Comparison between Mahatma Gandhi anf Jim Jones

There are numerous similarities between Mahatma Gandhi and Jim Jones in terms of their leadership style and their followers’ reaction to their leadership - Comparison between Mahatma Gandhi anf Jim Jones introduction. The comparison is based on two documentary films, namely the ‘Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple’ by Stanley Nelson and ‘Gandhi’ by Richard Attenborough.

Gandhi holds a place among the most outstanding, generous and courageous leaders in the world and is noted for his commitment to peace and unity. His notion of non-violent resistance produced a lasting influence on many generations of leaders. He was able to give his nation a renewed sense of purpose and dignity. While his leadership was charismatic in nature, he insisted that people should join his movement out of free will, after considering the compatibility of their values with the ones he advocated.

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On the contrary, followers of Jim Jones had a blind faith in the teachings of their leader, which led to the tragic incident of on November 18, 1978, when thousands of people took the cyanide-laced grape Kool-Aid to commit a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. In the film, the director refers to the testimonies of 46 witnesses and survivors. Jones could effectively appeal to human weakness and offered what seemed a refreshing alternative for a country facing a crisis of values. He was successful at attracting two different types of followers, namely radicalized middle-class whites and lower-class blacks. The values that he was preaching were equality and self-respect, although in reality he was using his followers as a tool to realize the plan he masterminded. Unlike Gandhi, Jones was an unstable psychotic type, prone to sporadic violence. For example, he killed small animals to serve as subjects for death rituals he staged. Mahatma Gandhi was a wholesome personality, and he practiced what he preached. Satyagraha was one of the most important concepts developed by him, which he introduced to the world’s political practice. But Satyagraha is not a political doctrine. For Gandhi, who saw all life as arising from a unity of being, there was no division between spiritual and practical activity, and he tried to live that way. On one hand, Satyagraha is an individual philosophy of purity and peace of mind, and on the other, it’s a powerful ideology that is capable of uniting masses. Gandhi taught that Truth is God; non-violence is love in action; and peace, the result of enduring conflict resolution, is the fruit of Satyagraha.

Yet there are numerous similarities in Mahatma Gandhi and Jim Jones’s leadership style and their followers’ reaction to their leadership. First of all, Mahatma Gandhi and Jim Jones possessed an outstanding knowledge of human psychology. They retained full control over crowds of their followers. Both of them displayed four features that make prominent leaders, namely Individualized Consideration, Intellectual Stimulation, Inspirational Motivation, and Idealized Influence.

In terms of Individualized Consideration, Jones encouraged his followers to call him dad, thus establishing strong emotional rapport with thousands of people. He was also having sex with any follower, irrespective of gender, who wanted to establish a stronger connection with him. Gandhi established spiritual connection with his followers through shared values, mission, and vision.

In terms of Intellectual Stimulation, Jones called upon his followers to reassess their values and orientations and engage in self-criticism. Gandhi also offered a new sense of vision to his followers. Satyagraha demanded from any individual to follow the rules of nonviolence and purity. Satyagrahis do what is right, regardless of consequences. Since Satyagrahis are not swayed by fear or desire, their inward freedom will bring them outward freedom as well. There is nothing anyone can do to force them to deviate from the way of truth, as they see it. Sooner or later, the oppressors will see that are powerless to impose their will.

Speaking about Inspirational Motivation, Jones offered a vision of race-free, class-free, communal society that was appealing to both progressive leftist whites and underclass blacks. Gandhi also offered his own vision of the communal organization, sometimes referred to as ‘Gandhian economics.’ Gandhian economics implies that a commune is a self-sufficient entity where members are able to produce their own food, clothing and means of living. Under the principle of Gandhian economics, less luxury goods should be produced, since people have to satisfy their basic needs and cease to derive pleasure from possession but engage in spiritual development. Moreover, Gandhi explained that Satyagraha is a relentless search for Truth and a determination to search for Truth. Satyagraha is an attribute of the spirit within. Satyagraha can be described as an effective substitute for violence. Satyagraha in its essence is nothing but the introduction of truth and gentleness in the political, i.e., the national life. Satyagraha is utter self-effacement, greatest humiliation, greatest patience and brightest faith.

As for Idealized Influence, the ability to elicit respect, trust and confidence from followers is often exemplified by non-verbal signs such as body language and natural ability to draw people’s attention. Charismatic leader have the unique power to influence followers on a subconscious level. However, idealized influence also entails high ethical standards, self-confidence, and the ability to share vision and convey a sense of purpose.

Mahatma Gandhi and Jim Jones also had notable organization skills. White it may seem that the mass suicide staged by Jones was an improvisation, every detail of it was planned months ahead. Gandhi wrote and organized numerous speeches, petitions, letters, and meetings with officials.

Furthermore, both leaders were good at making and sustaining valuable connections. Jones was appointed to high-sounding civic jobs and met presidents’ wives when they came to visit different places. He secured support from different groups and organization and can manipulate them to his own avail. For example, he developed strong ties with George Moscone and Willie Brown, and was appointed to the city’s housing commission in return for his support of Moscone for Mayor. However, he was also prone to commit illegal actions, like money-laundering schemes; there are also suspicions concerning possible child and sexual abuse associated with The People’s Temple. He was also responsible for the murder of a California Congressman, Leo Ryan, who came to Guyana to investigate the activities of The People’s Temple.

Gandhi’s motive was not to receive any political or personal gains. His ultimate goal was to know God, and to accomplish this, self mastery was necessary. His mastery of himself and diminished egocentricity gave him a personal power and presence that others sensed and respected.

Therefore, it is possible to conclude that despite personalities and motivation of Mahatma Gandhi and Jim Jones were strikingly different, their leadership styles had much in common.


Attenborough, Richard. (Dir). (1982). Gandhi. UK / India: Carolina Bank.

Nelson, Stanley. (Dir). (2006). Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. USA: Firelight Media Inc.


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