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     Albert Einstein referred to Gandhi as a “beacon
to the generations to come.”1
Being an innovator of Satyagraha
(resistance through non-violence), he is commonly recognized as one of the top
leaders of non-violence movements the globe has ever witnessed. Through his
philosophy of non-violence, Gandhi motivated other great leaders after him such
as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Moreover, he was recognized by
many authors as a servant leader. The aim of this paper is then to contend that
Gandhi was an Indian Nationalist in a way that he was a servant leader.

     Initially in 1970, Robert K. Greenleaf
invented the prevailed word “servant-leader”
after reading short novel called “Journey to the East” by Herman Hesse. 2
Based on the meaning he comprehended from the reading, Mr. Greenleaf determined
that the fundamental significance of a leader must first of all come from the knowledge
of being a servant. For example, the Bible shows the servant virtues of Jesus
Christ of the first century C.E, who educated his companions by teaching them, “he
who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”3
We can see here that Jesus based his instructions on servant leadership

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if we examine the two main Sanskrit epics of early India—namely the Mahabharata and Ramayana, we can
determine the concept of Indian origin of Servant Leadership theory. Rarick and
Nickerson further confirm this theory by stating that a leader as per Gita tradition is humanistic leader,
meaning a person who acts with out self-gain and who has great individual worry
for his followers. The Bhagavad Gita, while
enlisting the qualities of a superior person, says that “he is he who hates no
creature, who is friendly and compassionate to all, who is free from attachment
and egoism, balanced in pleasure, pain and forgiving.” 4
As we can note here, some key theories of servant leadership can be found in early
India’s Bhagavad Gita.

     In short profile of Mahatma Karamchand
Gandhi, Gandhi was born on October the second, 1869. During his school days
before he went to college, he was beneath average student and very nervous
person. He had the opportunity to go to England in 1888 where he would study
law. He returned to India in 1891 after concluding his law school in London. Nonetheless,
unable to exercise law in India, he went to South Africa (then British colony)
in 1893. His pleasure was limitless after he helped to resolve and settle a
difficult, out of court legal dispute that involved his firm. About this event
and gratification, he wrote “My joy was boundless. I had learnt the true
practice of law. I had learned to find out the better side of human nature and
to enter men’s hearts.”5
This occasion had a profound impact on Gandhi that set him apart from other lawyers
of his age because at that moment, his position differed and he looked onward
to providing service instead of creating a revenue. In South Africa, he faced the
miseries of his country men, women and children due to a racial tension which
inspired him to lead the Indians to the struggle against the racial problem by
embracing the tactic of Ahimsa (non-violence) and Satyagraha
(holding onto truth).6
So the question is, how was Gandhi, being a nationalist leader, was a servant

     According to the International Journal of
Leadership Studies, Sendjaya branded six various measurements of servant leader
behavior known as— Servant Leadership Behavioral Scale (SLBS).7
The scale’s six dimensions are:





Spirituality and


on this scale of study, Gandhi fits all of these measurements behavior. For example,

Voluntary Subordination: this quality is a revolutionary act of
will to voluntarily abandon oneself to other by being a servant and by acts of
Gandhi was a representation of service to mankind. In other words, he
represented the oppressed people he was trying to serve when others in
authority represented their power and egos in which they elevated themselves
above their subjects. The evidence of Gandhi’s symbol of service for example is
when he gave up everything and became like the people he tried to serve by dressing
in poor fashion and dedicating his time and energy weaving the clothes with
them. This simply shows his symbolic service to others rather than displaying

Authentic Self: Sendjaya reveals that, servant leaders
are capable of leading authentically, as manifested in their consistent display
of humility, integrity, accountability, security and vulnerability.9
Humility is the capability to make an accurate assessment of one’s self. Gandhi,
being a leader of Indian National Congress on its formation, he never tried to
sustain and preserve his leading position. He was always ready to give up his position
if other young leaders such as Nehru arose up to be a co-leaders of the

Covenantal Relationship: this value refers to behavior of the
leaders that nurture honest, profound and enduring affiliations with the
follower members such as by building a collaboration. When Gandhi went to
Pretoria, South Africa in 1893 for example, he was agonized immensely at the
hands of the European imperialists who treated other people as outsiders. He was
taken off the first class section of the train although he had authorized
ticket and was denied the hotel room and was forbidden to sit inside a carriage
with the white people.10
Yet, within a week, he was able to call for the convention and cooperated with
the oppressed people on how they should counter such racial treatments by the

Responsible Morality: it is stated that this fourth measurement
of servant leadership is manifested in the leader’s moral reasoning and moral
actions. As servant leaders always appeal to higher ideals and moral values,
they make sure that their actions are morally legitimized and thoughtfully
reasoned. As such Gandhi’s way of fighting the British was by using Satyagraha (insistence on truth).11
Gandhi believed in love rather than hate, non-violence rather violence,
forgiveness rather punishment, peaceful civil disobedience rather than violent
civil disobedience as a reaction to the British imperial government’s unfair regulations
and magnificently directed Indian commonalities to a controlled revolution and
finally independence by 1947.

Transcendental Spirituality:
this quality refers to
the inner conviction in a leader that something or someone beyond the self and
the material exists and makes life complete and meaningful and is expressed by
religiousness, interconnectedness and wholeness.12
This is definitely true with Gandhi’s life in which it involved meditation and
memorizing verses from the sacred scriptures on daily bases. His life was obsessed
by his faith, accuracy, passivity and a life of service the people.

Transforming Influence: central to the idea of servant leadership
is his/her transforming influence on the people through trust, mentoring,
modeling, visioning and empowerment.13
Gandhi was able to do all of these things during his non-violence campaign in
South Africa and India in transforming influences to other people. In one case
study which involved the Champaran peasants in 1917, he was called upon to
investigate the matter between the British landlords and indigenous peasants of
South Africa regarding the ownership of the land. When Gandhi showed up in town
to investigate the matter, he was ordered by official notice to leave the property
immediately and he refused out of a belief that the British landlords were
being unjust and oppressive. Since Gandhi rejected the official order, he was
taken to court and the crowds of peasants followed him to the court in order to
show that they demand justice and they stand firm with Gandhi. Few days later,
the court case was withdrawn and Gandhi consulted with representative of the
landlord in which he bartered for the compensation the unlawful profit of the
British landowners to peasants. The peasants thus felt empowered by Gandhi
after the land became their property.

     In conclusion, Gandhi was an Indian
nationalist in the way that he was a servant leader. The research study
provided in this paper confirms his servant leadership qualities which resulted
him in leading three hundred and ninety million Indian populations to independence
against few British rulers for two hundred years, by 1947.













1 Einstein, A (1939). Gandhi’s
statemenship. In S. Radhakrushnan, (ED.), Mahatma
Gandhi-Essays and reflections on his life and work (pp.40-45). Woking,
Great Britain, Unwin Brothers Limited.

Spears, 1996.

Matt. 23:11; New King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Siyananda, 2000: 12:13

Gandhi, 1948.

Heath, 1944.

Sendjaya, S. (2003). Development and
Validation of servant leadership behavior scale, Servant Leadership
Research Roundtable held in August 2003.

Sendjaya, 2005.

Sendjaya, S,. Sarros, J.C., & Santora, J.C (2008). Defining and measuring
servant leadership behavior in organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 45(2), 402-424.

Fischer, Gandhi His life and Message for
the World, 19.

Shridharani, 1939.

Sendjaya, 2005.

Sendjaya, 2008.

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