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The deadliest sin

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The deadliest sin

Mahatma Gandhi talked about seven social sins in his weekly newspaper Young India on October 22, 1925. Those seven sins were wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice and politics without principles. While all these sins are the curse of the present day society more than nine decades down the line, it may not be difficult to identify the deadliest of these.

The seventh one is politics without principles. It is the politics that is at the helm of everything. Though there may be hundreds of definitions about politics they all invariably suggest one thing — politics is ultimately about power. Power to rule, power to govern, power to command. Naturally if this is unprincipled what follows will come out in the form of chaos and disorderliness. This is what made the difference between the order of Gods and Demons, Rama and Ravana, dictators and democrats, despots and leaders. It is unfortunate that the present society is witnessing a lot of politics without principle. Regarding politics without principle Gandhi said that this ultimately would lead to violence and decadence. Politics is the struggle for power and acquiring the authority to make decisions for the large group.

For Gandhi principle was the expression of perfection without which it would not be possible to have a fair and square ruler. It is unfortunate that as the civilisations and the societies are marching ahead the politics is becoming more and more unprincipled. The wheel is turning backwards after coming a full circle as we witness the growing trend towards unprincipled politics which is only and only about concentrating power in one’s own hands. It’s only obvious as the cliché goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Democracies should be more about abdicrats, the liberals who believe in giving power to others. However, the modern democracies today are throwing more and more autocrats.

The big question is how successful are such leaders? In the short run, certainly they succeed. But a well-researched book by Archie Brown, The Myth of the Strong Leader once again demolishes this belief that has time and again been proved to be erroneous. According to the author’s contention, the central misconception that he sets out to expose is the notion that strong leaders who try to concentrate power in their own hands by dominating their colleagues and centralise decision making are successful. Management theories almost always have recommended against this kind of leadership. What happens is that the huge power amassed by an individual leader paves way for important errors at best and disaster and massive bloodshed at worst. What Brown seems to emphasise is that the very notion of strong leader is open to interpretation. Usually strong leaders are those leaders who acquire a charisma.But it is important to understand that charisma itself is a transient quality. Moreover, it is the followers who bestow charisma on the leaders though the person seems to embody the qualities that followers are looking for. But it has to be realised that ultimately it is the credibility that is important and packaging only has limited life, charisma thus is overrated. Gandhi’s credibility led to his long lasting charisma and not vice versa. And credibility comes from principled stand, whether you like it or not.

The writer is a professor of management and a public speaker; he can be reached at ppathak.ism@gmail.com 




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