Gandhi and Rhodes, leaders of contrast

Leadership is a trait, where a leader has great influence on others and wield enormous power to do things that the leader wants him or her to do. This article talks about responsible leadership and a singular focus on “is the means as important as the end in itself?” by comparing and contrasting leadership personalities of our times – Cecil Rhodes and Mahatma Gandhi.

Cecil Rhodes was a British national, born in 1853. The scholarship at Oxford (UK), is named after him. The Rhodes scholarship is one of the prestigious scholarships in the world which has produced great leaders like former US president Bill Clinton, Australian Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, his predecessor Tony Abbot, Walter Isaacson, Managing Editor of Time magazine, Clayton Christensen, father of `Disruptive Innovation’ and many more.

Cecil Rhodes, an extremely ambitious man, founded two companies which are still with us – De-Beers and Gold Fields (Diamond companies), founded two countries – Zambia (Upper Rhodesia) and Zimbabwe (Lower Rhodesia), and was prime minister of a third
country.

All of this was accomplished before he turned 40, which is a remarkable leadership demonstrated by any standards. Rhodes led almost an ascetic life, he never owned a house till he reached the end of his life, he wore the same hat and dress every day, he believed in gaining things for others and not for himself.

His famous speech was “it is the dreamers who move the world, practical men are too busy doing things. If it were not for the dreamers, we would be clubbing each other to death over a morsel of food”.  He was a great proponent of British empire and believed in expanding it beyond the realm of Great Britain.

Yet, history has not judged him as a responsible leader. He started fights between people in South Africa to advance his aim of extending British empire, he told lies to achieve his goals, not for himself but for greater good. He started wars between countries which is how two countries Zambia and Zimbabwe emerged. He advanced the British empire into South Africa.

The early origins of Apar-theid can be linked to him, and also is evident in his statement “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories”

Leaders of influence

Let us now compare and contrast life of our father of the nation with Cecil Rhodes. On similarities, Gandhi was born in 1869, the same century as Rhodes. He also led an ascetic life during the freedom struggle, he used carry holy book with him almost all the time, he never wanted fame and wealth for himself, he wore a simple dhoti to all the places, even when he visited the Great Britain and never owned a house for himself. He also visited South Africa few times during his lifetime. His vision was larger than life, of how to expel British from India.

To contrast his leadership style, he was always fighting for greater good of relieving the Indians from the clutches of British empire (unlike Cecil Rhodes, who was advancing the British Empire), his means were very important than the end in itself.

While the goal was to achieve freedom, he took hard ways to achieve them by being tolerant, following non-violence and protesting peacefully, by honouring truth (unlike Rhodes, who created wars between nations and told different things to different people). He was the victim of Apar-theid and fought this vehemently (while early origins of Apartheid can be attributed to Rhodes).

Both the leaders had great influencing powers, led large number of people, achieved goals for greater good, were devoid of selfish motives and both had great vision beyond human imagination. But history judges one of them as a responsible leader and other one as not and rightfully so, as the means were not at all great as the end in itself in case of Cecil Rhodes.

There is a lot to learn from this story for our current and future generations to come, who live in a fast paced, cut throat and result oriented world, where ends are amplified and means are hidden. It is up to each one us to take the path we wish to pursue, but only time will tell which route is the better one of the two, that is worthy to be remembered, in time to come!

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