CEOs with Battle Experience make Good Leaders


The Armed Forces has given business organization most of the management theories and a recent study co-relates the significance for management styles and firms performances. The CEOs experience in the battle front identifies the leader with certain traits which help organizations grow.

Foremost. These leaders outperform their peers in stressful times. They handle stress and sail through tough times far better than other CEOs. Veterans have learnt to take decisions under extreme conditions, with fog of war under VUCA conditions. These make the veteran take sensible decisions even while the business conditions are in a down swing. 15 of past Presidents of US have served in either the Civil War or WW II. Speaks volumes.

Secondly. They are less likely to be involved in corporate fraud. Integrity is the bulwark under which the armed forces work. This makes a huge difference when it comes to corporate life. These veterans value integrity more than the quarterly results to prove a point or earn stockholders’ benevolence. They would call a spade a spade and stick with their principles rather than commit fraud.

Thirdly. They are more conservative with financial risks. Despite having led a aggressive, risk ridden life in the uniform; when it comes to financial prudence they are conservative with their investments. It is less likely that they’ll commit the organizational funds in risky investments/ ventures. Till the future timelines are clear, they would never invest in haste and repent in leisure.

Fourthly. You get what you see. It is unlikely that they’ll resort to double speak. They are upfront with the + or -/ what you get is what you see. They don’t hesitate to be upfront. Some people see it as lack of tact. They would rather be clear in their dealings and build relationships for lifetime. This is what they have learnt in the uniform. You don’t undercut your buddy. Buddy is your lifeline. You don’t kill the goose that is laying golden eggs, right?

Lastly. They have handled situations. They are blessed with quick decision making. They understand criticalities. They lead by example. They make good role models. And if these are not enough reasons for making them CEOs, then the fact that they were ready to put their life at stake would give you a hint about their attitude towards the organization. Totally dependent, committed and focused these men in uniform achieve their targets/ goals/ mission accomplishment. High time the Indian Organizations look into this untapped talent for their success.


**This is a True Story**


I knew him when he must have been 09 years of age. I myself was 11-12 years and soon the halcyon days of the school were over and each of us parted our ways. I joined the Army and after 25 years of glorious service sought retirement.

I had an opportunity to visit Nagpur to deliver a lecture. A schoolmate says, “Prabir, one of our school friends would join us for lunch?” I said, “Great! Who?” “Wait and watch”. During lunch time a car glides in the porch and in walks a burly, 6 feet tall Khalsa.

His first words were, “Remember me?” Now, really, after 40 years? Hey Lo!! … I am **** (utters the sobriquet he had earned in school; unmentionable here; S Singh). OMG! After hugs and some more we sat down for chat in the lawn under the sun umbrella strategically placed under a banyan tree. The cool breeze and the pint definitely helped. And my next question was, so, tell me what have you been doing all these years? I was ill-prepared for the answer.

Well, after passing out from the school, I finished my graduation and passed my UPSC exam and the Services Selection Board cleared me to join the Army. I completed my training and was pretty high in the Order of Merit too! I was commissioned into ** MADRAS Regiment and we were posted in Vizag. Things were moving as planned and life was good.

‘Op Pawan’ (Indian Army operations in Sri Lanka, 1987) was launched and ours being a tambi (troops from South India) battalion we were handpicked to be among the first to be inducted in Sri Lanka. Our affinity to the civil populace, language and similarity of men would give us an edge while conducting any operation. This was the premise and here we were in the jungles of Sri Lanka chasing the dreaded Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE. Well, for the uninitiated, this was nothing we had prepared ourselves for. The LTTE were a formidable foe and gave us a torrid time settling down.

I was deployed with my platoon (being a very junior officer) at KKS (Kankeshantorai) near Palali Airport in North Sri Lanka. Soon we built our intelligence network and information started trickling in. We gave them a bloody nose and at regular intervals dented their leadership structure. By and by our actions started paying results and we established our domination in the area. It is a different matter that the locals gave me the nickname of ‘Butcher’; the higher headquarters too, sent across the ‘hard-nuts’ for interrogation. The LTTE cadre was very highly motivated and would chew on the cyanide pill hanging around their neck, rather than divulge any information. But we countered these actions and could extract some ‘real-time’ information. Our swift follow up actions resulted in the extermination of more than 150 hardcore LTTE terrorists.

