The year was 1929. Under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Lahore congress had finalized the demand of “Purna Swaraj” or full independence for India. It had been declared that 26th January 1930, would be celebrated as the Independence day when people were to take a pledge to struggle for complete independence. But the celebrations attracted very little attention and had poor turn outs. Mahatma Gandhi was a worried man. He realised that there was a disconnect between the different fractions of society and their understanding and interpretation of “Swaraj”.
The Mahatma, realized that although India had been at the struggle for independence for nearly 70 years and “Swaraj” was a word that was at the helm of the freedom movement, it had meant different things to different people. The poor plantation workers in Assam thought of Swaraj as the freedom to visit their native places and freedom of movement in and out of plantations. For the middle class Swaraj meant the spread of education and a share of the administration of the country. For the farmers it meant a reduction in land revenue and rent while tribals in the interior parts of the nation thought Swaraj would get back their traditional rights over the forests allowing them to graze animals and collect firewood and fruit.
Mahatma Gandhi realized the concept of freedom was abstract to most. The movement lacked unity and a unified notion of why they should plough forward.
Freedom fighters were eager for a civil disobedience movement and they awaited Gandhi’s announcement of the program anxiously. For many days, Gandhi had groped in vain for inspiration. Finally it had come to him in a flash- Salt Satyagraha or the Salt March opposing the cruel taxation on Salt and the consumption of untaxed salt and promoting the local manufacture of salt.
When Gandhi announced his plan, even his close aides and associates were completely unconvinced. The Indian National Congress was mystified and incredulous. Of all things, why salt and the insignificant salt tax? Something so insignificant when many larger issues loomed forbodingly?
Superb strategist that Gandhi was, he saw in salt a powerful tool that could unite the people. Salt was the leveller, it was consumed both by the rich and the poor, men and women, rural and urban masses. Salt was the connect
As any good leader should, he had looked for something, anything, irrespective of whether it is big or small, something that connected the masses. We all know the outcome of the Salt march. It brought the till-now latent women force to the foreground with their pans and stoves to make salt and it gastronomically stirred the political sentiment of every Indian, irrespective of their status, sex, cast or Creed.
Important Team building lessons here.
• Often Team members have an unclear understanding and loose interpretations of team goals and corporate visions. It must, hence, be every team leader’s aim to find the common element that would help unify the team and drive all efforts towards well established goals.
• Commonalities drive empathy and compassion and in turn forges unity. Commonalities bridge gaps.
• As leaders, take time to learn about team members, find commonalities or shared interests and begin to highlight them in discussions. Develop a team identity and encourage people to categorize themselves as part of it.
• Engage in some out-of-office activities that enhance a sense of cohesion. Find the connectors, find the commonalities and string them along to form the cord that binds the team to each other and their common goals.
So next time you are at a team dinner look for the salt – and No, I don’t mean the one that is on the table.