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Ho Chi Minh’s tolerant and generous leadership style

(LLCT) - Style is an important factor contributing to the image of President Ho Chi Minh - a lofty yet friendly, simple yet charismatic, and inspirational man - an image that remains forever in the hearts and minds of the workers, the oppressed and exploited peoples, the soldiers who have been fighting for a better world, bringing happiness to everyone. The article deeply explains the value, content of Ho Chi Minh’s tolerant and generous style and proposes main suggestions for the career of building a contingent of leaders, especially those at strategic level in Vietnam at present.

Rarely does a leader in the world receive as much love and praise as President Ho Chi Minh, not only from his comrades, but also from political opponents; not only from those who share their stances and points of view, but also from those of different world outlooks and ideologies.

Ho Chi Minh has been loved and praised for his ideology, morality and style, including his very special leadership style.

Ho Chi Minh’s leadership style not only evokes strong and positive emotions in people who know and learn about him, but also sets a precious model of a political leader in the modern world and for the future, for the political research community, and for political leaders as well. Jawaharlal Nehru, a world-renowned political leader, wrote about Ho Chi Minh with full respect: “President Ho Chi Minh has been a great figure of the world in the last 50 years: he is amiable, friendly, likable, unobtrusive, humble, a person of the masses, an honest person”; “In addition to meeting a great man, we encounter a piece of history. Therefore, our perception is leveled up, we mature besides him”(1).

In Ho Chi Minh’s style, tolerance and generosity constitute a unique feature. Leadership refers to the relationship between leaders and followers. The role of the former is to guide the latter. Leadership does not exclude hard power, but is mainly based on soft power, on the strength of the leader’s persuasion and the voluntariness of the followers. Therefore, tolerance and generosity is to have an overall outlook, not to miss anyone, to maximize the target audience; at the same time, it is to accept the difference, to educate, foster and support those who are still weak, even once followed the wrong way; to use justice, objectivity and to promote many types of talented people; to prevent and eliminate “diseases” that can spoil staff, etc., thereby developing both quantity and quality of the followers, promoting a successful revolutionary cause. Scientific, revolutionary and human tolerance and generosity also create, reinforce, enhance the charisma of leaders and therefore, really a core value in leadership culture. It is a key to success in leadership.

In practice, the tolerant and generous style has become a source of power to gather and transform people. It helps Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party of Vietnam gather and promote strongly human and cultural resources, making an important contribution to the great victories of the Vietnamese revolution.

Ho Chi Minh’s tolerant and generous style is the crystallization of ideological quintessence - Eastern and Western political culture.

The tolerant and generous style especially stems from the tradition of tolerance in the history of the Vietnamese. The generosity of Vietnamese people can be seen in Ho Chi Minh’s style, in his social behaviors which also embody the Buddhist King Tran Nhan Tong’s philosophy of being lenient, simple, protective and light-hearted, Hung Dao Dai Vuong Tran Hung Dao’s concept of mobilizing the people’s power; Nguyen Trai, Quang Trung’s tolerance and selflessness, and so on. It is the tradition of tolerance of the Vietnamese that nurtures Ho Chi Minh’s tolerant and generous style.

Apart from national culture, the imprint of Confucian culture and philosophy is also found in Ho Chi Minh’s tolerant and generous style. The Analects - a work reflecting the thought of Confucius, the founder of Confucianism - took the word “Tolerance” very seriously. Tian Yang Hua, in a book on The Analects, wrote, when Confucius’s disciple, Tu Zhang, asked about the “virtues”, Confucius said “One who can do the following 5 things in the world is a man of virtues: being “respectful tolerant, trustworthy, diligent, and kind”. Being respectful means not contemptuous; being tolerant will win the heart of people; being trustworthy means being trusted by everyone; being diligent means having merits, being kind is enough to ask people to do upon one’s wishes”. Thus, along with respect, trust, diligence and kindness, tolerance is a virtue of a great man, a leader. That value needs to be popularized in society. The effect of Tolerance, according to Confucius, is to win people’s hearts, to gather a large number of people. Confucius once said clearly to the leaders: “Superior men who are not generous, conducting ritual without respect, coming to the funeral without compassion - are worth eyeing?” As a person from a Confucian family, from a young age, Nguyen Sinh Cung, then later, Ho Chi Minh was educated about Confucian “moral experience and conduct”, the spirit of “tolerance” of the dominant Confucian scholars, not only through books, but also through the realistic style of his father - Nguyen Sinh Sac and many other Vietnamese patriotic Confucians. He was deeply imbued with that spirit which later became a feature of his style.