Soon, I was the target of the LTTE and a prize was placed on my head aka the Wild Wild West. Time went by and the influence of the LTTE was diminishing in our Area of Responsibility.

Evening of Dec 19, 1988, our convoy left our base for operation and after having traveled for 15 kms we were ambushed. A burst of automatics from our left targeted our vehicle. Sitting besides the driver, I got an entire fusillade. The vehicle overturned and we were thrown over; I was floating between consciousness and semi-consciousness. Our driver was killed on the spot. My buddy came and sat beside me (we were hunched behind the overturned vehicle). I told him Kunjumon tambi, whenever you hear the noise of the LTTE (they come to check on casualties and post clean up operations), just nudge me, I have my loaded carbine with me, I shall let loose. I must have lost consciousness and awoke only due to the frantic nudging of my buddy. I swung my carbine and emptied my entire magazine (28 bullets!) and heard some screams and the noise of running feet. (Later, the body count confirmed my shooting had killed four LTTE soldiers). They were nine LTTE men who had ambushed the convoy; the five ran into our Quick Reaction Team (QRT) that was summoned by us on being fired. We neutralized the entire ambush party. Well, I don’t remember much after that as I went into coma. The rest of the story I pieced together after I regained my senses after a period of 08 days of being in Coma (Dec 26, 1988).

When the QRT came and lifted me, the fingers lifting my head slid into my head – the grey matter was splashed out; it was stuffed in and was handily bandaged. Eleven bullets had entered my body; 04 in my head, 02 in my midriff and 05 in my legs. One of the bullets miraculously stopped 0.1 millimeter short of my heart without puncturing it. The doctors were surprised that I had survived; they had no hope that I’d live.

I was airlifted and within the next two hours we touched down at Meenabakkam airport, Chennai. The doctors, who had been summoned to the airport, took a look and said they just could not do anything with their present facilities. I needed immediate evacuation to Southern Command Hospital, Pune.

While I was still in coma, they performed 02 operations in my head and in total removed 06 bullets out of my body. Some sight I was covered from head to toe in bandages; the prognosis was I would be a vegetable for life with practically no chances of recovery. Of course the doctors had not encountered me or my will OR the power of my mind.

The first thing I was doing on regaining consciousness was patting the side of my bed for my carbine. The nurse seeing that told me to relax as I was in the hospital and not the jungles of Sri Lanka. Since they could not inject anything on my left side, my right side had swollen up having to endure thousands of injections during the stay of 23 days in the hospital. The saline bottles and IV fluid injectors are not counted which seemed like a permanent fixture with my body.

Well, the days and nights passed with regular visits of various specialists who were tasked to work on various organs of mine. Since Doordarshan was the only TV channel, The Media wanted to interview me. After due clearances, the interviewer’s first question was. “Sir aapko jab goli lagi to kaisa laga?” (Sir, when you were hit by bullets how did you feel?). I wanted to squeeze the life out of him and I replied “bahut achha laga, aap ko bhi khani hai?” (I felt great; do you want to have one as well?) That was the only question they could shoot; good for them or else I would have shot them.

And soon the hospital staff started calling me the miracle man. My recovery was not short of a miracle. I would resolve to myself, that I could not let the battalion down and need to be with my men as fast as I can. Operations is something one has been trained for and that is where I wanted to be. I recovered and was asked where I would like to go. I retorted back I wanted to go back to my unit of course. They could not believe their ears. But soon I was back in the flight for my unit, which was still in Sri Lanka. I could be there for just a couple of days as the unit had completed its tenure there and we came back to a peace location.

I sought voluntary retirement with 60 percent disability. I moved to Nagpur and started my business. I married and have 02 wonderful angels as my children. Since the day I have been discharged from the hospital I have not had salt, chilies, drink or anything which can upset my body constitution. I am still on medication and take 04 pills each day. They say I still have 5 to 7 splinters embedded in my brain, well that must account for the ‘freak-streak’ that I have! But seriously, I have no rancor or regrets. Given a chance, I would do what I did again; surely will join the Armed Forces again. It has given my life a new meaning. It has nourished and cherished my dream of being in uniform.



