READING GUIDE: Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Part III, chapters VI-IX and XXI, and Part IV, chapters IV-IX.
Howard Gardner, in the chapter “Influencer: The Case of Gandhi,” claims that direct leaders gain followers with a story. A story, he says, “is not merely a message or a vision. It is a full-fledged drama, one that grows naturally out of the life experiences of the Influencer, and one that seeks to envelop the audience in the same quest” (p. 108).
This is how Gardner summarizes Gandhi’s story: “Gandhi called on human beings to imagine another, more hopeful scenario, one in which both parties engaged in a common search for a state of affairs in which each achieved legitimate status. Conflicts need not entail violence—they can proceed by a logic that makes both parties feel legitimate, even ennobled. This was a new, inclusive story—one in which onetime rivals suppressed their differences in favor of a joint pursuit. . . . When it came to actual conflict, Gandhi absolutely refused to arm himself—or his followers. Following the principles of satyagraha, (nonviolent resistance), their approach to the conflict must be completely peaceful, nonviolent. It was better to die in the course of a peaceful resistance that to triumph by superior arms” (p. 109).
I think everything that Gardner says about Gandhi’s story is true. I also think it’s incomplete to the point of being misleading. In our reading for Monday, Gandhi does not tell us about satyagraha. But he does tell us things that are, I believe, not only part of his story, but integral to it:
· Manilal’s illness—and Gandhi’s treatment of it
· “Restraint” in diet
As you learn what these things are from Gandhi, and how and why he practiced them, I believe you will find him sometimes wise, sometimes weird, other times perplexing. In the freewrite for Monday, please be prepared to discuss any of these on its own merits, and also how it contributes to our emerging appreciation of the complexity of Gandhi’s leadership story.