The impact of a leader
Different leadership styles need different environment for its fruition and effectiveness. But one aspect is critical: Whatever be the type of leadership – Autocratic, bureaucratic, Participative, Inspirational, Follower-lead – every leader must possess of few common traits. Disciple, Communication, Vision, Decision-making ability must be the starting bases for anyone aspiring to lead a movement or people. A leader is a person who has an enthusiasm to change the future for the better; full of ideas and plans besides the ability to attract others to his way of thinking.
One definition of a leader is to ability to evoke a following by appealing to the intrinsic felt need at the gut level. Even a disinterested person upon contact would be forced to say,” I believe in you so much so that I will do whatever you ask of me.” This is the kind of response that a Mahatma Gandhi evoked. His character was pristine, his appeal was a moral one and cause noble. Little wonder, he attracted and influenced a multitude from different segments; his appeal transcended both the royalty and gentry. Gandhi was never dictatorial in his decisions; his was not a whimsical make-up. The decisions were always that of a committee except Gandhi supplied in the spiritual base. His influence rose from his communication: no fancy oratory but simple understandable message and his very persona – a half-naked fakir who even shunned his habiliments as a constant reminder to the poverty of his people – exuded trust.
Gandhi’s leadership can be termed “follower-centric”, one that factored in existing conditions before determining future course of action. He had the gift of occasion even in the way he used his trial appearances in courts to arouse sentiments in the crowd. Best of Gandhi was he never aspired for money or power or position and that made the deepest impact on his followers. He simply had no axe to grind.
Adolf Hilter in contrast rose to power not on the basis of a moral cause but in adroitly exploiting the mass discontent in Germany after the First World War. He was a master orator and adept at shifting the blame of the loss of the War to the Jews. Hitler had a wonderful grasp and intuition on the power bases operating in the environment; he played one institute with the other while consolidating his power base. He understood the singular importance of being on the right side of the German Army and he had no qualms removing Ernst Rohm and his SA troopers when the army was displeased. The image of Hitler as a meddler in military operations is powerful and persistent. He was also stubborn, distrusted his generals and relied too much on his own instinct. Hitler is a force of evil and a dark page of history but who can deny his sway over a nation. His charisma and level of influence on his followers was principally on account of his iron personality. Even as a child Hitler was strong-willed. When his father wanted him to be a bureaucrat, he insisted on being a painter. His father cried,” Never” while the child simple said,” nevertheless”.
Where Gandhi was participative, Hilter has no stomach for others. It was his view and his alone that mattered. Gandhi was respected and venerated almost as a sage while Hitler was feared. Gandhi encouraged a nation to rise in revolt against a world-power whereas Hitler reduced a world-power to its knees. Gandhi was against violence of any kind and Hitler’s entire time and energy went into adding muscle to the war machinery. Gandhi not only tolerated dissent or a different point of view; he never lost an opportunity to reach out even to this critic while Hitler would brook no dissent.
How would history judge them? Mahatma Gandhi has an apostle of peace; chief architect of Indian Independence, and the man who inspired Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi. Of late even Barrack Obama has made a habit to drop in Gandhi’s name in his speeches. As for Hitler, he had to commit suicide and his crimes so ghastly that even surviving SS men are hunted nearly fifty years since the holocaust. His brand of nationalism and racism has no takers.
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