If you look at any successful world leader you will notice three key traits: character, competency, and consistency. A leader may be competent but not charismatic, charismatic but not competent, both competent and charismatic but not consistent; without all three traits a leader will never achieve greatness. Having these traits are necessary, while the individual leadership style a leader chooses to utilize may vary. The two styles that we will elaborate on are passive leadership vs aggressive leadership.
The two public figures that we will use as examples of each leadership style will be Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler. Gandhi’s approach was one of quiet, peaceful, nonviolent protest. On the other hand Adolf Hitler gained political favor through the use of loud, violent, hate speech. Whether beneficial or maleficent to humanity, both men secured a spot in history for their achievements in the social and political arena. This essay will define the aspects of their leadership styles rather than debate the ethics of their movements.
Known for his revolutionary use of nonviolence to lead a successful campaign for India’s independence, Mahatma Gandhi was born in 1869 in Porbandar, India (Nanda,2020). Widely recognized as one of history’s most notable leaders, Gandhi’s approach to overcoming adversity and becoming India’s most reputable leader is iconic. For more than a decade Gandhi spearheaded India’s national congress’s struggle to separate from British rule. Instead of traditional attempts to spark an armed rebellion and incite a revolt, Gandhi pioneered new methods of achieving independence. Gandhi’s desire for sovereignty was shared by his people.
Although his cause was genuine and widely felt by his followers, this is not the sole reason for his success. Gandhi had character, was competent and very consistent. His leadership style was one of a passive, peaceful, “lead by example” approach. Instead of raising discourse between his people his techniques included vows of silence, bouts of extended fasting, and protest marching (Nanda,2020). Starving himself combined with threats of suicide showed immense dedication to his cause. The use of nonviolence (ashima) was a popular ideology used in Gandhi’s international politics (Nanda,2020). His actions inspired others around the world; in a time of violence, Gandhi sought to pacify the world.
On the other end of the spectrum, occurring during the same time period, Adolf Hitler horrified the world with his tyrannical rule of Germany. The most disturbing detail is that Hitler maintained the support of millions of Germans throughout his entire campaign which committed countless acts against humanity. His leadership style was almost completely opposite to Gandhi’s and he will forever be known as one of the most evil men in history.
Where Gandhi used a passive approach to gaining support from his followers, Hitler preached aggressive, armed, action. After Hitler’s seizure of power, Germany experienced economic growth, disregard for restrictions imposed on Germany after WWI, and the annexation of several ethnic German territories (Bullock).
These political movements gave Hitler a massive following and are example of his competency. Hitler further roused the German public by using loud, aggressive speech. He was open, provocative and straight to the point when confronting his constituents. Although he had the support of his people and his military, Hitler did not necessarily need it. Once in position of Fuhrer, Hitler demanded absolute power of Germany’s government and armed forces (Bullock). He ruled from the top while his military rank structure resembled a pyramid with all the power placed at the top (Bullock).
Unlike Gandhi who led by example, using the help of Josef Goebbels, Hitler controlled the German public’s view through the use of pro-Nazi propaganda. Although his material was borderline delusional, his confidence and character is what Germany desired in their time of need. Instead of nonviolence Hitler insisted on the opposite, direct military action and widespread ethnic cleansing. Hitler was aggressive, loud, violent and authoritative yet could be considered one of the most successful leaders in world history.
Comparing the leadership style of Gandhi to Hitler is like comparing apples to bananas. These men stood for two different causes; one wished to unit people while one desired to divide people. Although opposite, both men share similarities in that they came from humble beginnings, spent time in prison because of their political views and used extreme measures to achieve their political goals. Both living in the early 1900s these two men were subject to relatively the same geopolitical climate. Affected by this climate, both Hitler and Gandhi decided to make adaptions of their own.
In conclusion, we have looked at two very different leadership styles. Both styles are effective yet almost completely opposite in their methodology. Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer who used nonviolent means to express his political views, ultimately succeeding and setting a historical precedent for passive leadership. Adolf Hitler was a WWI veteran, political rogue, Germany’s former leader who rallied the public with his intense, aggressive, oratory skills and sought to conquer Europe through decisive military action. Granted, Hitler’s motivation and campaign was malicious in nature, his leadership style will be known historically as an effective, aggressive leadership style. Both leaders were competent, charismatic, and consistent and show us two very different ways to be a leader.
- Bullock, A. (n.d.). Adolf Hitler. Retrieved March 12, 2020, from Encyclopedia Brittanica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler
- Nanda, B. R. (2020, January 26). Mahatma Gandhi. Retrieved March 11, 2020, from Encyclopedia Britainica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mahatma-Gandhi