Gandhi, Mobilising and Activated Leadership
One of the ways I view humans and our ability to solve our problems is through the lens of leadership. Readers of this newsletter will know how I fundamentally believe that we each have the ability to lead and impact. The old paradigm that sees leaders standing in one corner and the rest of us standing in the other needs to be put out of its misery. It’s a liberating notion to think we all have the ability to be bold, cut through and make something happen!
In the work I’m doing with organisations and individuals, its been helpful to see leadership in the following way: as either activated or dormant. This is because the potential is present in everyone – it’s either expressed (activated) or not (dormant), but it’s always available.
I really like this way of seeing leadership. Activated leadership is like a switch – the current is always there if you know how to turn it on.
This model might be useful – where do you sit? What about your organisation?
Check out the top right quarter – it’s my leadership happy spot. Being a mobiliser is key if you want to make a difference in the world. Mobilising others is the way ideas spread and culture is changed or built. It’s an act of leadership when you foster leadership in others.
There are ways to become a mobiliser and create that culture. Being a mobiliser is not about you. It’s about the mission. When we are working from a bigger vision or mission, we ignite that possibility in others.
Gandhi’s Salt March to me is the epitome of mobiliser as a leadership principle, and it is a moment in history I often return to for inspiration and understanding on how to mobilise and build a movement.
In 1930 the British put a tax on salt which put it out of reach the poorest people, and Gandhi used this as his first mass act of civil disobedience. He decided to walk to the sea (nearly 400 kms) over 24 days to collect his own salt. What had started with a small group of 78 people, ended up trailing for miles, with thousands joining the ranks. Along the road, hundreds of thousands crowded, offering support.
When he got to the ocean he was met by soldiers. He bent and picked up a handful of muddy salt and said “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.”
This was the first act of a campaign to free India from British rule, and it mobilised the country. Within a month 60,000 people were jailed for acts of non violent resistance, international media reported the story and the rest, they say, is history. The Salt March was instrumental in catalysing a nation, and 30 years later it influenced Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in the US.
Gandhi was a mobiliser. No question. He is a classic example of activated leadership. When he was younger, his leadership potential was dormant. He was a mediocre son, student and husband. A series of events in South Africa activated him, and he used this to mobilise. He knew that whatever he wanted to accomplish needed to be bigger than him. He needed to build a movement. This is the essence of an empowered leader.
You too have your version of being a mobiliser.
The other quadrants – Dictator, Conformer, and Appeaser – are all ways of being that we see in every organisation, and I’ll talk more about them in future newsletters. It’s good to know what they are, and when you or your team are stuck in one of these other quadrants. The aspiration of a leadership team or organisation wanting to activate empowered leaders is to move as many people into the mobiliser quadrant as possible. That’s how change happens. (There are ways to do this that I’d love to help you with.)
I’ll leave the last word to Mahatma Gandhi.
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”