I recently finished reading Gandhi – An Autobiography – The Story of My Experiments with Truth, as part of a book club I am a part of.
As the title indicates, this book is one about Mahatma Gandhi’s life covering the years between his birth (1869) and 1921 – at which point his life and movement had become publicized.
While it would be very difficult to summarize his life, there are a few key themes that characterized it:
a) His deep-rooted belief in truth. A belief that he lived through his actions.
b) His passion for public service, particularly fighting for the rights of the oppressed
c) Servant Leadership
d) Self Discipline – a leader must lead himself before leading others
Through this autobiography, numerous leadership lessons can be learned in each of these areas.
Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:
1- “But one thing took deep root in me the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truth is the substance of all morality. Truth became my sole objective. It began to grow in magnitude every day, and my definition of it also has been ever widening.”
2- “He (Mr. Leonard) exclaimed, ‘Gandhi, I have learnt one thing,and it is this, that if we take care of the facts of a case, the law will take care of itself. Let us dive deeper into the facts of this case.”
3- “But all my life though, the very insistence on truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise. I saw in later life that this spirit was an essential part of Satyagraha. It has often meant endangering my life and incurring the displeasure of friends. But truth is hard as adamant and tender as blossom.”
4- “The heart’s earnest and pure desire is always fulfilled. In my own experience I have often seen this rule verified. Service of the poor has been my heart’s desire, and it has always thrown me amongst the poor and enabled me to identify myself with them.”
5- “And now after considerable experience with the many public institutions which I have managed, it has become my firm conviction that it is not good to run public institutions on permanent funds. A permanent fund carries in itself the seed of the moral fall of the institution. A public institution means an institution conducted with the approval, and from the funds, of the public. When such an institution ceases to have public support, it forfeits its right to exist.”
6- “During my professional work it was also my habit never to conceal my ignorance from my clients or my colleagues. Whenever I felt myself at sea, I would advise my client to consult some other counsel, or if he preferred to stick to me, I would ask him to let me seeks the assistance of senior counsel. This frankness earned me the unbounded affection and trust of my clients. They were always willing to pay the fee whenever consultation with senior counsel was necessary. This affection and trust served me in good stead in my public work.”
7- “But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachments and repulsion. I know that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world’s praise fails to move me, indeed it very often stings me. To conquer subtle passions to me to be harder far than the physical conquest of the word by force of arms…So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility.”