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8 Management Lessons from India’s Freedom Struggle
We recently celebrated Indian Independence Day on 15 August. I cherish the freedom and celebrate India’s growth towards global recognition. Going back in history, Indian freedom struggle lasted nearly a century. The last 25 years of the struggle was lead by Mahatma Gandhi on the concept of non-violence.
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India is one of the unique countries which gained freedom without much bloodshed. I think there are lot of management lessons which corporate world is implementing presently which were prevalent in the freedom struggle.

In this post I am exploring Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership and management style, and linking it to the current management practices.

 1. Walk the talk

Mahatma Gandhi preached the concept of simple living and high thinking, although he came from an affluent Indian family. He came up with various austere living standards and requested his followers to adopt them. His kept his life open to public scrutiny. People may debate regarding his personal choices but no one would raise questions on his ethics and integrity. Irrespective of the difficulty involved, he always was able to take the high moral ground and never compromised on his personal values. In the present corporate world we respect the leaders who are able to walk the talk, demonstrate ethical and principled behavior and lead by example.

 2. Think out of the box

The strategy and tactics adopted during the Indian independence struggle were unlike any other country’s revolution. Some of the concepts were:

 • Non-violence – A war fought on the basis of principles without any bloodshed.

• Civil disobedience- Court arrest if the British officials are threatening imprisonment for demanding your rights.

 • Non-cooperation- The message given was maintain your jobs with the British Empire, however do not support it regarding its practices against Indian people. Managements today are advocating out of the box thinking and competing strategically. The organization which implements a unique strategy generally wins the market.

3. Brand building

Mahatma Gandhi’s personal brand has lasted 60 years after his death without any investment. He created a brand of a simple moral man living life on the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence). His home spun cotton clothes, wooden shaft, leather slippers, vegetarian meals and home at the ashram all embodied his personal brand. His character and communication depicted his core values to the masses. We must acknowledge that fact that very few leaders in history have as strong a brand image as Gandhi. The corporate world is spending huge sums on advertising to build the corporate brand. We hear Tom Peters and other management gurus talking about building the “Brand You”.

4. Competitor’s size doesn’t matter

The Indian freedom struggle gained ground by the idea of a few committed individuals who wished to bring about a change. They envisaged taking on the might of British Empire who had the resources, funds, weapons and management capability. The Indian leadership team acknowledged the strengths of the British Empire and devised a strategy which minimized those strengths. They built a strategy on the following:

• Non-violence which required no weapons;

• Asked masses to contribute for the independence and live frugally, hence survived on minimal resources;

• Developed local leadership across all regions under Congress banner. Using a similar strategy Barrack Obama won the American president el



 
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