Gandhi and Change Agents

by Steven M. Smith · 1 comment

Mahatma Gandhi epitomizes the effective change agent. In my opinion, he was not only the Twentieth Century’s greatest change agent but also its greatest leader.

Are you looking for change agents in your organization? Let’s explore desirable qualities for change agents exemplified by Gandhi.

He believed in the Hindu religion, which, from what I understand, holds the belief that a person’s moral actions in this life affect their fortunes in this life and the next. He also believed in Dharma — living a purposeful life. So look for change agents who have demonstrated their belief in ethics and purposefulness.

He was educated as a lawyer in a system of rules that were different than the rules of culture that reared him. He learned how to use these outside rules in creative ways to achieve purposes that the powerful outsiders didn’t anticipate. So look for change agents who know the unwritten rules of the organization and how to use them to nurture change.

He expected a better system than the unjust system he was living in. Gandhi saw the effects of the system (ruling culture) and he found them unacceptable. So look for change agents who expect the system to be better than it is.

He had charisma and was a skilled-communicator. He was able to attract people to his cause through his personality, ideas and communication skills. So look for change agents who people like being near and listening to.

He was provocative. Change require shaking up the status quo and creating a period of chaos (model transformation). Gandhi excelled at non-violent shaking. So look for change agents who know how to constructively shake things up.

He was a brilliant negotiator. He knew how to quell disturbances by unorthodox methods, such as hunger strikes. So look for changes agents who are creative negotiators.

He allied with others. The movement he led wasn’t purely Gandhi’s. He allied with many people to bring about change. So look for change agents who know how to ally with other people.

Ethics, purposefulness, education, high-expectations, charisma, communication skills, provocative, negotiator and ally are qualities to look for in change agents. I doubt whether you have a Gandhi in your organization. Does a change agent need all of Gandhi’s qualities to be effective? No. The stronger they are in the qualities that your organization will respond to, the more effective they will be.

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