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Mahatma Gandhi

Discuss about the Leadership Style of Obama and Mahatma Gandhi.

The world famous leaders have some innate and distinctive characteristics that distinguish them from rest of the world. Along with it, the great leaders respect others, their rights, dignity and the values. It is considered as ethical leadership. Researchers and common people always certain questions regarding which traits distinguish the leaders from the crowd and whether these leadership traits can be attained. The leadership style of an individual is also dependent upon the situation. In the present, the leadership styles have evolved from autocratic and directive to participative and democratic.

There are some primary characteristics that distinguish a great leader from others such as the great leaders always leave a legacy behind them and values or principles are followed even after their lives, the words of the great leaders are remembered by many generations after them and they are still relevant in their context and the great leaders are always spoken with admiration and respect (Lorg, 2007). The great leaders respect different cultures and acknowledge the major differences. It is called multicultural leadership. These leaders come from diversified backgrounds, some from very humble beginnings and some from affluent families. All the great leaders have some common characteristics like they are always ethical, focused, just, fair and humane (Gini & Green, 2013). In a business environment, the leadership and the organization problems are integrated with the human psychology to find better solutions to the problems. This cross-disciplinary field is called leadership psychology. The statement of purpose of the essay is, “To examine the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Barack Obama and identify whose leadership style is more relevant in the present context.”

Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandh) was born in 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat in a prosperous family. He trained to work as a barrister and worked for a brief period in India. However, as Gandhi was too shy to speak in court, he shifted to South Africa, wherein he was moved by the injustice with which the immigrant Indians was treated. After almost twenty years he moved back to India to protest against the British rulers and the exploitation of the Indians (Leadership Lime, 2016).

Gandhi was humanitarian, an ethical leader, he believed in non-violence and protested against racism and discrimination. The primary characteristics of Gandhi leadership style were that he was charismatic, inspirational and visionary. One of the innate characteristics of great leaders is their ethical conduct and social responsibility. The leaders always show high ethical standards and acknowledge the moral consequences of their decisions (Eisenbeiss, 2012). It is observed in the Gandhi’s approach of nonviolence, in which it is believed the right to live is the fundamental right of every human being and should not be breeched in any case. The idea of nonviolence is demonstrated my many scholars as the most revolutionary idea of the 21st century (McMahon, 2004).

Barack Obama

The path-goal leadership is defined as a leadership style wherein the leadership style is focused on achieving the goals. In Gandhi’s speeches, the intolerable nature of the British rules was presented according to the vales of moral justification and appealing to values of the mass public. Moreover, in the Gandhi’s speeches the language used to stress his similarity with the followers, their worth and linking the past, present and the future and abstract themes that appealed to the public. The collective focus, aggressive and active speech resulted in mass appeal and following of Gandhi (Bligh and Robinson, 2010). The charismatic leaders often preserves most of the control and do not trust someone else easily. Therefore, this leadership style does not yield successors and visionaries.

He was also a transformational leader. He was a charismatic leader. In this leadership style, the leader has a genuine concern for the welfare of the followers and has ethical values embedded in his strategies and actions. He encouraged people to follow him in public drives and protest against the discrimination in a non-violent manner.

The revolutionary approaches and the leadership style of Mahatma Gandhi are respected through different cultures and various western countries. Gandhi posited tat cultural and language diversity are the intrinsic characteristics of India and British rule cannot discriminate the people upon its basis (Barnabas and Clifford, 2012). Equality and diversity are the major principles of Gandhi. He also stated that wit differentiation it becomes increasingly difficult for the different civilizations to coexist adjacently. The multicultural leadership style states that the leader must be able to navigate through different culture and respect them. Therefore, Gandhi was a multicultural leader (Soo, 2012).

It could be critiqued that the personality of Gandhi comes under the category of Agreeableness in the big five personality traits.  It is the personality trait to be cooperative, humane, gentle and kind. It is also strongly correlated to charismatic personality and leadership style (Raad, 2000). The personality of Gandhi is characterized by his genuine appearance, half-naked which related to the common man at that time. He was fierce yet humble. Another prime aspect of his personality was his charisma and knowledge which has influenced many generations and gains followers at present also. He was empathetic, resilient, inspirational and persuasive. He believed in his purpose, has perseverance and was strategic. He adopted the strategies of non-violence and Satyagraha to fight against the British rule.

Ethical Leadership

The statement of purpose of the essay can be restated as, “Mahatma Gandhi was a charismatic leader who adopted the path-goal leadership style. He was an ethical and multicultural leader and came under agreeableness category in leadership personality.”

Barack Obama

Barack Obama was born in 1961 and became the 44th president of USA. He was born in Hawaii and his mother was of English ancestry whereas his father was Kenyan. 1n 1988, Obama enrolled in the law school, excelled in academics and become the president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review (Military Center, 2016).

