Like some other Oriental cultures, Vietnamese culture is extremely concerned with the concept of leadership in terms of the nation. In fact, Vietnamese leaders traditionally held the full authority over the country and it was only the colonization of Vietnam by foreign states that challenged the authority of local leaders. Nevertheless, cultural traditions and respect to authority have never disappeared in Vietnam. At the same time, the means by which leaders of Vietnam reached the support and obedience of large masses of people were and still are quite different from those which are traditionally used in western cultures. In this respect, it is possible to refer to two leaders of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem, who were leaders of Northern and Southern Vietnam respectively during the rise of Vietnamese people against foreign oppression.
Ngo Dinh Diem was quite different from Ho Chi Minh and his leadership was based on different principles. In fact, Ngo Dinh Diem attempted to demonstrated his authority and his devotedness to his country, his motherland. These characteristics could be traced in the leadership style and personality of Ho Chi Minh. However, Ngo Dinh Diem used quite different methods to maintain his authority and keep power in Southern Vietnam. Even though he maintained his power with the help of American troops, he gained the respect of Vietnamese people using his power of the country, which he controlled. He used repressions to demonstrate his power and authority. For instance, he arrested his political opponents and by the mid-1956 over 100,000 people were imprisoned (Fall, 1967). Such a demonstration of power had a significant impact on Vietnamese people and such repressive means proved to be effective since they were a part of traditional Vietnamese culture.
In stark contrast, Ho Chi Minh was a different leader and he gained the people’s respect and admiration using very different means compared to Ngo Dinh Diem. Unlike Ngo Dinh Diem, Ho Chi Minh was a truly popular leader. He personified the liberty of his people since, in spite of his French education, he had always remained devoted to his motherland, the quality which was essential for Vietnamese leaders. His devotedness to his motherland contributed to his growing popularity among Vietnamese people who respected Ho Chi Minh as a national leader. At the same time, he demonstrated his willingness to help people and readiness to sacrifice himself for the sake of his people. For instance, in his pre-revolutionary life, he assisted peasants and provide them with elementary medical services. Moreover, his last wishes before his death were to cremate his body and burry his ashes in three urns on three different hilltops of Vietnam that symbolized his desire to unite Vietnam, keep independent and his devotedness to his motherland and his people that were essential characteristics of Vietnamese leaders. Namely, he wrote: “Not only the cremation is good from the point of view of hygiene, but also it saves farmland” (Currey, 1997, p.179).
Thus, both leaders personified traditional traits of Vietnamese leaders, which included the power, firmness, authority, respect to Vietnamese people, motherland and concerns with people’s needs.
Currey, C.B. (1997). Victory At Any Cost. Washington: Brassey’s.
Fall, B. (1967). Last reflections on a War. New York: Doubleday