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  • Tarun Kumar

How to be a leader for life

When I was in Army we were expected to be winners. 

Being a winner means you have to perform always - you are only as good as last encounter with terrorists. 

When bullets are flying they don’t differentiate between ranks, seniority, class, color or religion. 

We all live by the same rule - Stick together & Live to fight another day.

Life in the Army is not all fun & adventure, mostly its stressful and exhausting, “cause as soon as you overcome the obstacle, the bar moves higher." 

That’s not all, there are personal sacrifices - defending the sovereignty

of country means that personal priorities do get pushed down. 

Like Google, Microsoft & Amazon of today, Army is not for everyone. I spend close to three decades in Army & loved every moment. 

I worked in an organisation (mind you not for an organisation) that values integrity, helps build character and enable us to improve people's lives through personal sacrifices. 

Being the last bastion of the nation people expect you to do the impossible when required. 

The expectations are humongous, although your instincts grow sharp and your team mates push you to exceed your own limits, where you can travel the road to immortality by a stray enemy bullet, even push yourself to places you never thought you could go and be surrounded by people who are incredibly devoted and inspired by what they do. Who wouldn’t like to be in this kind of an environment. No wonder they say that, “You can take an Army man out of Army, but you can’t take Army out of an Army man.”

Army taught me that not only we were all leaders but also we were the only organisation which builds leaders for the future. 

We’re also acquainted with the concept that Leaders always lead from front (in spite of hierarchical setup), title or not but a True leader is unmissable in the crowd. 

If you want success first tap into that leadership energy wherein:-

  • You inspire action in your Team mates

  • You mobilize them by your infectious energy to deliver

  • Execution of plan is on the bed rock of decisive decisions

  • Focus is on the team effort - Always 'WE' before 'I'

What I learnt in the Army was-

  1. Truth is stranger than fiction and real life is full of blood, sweat and hard work. All decisions involve risk and there would be penalties or possible trade-offs. In the hind sight one could review but when you are on ground decisive decision making matter & may save precious lives. Same is the case in Corporates but life happens and there are no action replays or going back. Be bold & accept the outcome - it’s better than not taking a decision or keep it hanging.

  2. As a leader you are monkey on the pole meaning there are probably one thousand pairs of eyes watching you. Maintain decorum and discipline in what ever you do. Unlike corporates, in the Army one can’t lead a dual life, your soldiers don’t attach so much importance to what you say than to what you do. Remember Leadership is all about action & example

  3. Focus on Contributing first is the golden mantra. When I joined my unit I was the new kid on the block, I’d to make adjustments and learn the nuances of operations. My Sargents were experienced & to be better I didn’t throw my weight around but learned from their experiences. In the corporates I’ve seen MBA grads joining from Ivy league & without understanding the complexities of operations want to make an impact. This beautiful lesson I learned in the Army - Know your self (organisation), Know the enemy (competition) & Know the ground (environment).

  4. Grab Fleeting opportunities - In anti-terrorist operations a small window of opportunity will help you to expand or gain momentum rather a well planned one. Most of military history is replete with examples of great commanders making do with fleeting opportunities and turning them into massive victories. Corporate world relies on too much of jargon and detailed planning which one event can affect adversely like Covid 19. 

  5. Mental mobility is a boon, don’t be a victim of a process mindset. Most of the corporates take pride in processes. I believe that processes are good when the human capital has been trained, given the manpower turn over ratio these processes end up being traps to ensure accountability without assigning responsibility. There is a saying that SOPs are only referred when someone’s to be hanged otherwise ingenuity is the key world. 

  6. Communicating effectively is a like having a passport to success. I’ve seen most of us are victim of why should I rock the boat mentality. Being open, frank and honest don’t need to be blunt & ruthless. Master the art of communicating, conveying the reality as you perceive it is important. During life threatening operations as a Team leader I would prefer those with candor who can discuss ideas  & improve on them with valid suggestions rather than the tribe of Yes men who will cause humiliation & certain defeat. Proper communication leads to development of trust & confidence in the Team.

  7. A kick in the back is more powerful than kick in the stomach. Everyone is fighting his own personal battle & yet they have to work for a living. Many a times people end up making mistakes, be clear about your policy on handling such events. While in the Army I followed the philosophy of understanding the nature of mistake - whether it was an error of omission or an error of intent. Error of intent was punished severely than error during a days work, some errors were unpardonable & one has to live with the consequences.

  8. Don’t be a jack of all trade - Be an expert. It is important to gain some competence which may help in future too. Remember it’s your cross functional ability which will take you places. In the army it’s the Battle groups comprising of fighting elements of select arms will operate as cohesive unit rather than each element blowing their own trumpet. 

  9. Managing finances is important. The need to understand difference between public and private funds/money is important. More important is that what ever be the case Spend funds as if it’s your own - with caution and utmost integrity. Understanding numbers will add value to your functioning & enable you to take strategic decisions. In corporates it is the language of business.

  10. You only live once so continue to improve, develop as a professional and a human being. Be the pillar of strength to others & your loved ones, when people look at you they should be reminded of - When Brave takes a stand, the spine of others is stiffened. Life is too short for complaining, grow as a person, parent, sibling, spouse, friend & even foe but let the negativity of the world not touch the core of your being. 

Life in the army was dream come true, made friends for life and if you want to be the leader, it’s difficult to find a better organisation that knows how to turn you into one.

I’m your Force Multiplier - Transforming Lives

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