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Four areas of leadership behaviour – Organizational views on Mahatma Gandhi

Four areas of leadership behaviour – Organizational views on Mahatma Gandhi

Leadership is the quality of the behavior of individuals whereby they guide people or their activities in organized effort. The range of skills and abilities, which makes up effective leadership, is seldom expected to be possessed by a single individual so as to take care of all aspects of the strategic process. – Chester I. Barnard (1886-1961)

Gandhiji’s leadership in Indian politics rose into unprecedented heights when he decided to defy the Salt Tax law in 1930. His strategy was to use his tools, ahimsa and truth in the massive scale to signify his protest against the British government that imposed the Salt Act which prevented ordinary Indians to manufacture salt and levied heavy taxes if produced. His strategy was to break the law and gave strong stroke to the government. His strategic plan was to go to seashore in Dandi and pick up a pinch of salt to symbolize the breaking of salt law. His objective was to spread this law flouting satyagraha movement all across the country. He took only 78 satyagrahis from his Sabarmati Ashram and walked 241 miles covering around 10 miles a day. Along the way, thousands joined. "We must conquer or be wiped out. If we are wiped out, that very act would shake the Empire....” His firm decision and strategic hit on the British government smacked the Viceroy Lord Irwin who sneered: "Mr. Gandhi's has a crazy scheme of upsetting the government with a pinch of salt."

The American management expert and author Chester I. Barnard listed out four behaviors of leadership.

1.Determination of objectives: In 1929, after successfully completing the land tax protest in Bardoli, Gandhiji literally had nothing in his hands. He had no plans of anymore protests and lost direction in his endeavor to free India. Rabindranath Tagore came to his ashram and asked about any next plans for driving the freedom movement. His aspiration of freeing India was stirred once again upon hearing the fueling-words from the poet. He must find an issue that would arouse the whole nation. He thought over it again and again for more than six weeks and found the Salt Act was killing silently everyone, the rich and the poor, learned and the labour. On a stroke of this very idea, he got the determination and started planning for a nation-wide salt satyagraha. His objective was to give a big blow to the unjust government.

2.Manipulation of the means: Gandhiji got the nod from the working committee of the Indian National Congress to agree to his Salt Satyagraha to be launched. He emphatically repeated to his fellowmen that nonviolence would be the means to achieve the goal. "For me there is no hope except to save through truth and non-violence. I know that they will triumph when everything else has failed.” He asked everyone else in the nation to wait, except those 78 volunteers in the Ashram, until he took a pinch of salt in his own palm and declare that the salt law was broken from that moment onwards. He wanted to make it big at the end to give a rebirth to the Congress which was functioning and performing protests here and there thus far, without any national character. In Young India, he wrote about the injustice done by the British government with regards to the manufacturing of salt. He wrote: “There is no article like salt, outside water, by taxing which the State can reach even the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and the utterly helpless... The necessary consequence of salt monopoly is the destruction that is closing down, of salt works in thousands of places where the poor people manufactured their own salt. The illegality is in a government that steals the people's salt and makes them pay heavily for it. The people will have every right to take possession of what belongs to them."

3.Control of the instrumentality of action: His absolute conviction on nonviolence made some 78 of the salt satyagrahis leave their ashram dwelling and shed their sweat and slog along the 241 miles long walkway. He led that group of satyagrahis stopped by at many villages, meeting people and campaigning for denouncing salt law. He gave a press note stating: “I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might.” The satyagraha went well with no or little violence. He kept the whole nation silent-watching mode until the satyagraha was over. His control over the nation astounded the government. The British never thought that his action would be so much instrumental and effective.

4.Stimulation of the coordinated action: All the thousands who joined in Dandi salt satyagraha were arrested including Gandhiji. But that was not the end of the game. Gandhiji had strategized and planned in such a way that the end of the salt satyagraha at Dandi must be followed by similar such protests all over the country. In Dharasana, Manilal Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu raided the government-controlled salt factory. In Tamilnadu, Rajaji conducted an 18 mile long march with hundreds of satyagrahis to Vedaranyam coast to produce salt. In Bihar, police made a cavalry charge on salt satyagrahis. In Wadala, Bombay, 470 satyagrahis raided salt works. Soon, the villages along the coastal borders in the country launched protests and started producing their own salt.

Thus, the coordinated action by millions of Indians made a pinch of salt a larger issue and it received the attention of the whole world. The world was amazed at the stimulus given by Gandhij to his countrymen to become motivated and fearless. This occasion was the first in his political life after he returned from South Africa that exhibited his leadership command at a greater extent.

On the eve of his arrest on 4th May 1930, he wrote a letter to Lord Irwin in which he hoped that the government would fight the civil resisters in a civilized manner. He elucidated how nonviolent and peaceful the civil-disobedience movement was and persuaded the government to remove the Salt Tax and prohibition on private salt-making. His organized effort and effective leadership facilitated the process of making amendments to the Salt Act, 1835.

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