There may be a great management guru; a leader in some craft or trade, a great poet, writer, musician or painter who had and have followers even after his or her death but that is limited to their trade or art. There were great kings like Alexander, Ashoka or the Roman Emperor but their influences ended almost with their reign. The great revolutionaries who lead the French revolution, Russian or Chinese revolution were great leaders of their time; a great dictator like Hitler, Stalin or Mao-Zedong were leaders during their time for specific period and invariably forgotten after their term was over; not only forgotten, their actions further analyzed. Dictators are usually hated even during their time though they might be all powerful. And there might be or may be cult figures like the great religious fanatic recently killed or leader of the terrorists but their time ends with them, may be remembered by few followers, the like minded people who form some communities but they never constitute the people. Even without being a dictator or cult leader some leaders of democratic country like USA or UK pursued the policy of suppression of other weaker nations like Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq under different pleas to satisfy a sense of satisfaction and national ego, gaining votes of the people but that too was temporary as such acts were later vigorously opposed by the people of the country like United Kingdom or USA. Even the recent action in Syria by France may be so categorized.
There were and are men of history, leaders by virtue of their position in different offices but when we talk about the great leader it invariably means leader of the people whose leadership did not or does not cease with their reign or their time. It is because they made a turning point in history as leader of the people which is ever remembered in human history and the people of his time and after never forget him because he was and is loved by most.
We may present below some extraordinary leaders to verify our assumption.
Napoleon Bonaparte Few men in history have had such an impact on world history and he easily ranks along side such leaders as Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. Like those leaders he was an authoritarian leader and a dictator. Napoleon was a tremendous innovator and administrator. Napoleon is often described as being ruled by a gigantic ego. His lust for power, his dismissal of democracy and the establishment of Empire, all are seen as benchmarks of rampant ambition. Comparisons with contemporary leaders are regarded as irrelevant or even futile, presumably because Bonaparte is assumed to have been greater than they, and presented with unique opportunities though all squandered on a quest for personal aggrandizement. As the leader of a totalitarian state, Napoleon made his own ambitions synonymous with those of France. With few abridgements to power, he was able to act as he saw fit, and is judged accordingly. Fact is almost all the European states reflected the egos of their monarchs, and few of them were intent on fostering democracy, limiting their borders, or improving civil rights. Rather, each used their position to satisfy their ambitions, expand their borders, and increase their control over the nobility and populace. There was little respect for minor states like Italy or Poland and the borders were redrawn after each conflict. Bonaparte, in this company, seems to be regarded as megalomaniacal largely because he did not inherit his position, but achieved it by aggressively pursuing the same agenda as those born to power and doing so more effectively. It seems that absolutists may be forgiven their sins for being born to them, but parvenus are guilty for having freely chosen them. Of course, Bonaparte was anything but pure, anything but modest, anything but democratic, and anything but a peacemaker. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, guided his country through the most devastating experience in its national history; the Civil War. He is considered by many historians to have been the greatest American president. He will ever be remembered for his simple life and great ideals, for his fight for the American people. For holding the human flag high among the nations of the peoples. Lincoln's achievements; saving the Union and freeing the slaves, and his martyrdom just at the war's end assured his continuing fame. No small contribution was made by his eloquence as exemplified in the Gettysburg Address on 19.11.1863 in which he defined the war as a rededication to the egalitarian ideals of the Declaration of Independence and in his second inaugural address on 4. 3. 1865, urging "malice toward none" and "charity for all" in the peace to come.
M. K. Gandhi who is known for his Ahimsa or non-violent movement against violent enemy and against all odds on the basis of his will power and soul force, for his capacity to endure immense suffering, for undertaking fast for long period, even unto death to resist what he felt unjust act of the Government or Governments, for his revolt against all sorts of oppression against the helpless people, for demanding environmental protection against giant industries, against luxurious living, for propagating the need to live according to nature and within respective means, honestly and sincerely. He will ever be remembered by the people as a champion of honesty and sincerity. He will be living in the memory of the people for his humanitarian role among the people, not as leader of the Indian freedom movement where he failed as a politician. The British did not leave India because of his non-violent movement and fast but for other reasons, for violent revolt and resistance, besides movement by Gandhiites. His presence and influence among the people of India and outside are gradually waning, more because his ideals are not followed, perhaps because they are not compatible with average human nature. Though his political party has been still using his name for furthering their own cause, his memory is fading among the people. If at all he lives in the mind of the people it will be as a non-violent social leader.
