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Gandhi - the Mahatma and Servant Leadership

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Birmingham Business School

Student ID Number:                         1716547

Programme of Study:                         Business Management with a Year in Industry

Module:                                       Fundamentals of Leadership

Assignment Title:                          Fundamentals of Leadership Essay        

Date and Time of Submission:          09-01-2018, 02:20

Word Count:                                   3000

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Attributing to its subjective nature the question of what good leadership is, is highly debatable. To some it might translate to the quick attainment of desired results while to others it might refer to the sustainable attainment of results etc. This essay attempts to match the idea of good leadership to the concepts of The Servant Leadership Theory proposed by Robert Greenleaf (1970). Gandhi’s practice of leadership mostly, seamlessly matches the propositions of this theory. Thus, after introducing servant leadership and M. K. Gandhi, this essay explores The Servant Leadership Theory by using the Servant Leadership Behaviour Scale to analyse Gandhi’s leadership.

Given its intriguing propositions The Servant Leadership Theory has been chosen to explain good leadership for numerous reasons. Firstly, in a world in which it is becoming increasingly relevant such an approach to leadership as argued by Blanchard (2017a) importantly guarantees human satisfaction and also delivers results. Secondly, given the current leadership crisis, which demands a shift in the leadership style practiced, the Servant Leadership Theory with its interesting propositions and recent rise in relevance, is a change in the fundamentals worth considering (Blanchard,2015). Thirdly, the servant leadership theory is not situation discriminatory, can be applied to almost all leadership settings and (Northouse,2013). Finally, given the multi-dimensional nature of leadership including the person, process and context, the servant leadership theory can be considered a holistic theory that considers all the 3 dimensions and brings to it an additional relevance for the follower.

Servant Leadership:
First proposed by Robert Greenleaf in 1970, the servant leadership theory has gathered a lot of attention in the past decade and is proposed by numerous scholars as a new leadership approach the contemporary world needs. Greenleaf (1970) suggested that good leaders must first become good servants. To reflect Greenleaf’s emphasis on servant leaders being people who serve first and lead second opposed to people who lead first and then serve due to a calling of the conscience, Sendjaya (2015) proposes a change in the term “servant-leaders” to “leading-servants”.

Sendjaya (2015, p.1) defines it as “a holistic approach to leadership that engages both leaders and followers through its service orientation, authenticity focus, relational emphasis, moral courage, spiritual motivation, and transforming influence such that they are both transformed into what they are capable of becoming”. The theory has two main aspects, a vision and direction aspect involving a strategic role for the leader (the leadership part of the theory) which focuses on setting a goal and direction for the team and second, an implementation aspect which involves an operational role for the leader (the serving part of the theory) which focuses on serving as a function of effective task implementation (Blanchard,2017b).

The servant leadership theory emphasises on the leader as someone who selflessly prioritises and strives for the development of his team members and the organisation over the achievement his/her personal goals. It thus draws the focus to one’s significance over one’s success; while a focus on success might involve money, status etc a focus on significance is about your contributions and the positive change you bring about in the lives of others (Tedx-Talks,2015). When you serve, your influence increases and when your influence increases so does your leadership (Tedx-Talks,2015).

Gandhi: A Brief Personal Profile
Affectionately addressed as Mahatma Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi led two and inspired many other civil dis-obedience based social movements around the world (Whipps,2008). Born on 2
nd October 1869 in Porbandar, Gandhi was a shy and mediocre child in school who “shone neither in the classroom nor in the playground” (Nanda,1958, p.1). As a shy child, he avoided socialisation and took to books whenever possible. Though a mediocre child in school, his strong precocious moral sensitiveness and integrity was reflected in many of his actions and the “slightest aspersion on his character drew his tears” (Nanda,1958, p.1). Married at the age of thirteen to Kasturbai, the immature husband he was, learnt from his mistakes and years later called his wife his teacher in non-violence (Gandhi,1948). After attending school in India, he moved to London in 1888 to study law (Nanda,1958).

Later in 1893, he moved to South Africa on a work contract, and there he encountered severe colour-discrimination. He was often belaboured on trains and denied a seat. He was deeply saddened by the oppression Indians were facing in South-Africa. At a question of the dignity of his fellow people and himself “the feeling of inferiority which had dogged him as a student in England and as a budding lawyer in India vanished” (Nanda,1958, p.39). He extended his stay in South Africa and a strong moral calling lead him to organise his first political campaign. By adopting his ideologies of ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (holding on to truth) Gandhi led the fight against colour-discrimination against Indians in South Africa (Heath,1944).



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