Not only Eastern ideology - culture, but many Western cultural values also contribute to shape Ho Chi Minh’s tolerant and generous style. Ho Chi Minh himself repeatedly praised the “great benevolence” in the religion founded by Jesus, praised the ideal of Charity upheld by the Great French Revolution, etc. and the “courageous and generous” style of the Marxism - Leninism founders. In his article: Lenin and the Colonialized Peoples (July 21, 1924), Ho Chi Minh used the words “courageous and generous” to write about the exemplary style of Lenin - the teacher of the communist movement and international workers”(2).

Ho Chi Minh’s tolerance and generous style is also a reflection of the Vietnamese revolutionary cause of righteousness and civilization under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party of Vietnam. In a letter to the fellow countrymen in the South dated September 26, 1945, Ho Chi Minh stated clearly: “Regarding the Frenchmen captured in the war, we must watch them carefully, but also treat them with leniency. We must show the world, and the French people in particular, that our cause was a pure and just one, that we only want independence and freedom, that we are not moved by hatred and rancor. We must show the world that we are a civilized people, more civilized than the murderers and aggressors”(3). Ho Chi Minh deeply understood the great power of Vietnamese patriotism. Eye-witnessing the dedicated struggle for national independence and freedom by various classes of Vietnamese people, from patriotic kings to people of all walks of life in society, Ho Chi Minh drew the truth: “As descendents of Lac and Hong, each and everyone Vietnamese people has patriotism more or less”(4), all have compassion in their hearts. It is only that the leader can see and find a way to arouse and promote those values, and the revolutionary cause of the Vietnamese people has been the cause of great solidarity of the entire people, not one’s own career. In other words, tolerance and generosity is an objective requirement of the revolutionary cause of the Vietnamese people that was perceived and transformed into Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts, morality and style.

Especially, the tolerant and generous style is the embodiment of the soul, dignity of Ho Chi Minh - Great Compassion, Great Wisdom, Great Courage. As early as 1923, Osip Mandelstam - a journalist - realized this when he contacted Nguyen Ai Quoc: “Nguyen Ai Quoc breathes culture, not European culture, but perhaps the culture of the future ... In the nobility of his manner and in the dim, soft voice of Nguyễn Ái Quốc, one can hear the approach of tomorrow, the oceanic silence of universal brotherhood”(5).

Ho Chi Minh is a unified man between knowledge and practice, words and actions, ideology, morality and style. This is also evident in his tolerant and generous leadership style. In terms of ideology, Ho Chi Minh always pointed out that tolerance and generosity were two of the qualities of revolutionaries, especially of leading cadres. This view is consistent and persistent in different revolutionary situations. Depending on the circumstances, the subject, the nuance of the content, Ho Chi Minh used many different words to refer to this style: tolerance, forgiveness, clemency. In the lectures at the Vietnam Youth Revolutionary Association in 1925 which were later printed into the book Revolutionary Path (1927), when it came to a revolutionary man, Ho Chi Minh pointed out: “For each person, it should be tolerance”(6). Tolerance here refers to leniency, that is to be harmonious with everyone, and generosity, that is to forgive others. This concept continued to be repeated by Ho Chi Minh in his article The Exemplary Revolutionary (September 18, 1926): “The exemplary revolutionary must be humble, tolerant and forgiving ...” (7). In 1957, in his speeches at intermediate and advanced classes of the Ministry of Defense and the intermediate classes of general departments, he emphasized: “Humility and generosity are two qualities that revolutionaries must possess”(8). The special thing is that for the leaders, Ho Chi Minh attached even more importance to and need of the tolerance. Commenting on the training of the military personnel of Zhuge Liang, Ho Chi Minh pointed out: “Respecting one who is gentle, good-natured, lenient and upright, brave and wise, that is a general”(9).

