadership
In a world where people constantly crave for leadership, there are several leaders, both present and past, dead and some still alive, whose teachings, actions, theories, beliefs and moral/spiritual conducts constantly influence their followers, different people, cultures and societies around the world. The activities of such leaders and their relationship towards their followers and their achievements are highly influential and are remembered for a long time. These moral leaders have been respected for intervention, knowledge, advice, assistance, and several other moral, ethical and sometimes even unethical issues. The role they played and the people they represented in various societies, countries and communities made them perceivable as moral exemplary leaders in the eyes of the public.
Further discussions would reflect on one of these past exemplary leaders – Mahatma Gandhi. His exemplary moral leadership qualities, vision, teachings, messages and characteristics would also be part of the discussion.
Profile of Exemplary Moral Leadership
Gandhi's exceptional lifestyle, his vision and socio-political activities influenced the much-enjoyed liberty and socio-political freedom in present India and other parts of the world. There is no doubt that some of these attributes made him a recognized moral and spiritual leader worldwide. Gandhi's teachings, principles, and practices have influenced a great number of people physically, morally and spiritually. He was literary a source of hope for the hopeless and voice to the voiceless. He had an exceptional ability to manage and blend both his personal and public lifestyles. According to an internet source, Global Ethics Network, moral leadership is a leadership process that tends to aid and assist its followers in any way possible; moral leadership bears no rank of hierarchy and does not aspire to be trailed (Wangsadinata, 2013).
Gandhi believed in and lived according to the Dharma of truth and non-violent moral code of conduct. The Dharma moral code of conduct is based on living in truth, morally and spiritually, and achieving agreements and understanding with others, without involving violence. At the beginning of his self-assumed leadership position as a civil rights activist, he propagated civil right struggle, supported movements and protests against racism, colonial rulers, moral degradation, socio-economical and political exploitation. Although exhausted from the exploitation of colonial rulers, very few people were ready to speak up or question the level of civil injustice and the factors behind them. Finally, when there were enough people who could no longer bear the discrimination and exploitation, Gandhi was one of those few who initiated the fight for freedom. As soon as the struggle for equality and movements against discrimination and exploitation began, Gandhi stood out as a leader in India. Soon after, numerous protests and demonstrations came along. Gandhi gave motivational speeches at rallies and protests, and led most of such activities. In his messages, he emphasized that violence should not be involved in the process of achieving the necessary requirements for common ground interests. These drew the attention of the colonial masters and several others who wanted to make it a pay-back process.
One of Gandhi's most important messages was that the willingness to create a change is of a greater strength than the physical strength. He believed that it was better to exercise longsuffering and fearlessness in the place of violence because only through this principles can victory be attained (Hardiman, 2003).
It has been noted that passive resistance commonly known as the Gandhian approach has yielded more alternative and democratic results than violent response and defense since 1945 (Hardiman, 2003). Violence has disrupted several democratic attempts to resolve an issue and establish solution oriented dialogs around the world. Therefore, the Gandhian approach is not so easy to practice for aggressive leaders. Only selfless and charismatic moral leaders can be inspired to practice it (Hardiman, 2003). Gandhi's pursuit of truth and his sincere lifestyle that exhibited compassion, love, humility, tolerance, forgiveness, and non-violence were part of his nature as a person, not etiquette. His ability to make a global replacement for violence drew people from all races, classes, ages, and works of life to him.
Although Gandhi hesitated to speak in public, he also knew that the more people gave him their attention the more he could convince. Along with that, Gandhi was not proud or ashamed to acknowledge his imperfections (Amand, 2012). Once, he insinuated that his ability to admit his imperfections was the source of his strength and perfection. Gandhi expressed a true example of what he preached from a spiritual and moral point of view through self-sacrifice, dutiful service, and transparency (Amand, 2012).
Gandhi’s teachings reflect his believes that, in order to cultivate an attitude of true service towards a just cause, one must concentrate efforts and resources on responsibilities instead of proving one's rights.
Gandhi rose to the level of a renowned leader by empowering the weak and oppressed, the exploited and discriminated, and cultivating a sense of belonging and self-respect (Amand, 2012). The ethics and rules of conduct, which he practiced and taught his followers, oppositions, and listeners, were:
- Prioritizing duties and responsibilities over rights;
- Ends and means of rights;
- Religion – universal brotherhood;
- Voluntary poverty – wealth is vanity;
- Non-violence and truth;
- Non-violent conflict resolving method;
- Focusing on deeds and not the doers;
- Service and sacrifice.
One of Gandhi’s greatest leadership qualities was his ability to socialize through interactions.
Gandhi did not acknowledge himself to be a visionary according to Anand (2012), but his core vision for the people of India was based on the concept of Swaraj. Swaraj is an ancient Indian philosophy that teaches self-rule, self-respect, self-restraint, and freedom for one's self and neighbor’s. It is rooted in political self-rule Democracy, which in turn enhances moral, social, and economic freedom.
Gandhi’s vision was for India to become a self-ruled country and for the equal rights to exist among men and women meaning no gender discrimination, equal class citizenry; he urged to stop consumption of alcohol or intoxicants of any sort and wanted all communities to live in peace, contentment and harmony.
Political Views and Characteristics
Mahatma Gandhi was never interested in getting elected or appointed to a political post or office. He believed that his participation in politics is more of a spiritual activity than physical (Conway, 2000). Participating in politics even after he had become a well-known figure did not stop him from exercising his moral and religious values. In one of his speeches, he added that the call to lead India was not a sudden occurrence, which he had fasted and disciplined himself for it until it came to pass. He also emphasized the fact that without religion, there would be no moral government (Amand, 2012). He practiced politics because it was inevitable for him at the time, it was necessary for him to be politically involved if he had to achieve his goals in and for India. In one of his speeches after returning to India, while addressing a public gathering, he said, “You and I have to act on the political platform from a spiritual side and if this is done we should conquer the conquerors” (Amand, 2012).
Gandhi’s Patriotic Characteristics
Mahatma Gandhi's patriotic and nationalistic approach was not streamlined towards a specific view. His actions and relationship towards other people made it easy for others to see. He was concerned about India and Indians. He was also concerned about the citizens of other countries where there were rules of terror. He also agitated and advocated for a democracy (Amand, 2012). He once described self-sacrifice as a sacrifice of one's self for as little as a community to as large as a nation. He was also certain that if he could achieve freedom for India, other countries could learn from that and pursue their freedom, as well. Gandhian concept started as a community outreach, and it ended-up becoming a global outreach (Amand, 2012).
Gandhi’s only interest as a leader can be described as follows: to see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face-to-face, one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. He was a man who aspired for democracy, lived for others, ached for others and fought for other people through his messages, principles and actions. Mahatma Gandhi's legacy continues and will continue for generations to come. The great and renowned scientist, Albert Einstein admires Gandhi's courage, teachings and achievements.