Marin Luther King, Junior remained a Christian Baptist. He never joined any political group and remained an example of an individual who fought on the basis of religious belief and humanitarian faith with real soul force. In spite of all human frailties he was one of the champions of anti apartheid movement, fighting for equality and human rights. His aim was the establishment of civil rights, opposing segregation of the blacks and demanding voting rights for them.
Gradually the black movement widened even after his death in its scope as the rights of all blacks in America were gradually accepted as a result of his movements for the emancipation of the poor from all disparities, invoking social justice for all segments of society, opposing the anti racist order of the American society. Finally his movement spread beyond America in its scope. He vehemently opposed America’s role in Vietnam even when not supported by his own group.
Nelson Mandela who was in Jail for 27 years, created a record for an individual fighting for a cause. The people of South Africa, whole of Africa, nay the whole world will always remember him as a leader of the people, himself a symbol of freedom from racial division, division on the basis of color of humanity. He was a champion of the anti-apartheid movement.
The Spiritual Leaders
Then there comes to mind a separate category of leaders who are spiritual and have influenced the humanity through their lofty and sublime acts during their lifetime and continue to influence them or ever. In India there were quite some bright names in modern time even leaving aside the names of the ancients. They are Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Raman Maharshi and Saibaba, to name a few. But no religion was founded after their departure as it happened with Gotama the Buddha or Jesus Christ, to name the prominent among them.
And then are the rare names of leaders of literature and culture. It may be said that Rabindranath Tagore, the first noble laureate in Asia in Literature, whose 150th Birth Centenary is being celebrated throughout the world, was such an undisputed leader in his life and beyond that the whole of Indian continent has remembered him and has adored him through his works in diverse walks of life, art and literature, specially remembering him as poet of sublime love. I do not bring his name as a practitioner of different literary art forms only for in that sphere there are certainly some other great and distinguished names like Homer, Valmiki, Kalidas, Dante, Shakespeare and more, throughout the world but because he was a leader of the people in the field of Indian freedom, in the field of education, as a reformer and as the foremost representative of the Indian culture, a representative of world culture, the most desired mouth piece of India. That the people have not forgotten his role as a pioneer of Indian life and culture is proved by the massive support of his life and work now as observed throughout India and abroad.
Some of the Present Heroes
Political leadership continues. The Indian leaders during the freedom movement and immediately after independence, whatever they were, some of them were renowned international personalities like Pandit Jawharlal Nehru, they did not do corruption with public money. Now the position is entirely reversed. Corruption in public life in India is a great plague ruining progress. However, among the present Indian leaders mention may be made of Narendra Modi of Gujarat who, in spite of some pitfalls and opposition from various quarters, has proved to be a courageous leader of the people and able administrator. He has been regularly supported by his people as a leader. Ms. Mamata Banerjee and her party has just own seats in West Bengal Assembly with massive majority and has formed Government; she has just taken oath as the first woman Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal after the independence. We have seen how with utmost determination and dexterity she has won the heart of the people to oust the Communist led Government after long 34 years. The other women Chief Ministers in India are Ms. Jayalalitha, of Tamil Nadu and Ms. Mayavati of Uttar Pradesh. Mamata has become one of the distinguished ladies, a remarkable woman politician with a sort of ranking with such world leaders as Queen Elizabeth II of U K; Queens of U K, Denmark and Netherlands; Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany; Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh; Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia; Prime Ministers of Iceland, Croatia, Bermuda; Presidents of Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Costa Rica, Brazil, Switzerland and heads of many other sovereign states including the women Chief Ministers of India.
People have recently rejoiced when Barack Obama, a representative of the Black Race of the Globe, adorned the post of the President of the U.S.A. taking the cues from Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, Martin Luther King (Junior) opposing the segregation of the Blacks and Nelson Mandela championing the anti-apartheid movement. But he has been observed as any other American President, pursuing the same policy. All such leaders are still working in their respective positions. Time has not come to utter any verdict about their greatness or otherwise.
From the foregoing discussion I feel that we have already seen some great leaders of the people who inspired us during their lifetime and are still inspiring us like: Gotama the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore. I do not and cannot say that I have covered all the world leaders but have named a few only. There are others who still stand with massive human support. Among those I have spoken some are still the real leaders but it may be that their followers are lesser in numbers though that may further grow in the passage of time for no point of time is final to decide anything absolutely.
© Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2011