A close look at the history and background of Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem allows one to analyze what may have made the leadership skills of each a success or failure. Both were patriotic and wanted the same thing for their country and that was for Vietnam to remain undivided. Yet their backgrounds were quite different and may have had some influence in their ability to inspire, motivate and transmit a hope for change and betterment. Evaluation of Leaderships
Ho Chi Minh had a strong background in Vietnamese culture and history. Born in simple humble beginnings in the late 1800’s he experienced first-hand French colonization in some if its early stages. He was rebellious and radical like his Father who was a strong Vietnamese nationalist and passed his belief about Vietnam’s independence to his son. He even saw his Father resign his official position in protest against French domination. Eventually, Ho Chi Minh spent years traveling Europe and the Western world experiencing both worlds’ cultures and politics. But he aligned himself with other nationalists which developed his political outlook and defined his philosophy for Vietnam independence. By the time he returned to Vietnam he was a seasoned revolutionary and passionate about the goal of his country’s independence.
What may have prepared Ho Chi Minh most was his ability to relate to the common Vietnamese people. He regularly visited villages and towns and was fond of dropping into schools to chat with the children. Vietnamese people had affection for him and he was universally called “Uncle Ho.” He was admired for his simplicity, integrity and determination. He knew the Vietnamese way of life, philosophy and religion; he did not assimilate to the European or Western cultures or religions. He resisted any efforts to compromise his move for Vietnam’s independence. He was so passionate about Vietnam’s independence that he explained patriotism not communism was what inspired him (Karnow 1998).
On the other hand Ngo Dinh Diem was born into a more privileged wealthy family. His ancestors had converted to Christianity and he was a devout Catholic; this may have created distress for the predominantly Buddhist Vietnamese people. He was not assessable to the common people. His wealth, religion and the fact that he had worked for the colonial French government may have caused many Vietnamese to look at him distrustfully. Diem lacked compassion for the common people who made up 85% of the rural masses of South Vietnam. Instead he viewed them as potential enemies who must be kept under surveillance and tight administrative control.
He was not sensitive to the majority but engaged in biased and religiously oppressive policies. An example of this is when nine unarmed Buddhists civilians were killed as they protested Diem’s government ban on flying the Buddhist flag in commemoration of Buddha’s birthday. He was known to be a difficult man to reason and work with. He micromanaged even the pettiest details so much so that he appeared incapable of seeing the larger view. He trusted no one except a few family members, refused to broaden the base of his government, and refused to negotiate with any of his many rivals (Moss 2010). Diem’s political philosophy and authoritarian methods of governing created opposition and preventing him from achieving the support he so needed. Conclusion
Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem each manifested an individuality that characterized their leadership. Both were intelligent, hardworking and patriotic. Ho Chi Minh’s background helped him to succeed in affecting the Vietnamese people. He engaged their cultural, social, and economic issues; he was passionate and determined to make the nation self-sufficient with a strong internal infrastructure. On the other hand Diem, who also a nationalist lacked the background of the Vietnamese people and while he wanted self-rule he was financially dependent on U.S. aid and interests. His religious favoritism, his repressive attacks on those that opposed him alienated the majority of Vietnamese people. You can read countless books and articles on both men. It is interesting that even those who oppose communism admire the leadership skills of Ho Chi Minh.
Karnow, J. (1998, April 13). Ho Chi Minh. Time Magazine. Retrieved from
Moss, G.D., (2010). Vietnam: An American Ordeal (6th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: