Wednesday, February 8th, 2023 16:07:57

Life, Liberty and Leadership: A Kaleidoscope of Netaji

By Prof. Tapan R. Mohanty
Updated: January 31, 2022 5:14 pm

“When we stand, the Azad Hind Fauz has to be like a wall of granite; when we march, the Azad Hind Fauz has to be like a steamroller”.

(In his address to the Indian National Army on becoming its Supreme Commander on 26 August 1943, as quoted in Formation and growth of the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) (1946) by Durlab Singh, p. 25)

In the era of globalization and increasing corporatization of the society, leadership remains a central idea. A dynamic leader can give shape to a team that dreams of success. The global capitalism needs entrepreneurs and leaders in all sectors who could bring sustainable growth to the country and enthuse its population with aspiration and positive transformation. The entire gamut of management education in recent times has focused on leadership development as it the harbinger of economic growth and social development. It has been increasingly realized that in order to achieve individual, organizational and social goals the role of leadership is sine qua non.

The leader has to motivates his subordinates, creates confidence and increases the moral of the workers. In fact, leadership is the process of inspiring individuals of a group to give their best to achieve a desired result. According to Peter F Drucker, ‘Leadership, the human behavior, lifts a man’s vision to the higher sights, raises a man’s performance to the higher standards and builds man’s personality beyond its normal limitations’ (Cohen 2018).

One of the greatest examples of leadership not only India but in the world is the life and deeds of Subhas Chandra Bose popularly and respectfully known as Netaji. Born with a silver spoon in mouth and educated in the best institutes of his time and gifted with knowledge and intelligence, he chooses the path quite different that was instrumental in making him Netaji from Shree Subhas Bose. His life apart from a lesson in exemplary courage and dedication is also case study in leadership.

One of the ways to explain social change is the description of social movements. Social movements depict the way the society changes in terms its structure and functions. In the Indian context, we take the example of freedom movement as macro social movement which transformed significantly the economy and polity of the country. Scholars of social movement state that goal, participation, leadership, organization and management are essential features of any movement and leadership is key to all. Without leadership no social movement can succeed. Needless, to add Netaji lead one of the significant movements again the colonial powers which is unparallel in human history. In one of the daring and calibrated efforts to outs the Britishers from India, he travelled across the world made contacts with the Soviet, German and Japanese leadership. He created the Azad Hind Fauz or the Indian National Army to throw the colonial powers through a military adventure when they were trapped in the World War-II by the Axis power. This could not have been possible without a great mind and brilliant leadership qualities. It would be in fitness of things to put that unlike many leaders of modern times he brought spirituality and nationalism together. His nationalism was cultural nationalism.

This leads to the question of dimensions and aspects of leadership. There are certain specific characteristics of leadership. It is the relationship between two or more people in which leader is having more influence and power than his team members. However, it is not just access to power but use of power. According to sociologist Max Weber, power is the ‘capability to exercise one’s will over others despite resistance’, therefore, it is important to note that leadership requires effective and appropriate use of power. He further reiterated it while explaining the concept of authority as legitimate power. But the important aspect of Weber’s political theory has been the concept of ‘charismatic authority’. Needless to add, that is absence as far as Netaji was concerned. He was a born leader with abundance of charisma. His leadership attitude was expressed from his college life. In an incident where he was involved with a fracas with his professor (Otten) for his racist remarks, brought him notoriety as a rebel.

In this context, it is important to quote him, “India is calling. Blood is calling to blood. Get up, we have no time to lose. Take up your arms! we shall carve our way through the enemy’s ranks, or if God wills, we shall die a martyr’s death. And in our last sleep we shall kiss the road that will bring our Army to Delhi. The road to Delhi is the road to Freedom. Chalo Delhi (March to Delhi).”(As quoted in India Calling (1946) by himself and R. I. Paul, p. 5). It is this clarion call that made thousands of men and women of all hue run after him, putting their trust, confidence and money on him.

The Jallianwalla Bagh massacre moved deeply Netaji and in order to secure India’s freedom from British colonial rule he left the life of comfort and joined in freedomfighting movement. The young Subhas was energetic leader highly influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda. Swamiji’s slogan, ‘the youth of India should play football and read Gita’, resonated with him and he was able to connect with youth. Netaji was admired by youth Indians for his great ability in organization development. He became even President of Indian National Congress in 1938-39. But a difference with Gandhi ji led him to part with Congress and went on the path to realize his dream of ‘complete self-rule and without any compromise’.

He was a good writer and orator. His inspiring speech and radio talks always inspired the common people of India. Present management study shows that a successful leader must have qualities like enthusiasm, confidence, toughness, integrity, warmth and humility. The life of Subhas showed that he was most enthusiastic leader. He had a clear goal of ‘Independent India’ and he decided to achieve that.

He was a strong leader but at the same time he was willing to listen to everybody and never fail to take the blame. When Japan disagreed to extend any help further in battle field, he ordered his commanders to disband the INA and to guide his soldiers for returning home otherwise British soldiers would torture them.  It is this spirit of dedication to duty and call of honour where he could think the betterment for his soldiers/followers, in that panic situation.

According to Cohen there are eight requirements to become a successful leader. They are (a) maintain absolute integrity, (b) know your subordinates, (c) declare your objectives/expectations, (d) show personal commitment, (e) always remain positive, (f) take care of your people, (g) put duty before self and (h) lead from the front. Apart from these Netaji has tremendous ability to motivate people and his talks not only inspired his INA soldiers but also inspired all youths of India. He exhibited development of a dedicated team, strong command, strong responsibility, and high-risk taking capability.


By Prof. Tapan R. Mohanty

(The author is the Dean, Department of Distance Education and Professor of Sociology of Law at National Law Institute University, Bhopal. The views are personal.)

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