Despite there being many different characterizations of what leadership is, it is how Mahatma Gandhi embodied and conveyed what it is to be a leader that I personally feel akin to. His words alone were not solely responsible for inspiring a nation, it was also his kind behaviors, nonviolent actions toward unjust treatment, and purposeful representation of what it means to be a good soul (“Mahatma Gandhi Biography”, 2019).
He was the quintessence of human rights advocacy.
Gandhi’s ability to organize peaceful demonstrations of political disobedience in a quest for racial justice and equality exemplifies what it means to lead by example.
An individual must not stand against unfair treatment by acting in the same manner. To do so would be the antithesis of true leadership. Figures that lead by example, such as Gandhi, are credible, trustworthy, inspire others to believe change is possible and ultimately have a lasting impact.
While working as a lawyer in South Africa, Gandhi witnessed and experienced inhumane treatment in the form of racial discrimination and physical violence from white citizens and British officials (“Mahatma Gandhi Biography”, 2019). After being physically removed from the first-class area of a train as a result of racial discrimination, Gandhi committed himself to fight for the equality of the Indian people (“Mahatma Gandhi Biography”, 2019). He became a figure of hope for the Indian community in South Africa and with the community’s support he began to challenge the British government. He initially did so by opposing a bill that would deny Indians the right to vote (“Mahatma Gandhi Biography”, 2019).
Gandhi’s political activities were not restricted to South Africa. He also called upon leaders in India to assist in his efforts for equal rights and fair treatment. Despite his political connections and growing popularity within the community, Gandhi continued to endure violence at the hands of the white European community and he continued to respond to such violence with a peaceful approach (“Mahatma Gandhi Indian Leader”, n.d.).
Regardless of the repercussions suffered, his activism continued and he organized a campaign called “Satyagraha” which translates to “truth and firmness”. This campaign led to the British government agreeing to eradicate a poll tax on movable goods, recognizing ceremonial Indian marriages and decriminalizing Indian travel through a particular portion of south Africa (1913 Satyagraha Campaign, n.d.). The British government also ended the “Black Act”, which was a law that allowed the deportation of unregistered Asian and Indian immigrants without the right of appeal (1913 Satyagraha Campaign, n.d.).
Gandhi also protested Britain’s salt tax and salt acts that a prevented the Indian community from collecting or selling salt. In protest, Gandhi organized a march where he traveled hundreds of miles to the coastline and proceeded to collect salt illegally. Gandhi, as well as thousands of other Indians were put in prison for breaking the law.