Leadership Lessons: Basics






I slow marched to the tune of ‘Auld Lang Sang’ and stepped over the ‘Antim Pag’ and transformed from a ‘Gentleman Cadet’ to an ‘Officer’ of the Indian Army. The training was hard and the lessons drilled into me in the Drill Square (the hallowed grounds around the Chetwode Hall), in the firing ranges on the bed of River Tons, the classrooms across the Academy had imbibed in me some lessons of leadership. With that, I embarked on a career that has been truly lucky and blessed.

The Academy, taught me many valuable, unforgettable leadership lessons. Here are ten I’d like to share with you.

  1. Be Cautious of Labels. Labels you place on people may define your relationship to them and bound their potential. Sadly, we label people, who may be so much more. Therefore, be cautious of a leader who callously says, “Hey, he’s just an Jawan.” Likewise, don’t tolerate the junior who says, “I can’t do that, I’m just a lieutenant.”
  2. Everyone Deserves Respect. Because we label, we often wrongly treat people with less respect than others around us. Everyone deserves much more. Remember, everyone is invaluable in a TEAM – from a rifleman to a commander!
  3. Courtesy Makes a Difference. Be courteous to all around you, regardless of rank or position. Military customs, as well as common courtesies, help bond a team. When our daily words to the liftman or security guard turn from perfunctory “hellos” to heartfelt greetings, their demeanor and personality outwardly change. It makes a difference for all of us.
  4. Take Time to Know Your People. Life in the military is hectic, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the people you work for and with. Understand and recognize the fact that they will stand by you in your time of need.
  5. Anyone Can Be a Hero. Don’t sell your people short, for any one of them may be the hero who rises to the occasion when duty calls. On the other hand, it’s easy to turn to your proven performers when the chips are down, but don’t ignore the rest of the team. Today’s rookie could and should be tomorrow’s superstar.
  6. Leaders Should Be Humble. End zone celebrations and self-aggrandizement are what we’ve come to expect from sports greats. Not real life heroes. Leaders would be well-served to do the same. Humility in every walk of your life.
  7. Life Won’t Always Hand You What You Think You Deserve. We in the military work hard and, we deserve recognition, right? However, sometimes you just have to persevere, even when accolades don’t come your way. That is the way of life; bash on regardless – nevertheless!
  8. Don’t Pursue Glory; Pursue Excellence. No job is beneath a Leader. Think about it. Let your work speak of the person you are – and you’ll never have to ‘sell’ yourself (or your principles).
  9. Pursue Excellence. No matter what task life hands you, do it well. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “If life makes you a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.” Bob Woolmer, the South African Cricket Coach, told Jonty Rhodes, “I want you to be the Best Jonty Rhodes in the World”. What ever you do – do your best. No regrets later … I could have … tch, tch!
  10. Life is a Leadership Laboratory. All too often we look to some class to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life is a leadership laboratory. Those you meet everyday will teach you enduring lessons if you just take time to stop, look and listen. Don’t miss your opportunity to learn. Learning is a continuous process.


Women Safety (WOSAF) .. # 83


Being Followed – stalked?

One. The most common complaint that I get from girls/ladies/women during conduct of my WOSAF (Women Safety) workshop is, “so, what do we do?” Really? The first and foremost thing that we MUST do while outside is: the Number ONE thing – Get off your phone, remove the headset. You are neutralizing the most powerful systems inbuilt in you to sense danger. One can smell danger. One can feel danger. Your Amygdala! The almond shaped mass of grey matter in front of your temporal lobe of the cerebrum, is part of the limbic system. It is involved in processing and expressing emotions, instincts and survival. When your body gears up for flight, fight or freeze mode, your entire brain stops and is controlled by your amygdala!The moment you switch on the head phones, you are short circuiting the basic survival process. Your senses get numbed and your awareness of your surrounding gets impaired. Your ears are part of this ‘sensing danger’ process. Let is be. You may train for listening techniques to sharpen your instincts. But while in public, remove those plugs.

Two. Be aware of your surroundings. If you are new to the place, it would be worthwhile to check out with whomsoever you are staying with (hotel, relatives, friends) about the neighbourhood. Know in general the ATMs in your route to work/college/school/or wherever you are going – especially if it involves walking. ATMs have a 24/7 guard and could be of assistance, if required. The security camera can assist get the bad guys. Know the location of the police station, any pubs/bars/liquor dens in your route.You would know the roads/lanes to avoid after certain time. Know which street lights are non-functional in your lane. Raise a complaint.

