Essay: “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” – John Maxwell

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  • Subject area(s): Leadership essays
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  • Published on: February 4, 2019
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From the Egyptian Pharaohs to the Kings and Queens of England, Russian Czars to Japanese Emperors, society has always had a hierarchy of interaction between classes of groups within social construct. The people in which lead governments and various societies are not always in the highest rankings or born of the highest statuses however. A leader might be an official to lead power and maintain order, yet it is through personal connections, inspiration, and great emphasis on personal values that the most memorable leaders are made from.

Mahatma Gandhi and Osama bin Laden were both extremely influential figures and risen leaders of their societies who successfully motivated thousands of people to act on behalf of their visions and beliefs, though neither had the same tactics of influence as the other. While Mahatma Gandhi was pacifist, he encouraged peace and compassion on the behalf of freedom and civil rights in India. Osama bin Laden was a brilliant tactician and militant based on his values of war and intolerance to emphasize extreme religious propaganda. Interestingly enough, both leaders were killed by their opposing political and military parties.

On October 2nd, 1869 in Porbandar, India, Mahatma Gandhi was born to the Dewan (Chief of Porbandar) and his wife. Through his childhood, Gandhi was taught the religious tenets of discipline and nonviolence through Vaishnavism (worship of the Hindu god Vishnu), as his mother was deeply religious to Jainism (the influence of Vishnu). Gandhi left home to pursue law and social justice at the Inner Temple in London, England. It was there that Gandhi began pursuing various religious and sacred texts to from other religions and aspects of the world. Upon his return to India, the need for work was met with struggle and with no luck in securing work as a lawyer or an administrative position, Gandhi migrated to Durban, South Africa, after securing a contract to provide legal services.

In South Africa, the birth of passive disobedience became Mahatma Gandhi’s vocal point of providing change. Shortly after arriving in South Africa, Gandhi was appalled at the discrimination and lack of care towards fellow Indian immigrants at the hands of European authorities. An important moment of Gandhi’s life was the day of June 7th, 1893, when he refused to give up his first-class railway seat (he had a ticket) when a white man objected to his presence. Upon Gandhi’s refusal, he was forcibly kicked off and thrown off the train. From that point on, Gandhi made a point to fight for the oppression of civil liberties that befell those in lower classes under racist and fascist authorities. After his contract had ended, Gandhi learned of a Transvaal government (South African authorities) bill that was passed in which stated that Indians would not be allowed to vote.

Upon this clearance of oppression upon the ordinance of Indian immigrants living in South Africa, Gandhi later returned with his wife and children and lead civil rights campaigns for eight years. He organized strikes, hunger fasting and methods that did not pursue violence on the resistances behalf. Thousands of Indians were imprisoned, flogged, beaten, and even killed. Because of this disruption and Gandhi’s efforts to make sure international attention was brought to this civil conflict, pressure from the British and Indian governments made the Transvaal negotiate and enact the agreement made by Gandhi that put an end to the civil rights struggle of Indian immigrants. This agreement allowed Indian marriages, abolishment of poll tax, and the right to vote.

Returning to India once more, Gandhi stressed the importance of economic independence from British colonies for India at the time. Due to his values of meditation, peace, and fasting, people came to call Gandhi “Mahatma”, meaning “great soul”. It was through these values that Gandhi staged boycotts against British manufacturers, institutions, and anything against British influence in India. British authorities tried and arrested Gandhi in 1922 for six years in prison but was let out early due to an appendicitis. After multiple resistance movements against British authority in India (Salt taxes especially), Gandhi was invited to represent the Congress Party at the Round Table Conference in London to speak on behalf of the Hindu and Muslim faiths in civil discomfort due to British reign.

After retiring from politics, Gandhi’s final demonstration for civil rights was for peace in the city of Delhi to encourage cooperation between Hindus and Muslims. 12 days after the fast had ended, upon his way to an evening prayer, Mahatma Gandhi was shot and killed by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic who was angered by Gandhi’s ways of protest and efforts of negotiation between Hindus and Muslims. The day after his assassination, Mahatma Gandhi was featured across every front page in almost every major newspaper of the world as a symbol of loss that India would have a hard time recovering from. He was greatly praised and cherished, as many nations mourned the loss of the peaceful leader.

While the peaceful efforts and passive disobedience is what Mahatma Gandhi is most well known for, Osama bin Laden has very different views and perspectives in which he enacted his civil justice upon society. It is the actions of these two influential leaders that made change, for better or for worse, and it is the actions that speak louder than words. While having two different agendas and tactics, these leaders have many similarities such as being scholars, pursuing what they believe to be civil justice, and influence over many others.

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