Remembering Gandhi – Methods of action


“You must be the change you wish to see.” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

The birthday of Mahatma Gandhi is an occasion to reflect on the many lessons he taught us. He was a true genius whose life and writings traversed vast grounds.

Last year, I elaborated on some of his leadership principles that I considered relevant to our work today: seeking truth, commitment to integrity, the understanding that ignoble means cannot justify laudable ends, the value of beliefs and causes that transcend personal interests, transparency and consistency, clarity of goals and communications, the strategy of disruption and the application of ideals to achieve a mission.

This year, let me share some thoughts on his methods of action that we can apply to our work and lives.

The Mahatma led by example. He demonstrated his beliefs through actions, even in little things. Doing so made him credible. On a visit to India from South Africa in 1901, when he found the Congress session premises in Calcutta were not clean, he took a broom and promptly started cleaning.

He dealt with others with respect. This characteristic increased his powers to persuade and lead. His letters, regardless of whether to children who wrote to him or world leaders or intellectuals (even those who disagreed with him), were never condescending. He used respect to win people over, even his adversaries. He did not rely on the power of his position.

He was persistent, extraordinarily so. He did not relent on his goals, large or small – whether sticking to the path of non-violence or keeping a promise to his mother regardless of temptation. His persistence was driven by an enormous will power to achieve his goals.

He was structured, disciplined and methodical. This was seen in the way he organised the Congress party when he assumed its leadership in 1920, converting it into an organisation for mass action. His regular essays in Young India were rigorous in ensuring effective communication of his goals.

He was a life-long learner. He sought greater understanding through reading, study and correspondence from his days as a student in London. He recorded his learnings, most notably in My Experiments with Truth.

He built strong relationships. The connections he created throughout his life across a variety of personalities, from Leo Tolstoy to Franklin Roosevelt, enhanced his ability to influence events.