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.
- 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.”
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
- 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!
- 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.