This essay gives an overview of various leadership types and its main focuson the situational leadership. It attempts to explain the situational leadership process with an example of Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi as a situational leader. It further explores the attributes that Mahatma Gandhi as a situational leader possesses. The essay also tries to find out various effects of situational leadership. While mentioning the positive effects of the situational leadership, it also investigates the “dark” side of the situational leadership. After reading the essay the readers are expected to have gained enough familiarity with this kind of leadership and at the end of the essay.
Any type of organisation, country or political party runs successfully when it is piloted by a skillful and influential leader. While leaders motivate their followers, it is not the only thing leaders can do. A good leader can structure the organisation in the way he wants. He represents the culture of the organization and most importantly, it has been observed that effective leaders posses a capacity to increase the productivity of the organization. Various scholars categorize leadership styles in a different way. Lewin (1939) classifies leadership styles in three categories: Autocratic Leadership, Democratic Leadership and Delegative (Laissez-Faire) Leadership.
Mohandas Gandhi was born in the western part of British-ruled India on October 2, 1869. A timid child, he was married at thirteen to a girl of the same age, Kasturbai. Following the death of his father, Gandhi’s family sent him to England in 1888 to study law. There, he became interested in the philosophy of nonviolence, as expressed in the Bhagavad-Gita, Hindu sacred scripture, and in Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in the Christian Bible. He returned to India in 1891, having passed the bar, but found little success in his attempts to practice law. Seeking a change of scenery, he accepted a position in South Africa for a year, where he assisted on a lawsuit.
In South Africa, he became involved in efforts to end discrimination against the Indian minority there, which were oppressed both by the British and by the Boers, descendants of the original Dutch settlers of the region. Having intended to stay a year, he ended up remaining until 1914 (his wife and children had joined him, meanwhile, in 1896). He founded the Natal Indian Congress, which worked to further Indian interests, and commanded an Indian medical corps that fought on the British side in the Boer War (1899-1901), in which the British conquered the last independent Boer republics.
After the war, Gandhi’s reputation as a leader grew. He became even more adamant in his personal principles, practicing sexual abstinence, renouncing modern technology, and developing satyagraha-literally, “soul- force.” Satyagraha was a method of non-violent resistance, often called “non-cooperation,” that he and his allies used to great effect against the white governments in South Africa. Their willingness to endure punishment and jail earned the admiration of people in Gandhi’s native India, and eventually won concessions from the Boer and British rulers. By 1914, when Gandhi left South Africa and returned to India, he was known as a holy man: people called him a “Mahatma”, or “great soul.”
At this point, he was still loyal to the British Empire, but when the British cracked down on Indian civil liberties after World War I, Gandhi began to organize nonviolent protests. The Amritsar Massacre, in which British troops gunned down peaceful Indian protestors, convinced Gandhi and India of the need for self-rule, and in the early ’20s Gandhi organized large-scale campaigns of non-cooperation that paralyzed the subcontinent’s administration-and led to his imprisonment, from 1922 to 1924. After his release, he withdrew from politics for a time, preferring to travel India, working among the peasantry. But in 1930, he wrote the Declaration of Independence of India, and then led the Salt March in protest against the British monopoly on salt. This touched off acts of civil disobedience across India, and the British were forced to invite Gandhi to London for a Round-Table Conference.
Although Gandhi received a warm welcome in England, the Conference foundered on the issue of how an independent India would deal with its Muslim minority, and Gandhi withdrew from public life again. But independence could not be long delayed. The Government of India Act (1935) surrendered significant amounts of power to Indians, and the Indian National Congress clamored for more. When World War II broke out, India erupted into violence, and many nationalist leaders, including Gandhi, went to prison. After the war, the new British government wanted to get India off its hands quickly. But Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the head of the Muslim League, demanded that a separate state be created for India’s Muslims, and to Gandhi’s great distress, the Congress leaders and the harried British agreed. August of 1947 saw India’s attainment of independence-as well as its partition into two countries, India and Pakistan. However, neither measure served to solve India’s problems, nor the country immediately fell apart: Hindus and Muslims killed each other in alarming numbers while refugees fled toward the borders. Heartbroken, Gandhi tried to calm the country, but to no avail. He was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist in Delhi on January 30, 1948, and India mourned the loss of its greatest hero. Gandhi’s leadership style is being termed as ‘follower-centric’ and that took into account existing conditions before determining the strategy. Gandhi advocated having leadership styles that were dependent on the circumstances. When Gandhi was in South Africa, he launched his protests in a suit and a tie. But when he came back to India, he thought of khadi and launched non-violent protests on a greater scale; it shows that Gandhiji’s leadership style was situational leadership style.