Although President Obama did not show his leadership traits earlier, later he realized that he wants to change the world for betterment. His vision was missionary and he was persistent even when he encountered failure initially. The basic characteristics of the transformational leadership style are that it provides inspiration and influence followers to be more productive (Green and Roberts, 2012). It could be critiqued that President Obama is an ethical leader and implements ethical principles in all his actions. Recently, several actions of President Obama such as healthcare reforms, approval of gay marriage and less dependency on the foreign oil has made him an ideal leader. He is known to take personal risk for the welfare of the society and sending his message. Obama created policies in several controversial subjects that could have back-fired him which shows that he can take risk for taking correct decisions. In all the speeches of the Barack Obama, the hidden message of a community is common. He uses pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘us’ which allows the people to identify with him and his cause (Calhoun, 2016).

The leadership style of President Obama reflects that he is a transformational leader. In his public speeches, it can be examined that Obama is engaging and charismatic with the public. He tries to make connections with the people all across America. He is also motivating and builds relationship with the people. These characteristics of his personality clearly align him with transformational leadership style. A transformational leader is always caring and empathetic for his followers. He also takes decision in collaboration with his followers. The transformational leadership style is the leadership style that emphasizes transforming the followers. In this leadership style, the leaders are motivating towards their followers and deliver outstanding performance that inspires the followers to work be more productive, efficient (Bass and Riggio, 2006).

Leadership Style or Evolution of Leadership

In his public appearances, Obama is shown as intelligent and authentic. He is demonstrated showing intelligence in his strategic initiatives and policies. The personality traits of Barack Obama are collaboration, decisiveness, thinker, personal time, honesty, empathy and fearlessness (Advise America, 2016; Renshon, 2012).

As the President Obama is from multicultural background, he is able to relate with different cultures and respect the uniqueness and distinctiveness of each culture. Multicultural leadership is especially important in a country as culturally and ethnically diverse as the United States of America. The upbringing of President Obama in Indonesia and Hawaii made him respectful of different cultures. It is a practice of incorporating the practices and values of diverse cultures in a respectful manner (Marranis, 2016; Zennie, 2011).

The statement of purpose of the essay can be restated as, “Barack Obama is a transformational leader. He is an ethical and multicultural leader who is an intelligent person”.

These leaders have certain charisma and charm that motivate thousands of people to follow them. The leadership style of both Gandhi and Obama was quite different although both were successful in addressing their vision and objectives. In the present times, the leadership style of Obama is more relevant. Gandhi was a charismatic leader and he used his charm and persuasive skills to drive people for his vision and dreams. He believed in a free world where every person has equal opportunities and the choice to live according to his choice. This situation is also relevant at present also as the people still cannot live according to their choice. It can be depicted by the ban on gay marriages which was removed in the United States of America by President Obama. It could be understood that both the leaders were equally ethical and humane. In regard to multicultural leadership, both the leaders were effective in leading and respecting people from diversified cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  However, Gandhi was inflexible which is implicit by his total exclusion of foreign equipment and device (Mahatma Gandhi, n.d.).

In the present world of globalization, it is impossible to abandon the products of the rest of the world and lie in a self-sufficient manner. Another major teaching of Mahatma Gandhi was that industrialization was the major reason for the environmental degradation and will decrease the prosperity of the future generations subsequently. This teaching of Gandhi is also inapt as in the present world is globalized and heavily industrialized. As for the environmental degradation, the notion of sustainability and sustainable development is adopted. In addition to it, there are also certain disadvantages of charismatic leadership style in the present context. The charismatic leadership style is considered as a potential attribute in inspiring followers and gaining support from the mass audience. However, there are certain disadvantages associated with charismatic leadership like it puts too much reliance on the leader. As it an inspirational leadership style, the followers become too much reliant on the leader for motivation and working. The leader has a very high responsibility for motivating the people and taking strategic initiatives to achieve his aim.

Leadership Theories

It is often observed that the leaders who follow this leadership style are not able to turn their duties to other as they enjoy having control or feel that nobody else is capable of handling their duties. The organization climate or environment developed in charismatic leadership style is authorities which hinders creativity and innovation, which are essential components of success currently (Frost, 2016). In contrast to it, the transformational leadership foster innovation, creativity and inculcates the sense of independence in the team members so that maximum efficiency and productivity can be obtained. The charismatic leaders are ethical, show integrity and demonstrate a purpose to their team members to keep them motivated. In transformational leadership, the leader sets high standards of the people and achieve them himself to set an example to his followers.  In the present context, the competition in every field is very high; therefore, it is important that the leader must be able to inspire the followers to give him maximum output which can be attained through transformational leadership. His leadership style is also more relatable to people.


Conclusively, it can be stated that every great leader has peculiar leadership style which is unique and different from others. The leadership style of a person is dependent on many factors such as personality and the upbringing of an individual. Although the primary characteristics of the leadership style of every leader are different, there are some qualities that are similar in every great leader such as quality of multiculturalism leadership and ethical leadership. All great leaders are ethical and examine the moral and the ethical outcomes of their actions. Along with it, the leaders are also able to respect and attain the best qualities of all the cultures. It has been examined in the essay that the leadership style of Mahatma Gandhi is charismatic whereas the leadership style of Barack Obama is transformational. Obama has empathy and cares for the public of the United States of America. In the present times, the leadership style of Obama is more relevant as he has taken several controversial yet moral initiatives for the welfare of the people. The statement of purpose of essay can be restated as, “The leadership style of Obama is more relatable in the present context”.


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