Three. Be physically fit and mentally agile. As a routine be physically fit. It is not about being fat or thin. It is a fitness regime. Walks, runs, sits-ups, push-ups, yoga, walking up the stairs or any form or exercise which will keep you physically fit. It is an imperative. Being mentally agile involves your being quick on the thinking, buoyant, sharp, athletic. This will help you keep your wits about you during a time of crises. Knowing some self defence techniques helps but is not mandatory. A number of times I’ve been queried, whether WOSAF helps? Well, does knowing swimming prevents you from drowning? Your chances of survival increases .. similarly with WOSAF. Your chances of coming out unscathed from such situations increases.

Four. It helps if your loved ones know where you are or about your whereabouts. This is not about your privacy being intruded – we are talking about your very survival here! It is always advisable to let your friend/family know where you are going tonight and how would you return. With cabs available on a phone call away, driving after drinking is never a good option. But the issues with a cab need to be addressed before hand. Better safe and sure than regret later. While in the cab speak (in the language the driver understands) to your friend/ family about the approximate time it would take to reach, your present location and the number of the cab.

Be Alert . Be Aware . Be Safe .


The only Winning Factor in Counter Insurgency


Troops operating in ‘Counter Terrorism’ operations

The Indian Army is one of the richest in experience when it comes to CI operations. This can be essentially achieved by the very clichéd management term called ‘Back to Basics’. In 1987, the Indian Army met its match in the LTTE as far as jungle fighting techniques were concerned. The LTTE innovated the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) to curtail the mobility of the Army. It read our basic skills and realized that we had established movement drills which had been adopted by habit not by recommendation; we liked moving five meters off the road or track. Therefore the LTTE placed IEDs exactly there. A Para Commando battalion and its outstanding Commanding Officer, would never permit his men to move between two bushes because that is where the LTTE placed mines and IEDs; so they only trampled over bushes and that is why it never suffered a mine casualty. He was a man never in a hurry; always taking time and moving deliberately even if it took a couple of hours more than scheduled; always unpredictable and always correct in basics.

There are some simple aspects of countering IEDs and reducing the possibility of militants targeting a unit during de-induction. After serving three years in an area a unit is usually confident about its knowledge and capability of terrain and militant tactics. Its guard is low while exactly the opposite should happen because it can expect militant retribution for the losses it has inflicted. An anti-vehicle IED is not so easy to emplace although in the mountains it is simpler. Potential IED sites can be identified by soldiers with a keen eye for ground. Security is never in numbers; it is in alertness.


The road has to be opened (ROP) through a deliberate drill involving deploying at least half the night before, so that militant ambushes cannot find their way to designated spots. The ROP is one of the most tedious in the CI list of operations. Theoretically it involves securing an area adjacent to the road by physical placement of troops in small detachments, after they have searched the road for possible IEDs, and more importantly deploying some troops in depth to dominate potential routes of ingress to ambush sites. This is done on both sides of the road and achieves the necessary domination.J&K indian-army-convoy-in-kashmir


However, troops on ground may treat this casually especially if there has been no history of IED attacks or ambushes and they have been doing the duty repeatedly. More often than not this becomes an everyday activity and the repetitiveness and sheer boredom brings an air of casualness. Militants are great observers. A unit with tight drills will never get targeted. Yet, in such an environment the unpredictable can always happen and if on that day alertness is low the effect will be disastrous.


Let me also state for information of those who have never donned the uniform or operated in such circumstances. CI operations are most demanding, they sap your energy and it is never possible to retain a hundred percent alert at all times. Soldiers are human and while they have immense stamina and patience they can and will make mistakes. There are some basics ingrained in them which must never be lost sight of. Reminders in such an environment are an essence of command because not everything can be remembered even by the most thorough professionals; that is a leadership mantra. In the din of activities in such areas pieces of crucial information sometimes escape notice and in passage from higher to lower levels the degree of importance and actual contents may well get relegated or lost. You cannot always do it but there are times when in CI areas it is preferable to get your teams to walk with vehicles following, for some distances. It will upset all movement calculations but such a measure is adopted when you know that the terrain is completely against you.

The important thing is that in the passion and energy to do so it must target the militants and their leadership and remember that one basic from their Back to Basics lessons; the population must not be affected.