In order to help people correctly understand the virtue of tolerance and generosity, Ho Chi Minh pointed out its opposite side - narrowness - an expression of arrogance and complacency. In many times, he used analogies to highlight the contrast between these two characteristics. For example, in his speech on pride and self-esteem, Ho Chi Minh wrote: “Arrogance is narrow... For example, a cup, because it is narrow, can only hold very little water, even a little more water, it cannot contain. In contrast, the tolerant ocean can hold as much water as possible”(10). In the article Diligence, Thrift, Integrity, and Selflessness, he clarified: “Rivers are big and seas are wide, so much water can be held in them because of their great volumes. A little water can easily spill over a small cup, or a shallow plate because of their small volumes. An arrogant and self-satisfied person is like a shallow cup and plate”(11). He drew the conclusion: “The generosity of the revolutionary should be like a river or an ocean”(12).

Thus, it can be seen that the style is internal qualities, shown externally in the way of life and behaviors which are consistent with and typical of a person. Ho Chi Minh always emphasized that cadres, Party members, people, especially leaders, would have to continuously practice tolerance and generosity which can become the style of revolutionaries, including revolutionary leaders.

Ho Chi Minh not only affirmed the need to have the virtues and tolerant and generous style among leading revolutionary cadres, but also deeply explained the values that these qualities and styles bring.

First, regarding oneself, it is self-improvement. He pointed out “The one who has little tolerance is unable to accept other people’s opinions and criticisms”(13). Obviously, those who are unable to listen to comments and criticisms, even from subordinates, cannot make progress. On the contrary, those who respect, accept differences, coexistence could not only show tolerance and generosity, but also have the ability to constantly foster his morality and personality, thus becoming more mature.

Second, it is the ability to gather, educate, use and promote the cadres and more than that, the revolutionary forces.

According to Ho Chi Minh, “We must be tolerant in order to treat cadres with fairness, without prejudice, to prevent them from being abandoned”; “We need to be generous to get close to those we don’t like”(14). Thus, tolerance and generosity are to “not leave out cadres”, to gather forces widely. Leaders of higher levels need this virtue and style more to bring out the great solidarity. Only revolutionary solidarity can bring about great success. The future then will certainly be glorious. This point of view of Ho Chi Minh clearly shows the humane and the revolutionary characters.

He also pointed out that only with tolerance and generosity can one gather a large number of forces, educate and foster incompetent people, thereby constantly improving the quality of the revolutionary force. According to Ho Chi Minh, “it is necessary to be patient to teach, to support those who are still weak, to help them make progress”(15); “Experienced comrades are very precious. They are enduring examples of fighting who can mentor, foster and train more inexperienced comrades. The experienced comrades must help the inexperienced to make progress, which requires them to be generous and mentor others. It is also a standard of communist morality”(16).

Tolerance, generosity, in Ho Chi Minh’s opinion, is also the basis to mobilize cadres, to use revolutionary forces. He emphasized: “Being lenient means knowing how to use people”(17). When we know how to use people in a good way, there will be more and more talented people, the revolutionary forces are more and more crowded and better promoted. That is the root of success.

Thus, it can be seen that, if personnel work is the rooted work of the Party, tolerance and generosity, according to Ho Chi Minh, are the foundation and prerequisite for successful implementation. Many stages of personnel work, at the same time, help avoid many “diseases” related to cadres, related to revolutionary forces such as cronyism, envy, contempt for the masses, etc. Because of this importance, in his opinion, tolerance and generosity should become the revolutionary vision of the world, the way of life, and the revolutionary: “The revolutionary view must be broad, the revolutionary attitude must be humble”(18). A generous and tolerant view is to see the great power of the world, of life, of people, from there, we look back on ourselves to become humble. Tolerance, generosity when looking outward like that, can strongly create good qualities in a person who directs that view back to himself. Values of the tolerance and generosity for people and for oneself are closely intertwined.

In terms of morality and style, obviously, Ho Chi Minh not only talked about tolerance and generosity, but he himself also cultivated and practiced these virtues in a persistent manner, from which his style was shaped. There are many examples of Ho Chi Minh’s tolerance and generosity, from his perspective to his behavior towards different people during his revolutionary life. As assessed by Jawaharlal Nehru: “President Ho is a tolerant and generous man”(19).

It can be seen that Ho Chi Minh held many profound, theoretical and practical perspectives on the virtues, tolerant and generous style that he himself, throughout his life, cultivated and practiced in order to form a unique leadership style - being tolerant, generous - with great eliciting value up to now.

