Leadership Lessons on Martyr’s Day

In the Dandi march led by Mahatma Gandhi, we learn that he wanted to show to the world that Non-Violence is a powerful weapon in the important, battle for ‘Right versus Might.’ He said, ‘This is an opportunity of a lifetime.’  The prime elements in Gandhi’s satyagraha, fasts, padayatras, marches, prayer meetings and negotiations with political rivals & British rulers were – transparency, methodical humane approach and insistence on ‘purity of means’ to achieve the desired goals. His methodical approach is best seen in the historical ‘Dandi March’, through which one can take lessons of Gandhi’s outstanding leadership achievements. We need to keep in mind that he neither had the benefit of personality development classes, communication training, management lessons or leadership workshops nor good looks nor a great oratory. His only guidance came from his inner voice.

Here are few leadership lessons that we learn from Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March.

  1. Courage of conviction

The country was eager for the civil disobedience movement after the Lahore Congress. People anxiously awaited Gandhi’s announcement of the program. For many days he had struggled for inspiration. Finally it did come to him in a flash. Once he was convinced of the program, Gandhi did not waste his time and advised his followers.  Gandhi believed that the moment was ripe for the new dramatic and completely non-violent campaign; ‘The Salt Satyagraha’. His ingenuity lay in being transparent. The issue of civil disobedience was made public. In his letter to the Viceroy, Gandhi had declared that he would break the Salt Act by marching from the Sabarmati Ashram. He had addressed the British Viceroy in India in the letter as ‘Dear Friend’. This was always a part of the Gandhian method; in his world view, there were no enemies, because he was fighting the evil of the system and not the individuals. Gandhi, the satyagrahi, hated the sin, but not the sinner. He wrote, ‘They said they did not want to meet me saying ‘talking to you is useless.’ Hence Gandhiji said ‘when I asked for rotis, they gave me stones in return.’

  • Organizational skills and Charisma

Gandhi’s organizational skills are best seen in the manner in which he reconstructed the Indian National Congress from 1915 to 1930. Gandhi knew that the Salt Satyagraha would be a definitive step towards freedom. This experiment in Non-Violence curbed the intermittent but widespread incidents of violence and infused people with positive energy. The reason was that Gandhi, the practical idealist had the vision that he would walk to the seashore and make salt. In one of the most illuminating moment of India’s non-violent struggle for freedom, Gandhi chose Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who could execute his vision perfectly. This was the finest example of the executive foresight of  Mahatma Gandhi, who understood and had empathy with the Indian villages more than anyone else. He was to do this all along the route of the Dandi march. The march was a way of awakening the people.

  • Leading by example

Gandhi’s great achievement was that he included band of Satyagrahis who accompanied him in the Dandi march & also many other such people from India and abroad who joined him, is ample proof of his incredible charisma. The group walked in the early morning, rested during the hottest part of the day and walked in the evening to the destination. At nights, they slept at Dharmashalas or village inns instead of private homes. That way, there was no retaliation against the home owners who might have welcomed them. Each village provided Gandhi with an opportunity to lead by example.

  • Communication skills

Gandhi also kept up heavy writing schedule. He wrote regular articles and on March 24, 1930 he produced seven articles for ‘Young India’. Gandhi’s communication skills transformed India’s freedom struggle from one waged by a small elite, urban group into a mass movement in which millions of Indians from every strata of society enthusiastically participated. It was the largest ‘people power’ struggle in the history. His historic salt march and his publicly breaking the salt law was a communication masterpiece. News about it was carried in over 1000 newspapers worldwide. TIME magazine put him on the front cover of its January 4, 1931 issue as the ‘Man of the Year.’

The event, which was widely covered by the press, thrilled the nation and electrified the world and when Gandhi reached the ocean and picked up a fistful of salty mud on April 6, 1930, India began making and selling illegal salt everywhere. Gandhi and others were quickly rounded up, but their arrest only raised the pitch of the resistance and increased the intensity of the world’s focus on India. Finally, it pressurized the British Viceroy into repealing the salt tax and other repressive measures according to the management guru and author Alan Axelrod.

Triumph of Spirit of the Non Violence

The remarkable and unprecedented events of Dandi culminated at the Dharasana salt works. Gandhi was now in prison, but another protégé of Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, led a group of 2500 volunteers and Satyagrahis in a non-violent raid into the salt works. As the throng drew near the salt pans they commenced chanting the revolutionary slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ intoning the two words over and over again.  The mood of agitation embraced all the cities of India, be it Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc. as active youth took on the agitation with determination, ready to be martyred. Gandhi’s color had rubbed onto everyone. And if there was one reason above this, it was that everyone had tasted the Sabras or Salt of Independence with greater enthusiasm as Gandhi lifted a pinch of salt at the Dandi shore: Swaraj was now at the doorstep.