Harry S. Truman, (2003) describes leadership as the ability to get men to do what they don’t like to do and like it.
John Gardner, (2003) describes leadership as the process of persuasion or example by which an individual (or a leadership team) induces a group to pursue objectives held by the leader or shared by the leader and his or her followers.
“The reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers”. (James McGregor Burns, 2003).
Hersey and Blanchard (1988) developed a particular form of contingency theory which has become well known as situational leadership. Making the point that the appropriateness of a leadership style is a function of the situation, they focused attention on ‘subordinate maturity’ as a contingent variable, by which they meant the ability and willingness of a subordinate to work without direction. Where subordinate maturity is high, a relationship-oriented style is appropriate, but where maturity is lacking a more task-oriented style will prove more effective.
Situational leadership theory is one of the type of leadership theory, leadership model and leadership style that believes that different leadership style suit different situations. That is as per the situation, you should apply leadership style. Situational leadership theory assumes that the best action to be taken by a leader depends on the situation. As the situation changes, you (leader) should also quickly change the leadership style. Depending on the situation, you (leader) should adopt leadership style.
A situational leadership model is also associated with situational leadership theory. The basic idea of this model is that leadership flexibility is necessary for effective leadership. It also believes that different leadership approaches are required for different situations. This model defines four leadership styles. These styles are based on how much guidance or direction the leader can give to his or her followers.
The above situational leadership model is applied on the Mahatma Gandhi in order to prove that he was a situational leader. In the following passages different action, reactions and incident from the life of the Gandhi are chosen that proves him a situational leader.
Leadership developed by Robert House (1971) which defines that leaders make a clear and easy path for their followers and to fulfill the goals encourage and supports them to take it. The leaders clarify the path for followers and remove the roadblocks that might stop them from attaining the goal. For laying the path for followers a leader can follow any of the given leadership behavior.
First the directive leader in which the leader lets the follower know what is expected of them, schedules work to be done and give specific guidance as to how to accomplish task. When Mahatma Gandhi called up all the community who were not being treated equally and made a speech to them asking all the non Europeans to burn their passes which showed their symbol of status. By doing so he was asking government for the right to claim them as equal citizens of the empire. We can see that he was making sure the followers know what is expected from them and he gave specific guidance what and how it would be accomplished. And for scheduling he made sure there is enough public gathered so he asks his wife to encourage some female along with her.
The second kind of behavior is coaching leader who tries to promote good friendly relation within the group and shows concern for the welfare of the followers. In this way during “Salt march” from Ahmadabad to Dandi, Gandhi had gone there quietly; it would just not have made an impact. He knew he had to create an event to make an impact and so he took his followers on a march that stirred popular imagination of the time. He had a total understanding of the human psychology and used it along with his public relation skills. By doing this Gandhi coached his followers
The third kind of behavior is supportive leader who tries to promote good friendly relation within the group and shows concern for the welfare of the followers. This kind of leadership depicted takes the help of followers for day-to-day decision. Decisions include processes and task allocation. The leader facilitates decisions but the final decision is taken by the follower. The Non-cooperation movement was a significant phase of the Indian struggle for freedom from British rule. This movement, which lasted from 1920 to 1922, was led by Gandhi, and supported by the Indian National Congress. It aimed to resist British occupation of India through non-violent means. Protestors would refuse to buy British goods, adopt the use of local handicrafts, picket liquor shops, and try to uphold the values of Indian honor and integrity. The Gandhian ideals of ahisma or non-violence, and his ability to rally hundreds of thousands of common citizens towards the cause of Indian independence, were first seen on a large scale in this movement.
Gandhiji while working for independence of India used to consult other leaders like Pandit Nehru, Gokhale, Maulana Azad who were his followers as well. The last kind of leadership behaviour according to the Path-Goal theory is achievement-oriented leader where the leader sets a challenging goal both for self improvement and work. The leader shows and expects high demonstration and has faith in the capabilities of the followers to succeed.
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