Marxism - Leninism and Ho Chi Minh Thought have been considered as the foundation of thinking and guidelines for action by the Communist Party of Vietnam. In recent years, great importance has been attached to the work of building the contingent of cadres, in particular, leading cadres, and strategic leaders of highest levels. In building a contingent of cadres, Ho Chi Minh Thought has also been applied. The comprehensive construction of ideology, morality and style for the cadres has been emphatically paid attention to. Directive No. 05-CT/TW dated May 15, 2016 of the Politburo on promoting the learning and following of Ho Chi Minh’s thought, morality and style clearly states: “Promoting learning and practice Ho Chi Minh’s thought, morality and style is an important content of the Party’s building and rectification; contributing to building a clean, strong Party in politics, thought, organization and ethics, building a contingent of cadres, especially a contingent of strategic cadres who are qualified and on par with assigned tasks; preventing and repelling the deterioration of political ideology, morality, lifestyle and internal “self-evolving” and “self-transforming” expressions, stepping up the fight against corruption, waste and bureaucracy”(20).

The Resolution No. 26-NQ/TW, dated May 19, 2018 of the 7th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (12th tenure) focuses on building a contingent of cadres at all levels, especially the strategic level to be qualifies, competent and prestigious, on par with the tasks. The Resolution has shown that promoting the learning of Ho Chi Minh’s ideology, morality and style is one of the key tasks and solutions(21).

In that context, from the study of Ho Chi Minh’s tolerant and generous leadership style, a few suggestions can be drawn as follows:

Firstly, it is necessary to raise the awareness of leaders about the need to learn Ho Chi Minh’s leadership style, including tolerance and generosity. Ho Chi Minh’s leadership style, through the test of reality, not only helps to perfect leaders but also holds the key to successful leadership. It is a value in modern Vietnamese leadership.

Secondly, style is the expression of ideology and morality. To build the leadership style of tolerance, it is necessary to start from the ideology and virtue of tolerance and generosity. Leaders must have deep thoughts about tolerance, generosity which must be their qualities.

Thirdly, the most important factor of tolerance and generosity is kindness. Kindness means love for people, leaders’ love for subordinates and people. Cultivating virtue of kindness is to create the core values for the leaders’ style of tolerance and leniency.

Fourthly, the ideology, morality, tolerance and generosity are closely related to the cultivation and training process of the leaders as well as to the personnel work. Therefore, the building of ideology, ethics and style must be done with specific plans, with high determination, associated with the inspection and evaluation from the organization, soldiers and people, of which the leaders and commanders’ self-awareness is very important.

In short, Ho Chi Minh’s tolerant and generous leadership style is a very valuable resource. The research and application of a comprehensive solution system to build a style of tolerance, generosity in particular, Ho Chi Minh’s leadership in general for leading cadres, especially senior strategic leaders is a task of profound scientific and practical significance.



(1) Evening News, quoted from Vu Duong Ninh: Vietnam - World and Integration, Education Publishing House, Hanoi, 2007, p.448 (February 6, 1958).

(2), (5) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.1, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, pp.257, 462-463.

(3), (4) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.4, ibid, pp.29-30, 280.

(6), (7) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.2, ibid, pp.280, 514.

(8), (12), (18) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.10, ibid, pp.588, 608, 619.

(9), (10), (13), (14), (15), (17) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.5, ibid, pp.692, 632, 632, 319, 319, 696.

(11) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.6, ibid, p.130.

(16) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.13, ibid, p.272.

(19) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.11, ibid, p.317.

(20) https://tulieuvankien.dangcongsan.vn/he-thong-van-ban/van-ban-cuadang/chi-thi-so-05-cttw-ngay-1552016-cua-bo-chinh-tri-ve-day-manh-hoc-tap-va-lam-theo-tu-tuong-dao-duc-phong-cach-ho-5005.

(21) https://tulieuvankien.dangcongsan.vn/he-thong-van-ban/van-ban-cua-dang/nghi-quyet-so-26-nqtw-ngay-1952018-hoi-nghi-lan-thu-bay-ban-chap-hanh-trung-uong-dang-khoa-xii-ve-tap-trung-xay-dung-doi-4251

Assoc.Prof., Dr. LAI QUOC KHANH

Vietnam National University, Hanoi


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