This book is Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s biography with special emphasis on his term as the Chief of Army Staff. It has been written by none other than his Military Assistant Lt. Col. Depinder Singh (later Lt. Genl.) who was always at Manekshaw’s side during the latter’s entire tenure as Chief of the Staff of the Indian Army. This is an excellent portrait of a soldier with vision, competence, compassion and courage.Perhaps, the one part of this book which is a lesson for most men and women employed in various organisations, not necessarily the armed forces, but in any role involving an organisation with small or large teams, is Manekshaw’s own definition of leadership. This treatise has been drawn from his enormous experience of a long stint in one of the World’s largest armies that he commended with distinction from 1969 to 1973, as a four star General and Chief of Army Staff. He later rose to become India’s first Field Marshal, and continues to hold that position.Sam, as the Field Marshal was popularly known throughout his thirty nine odd years of active Army life, was invited in 1998, by the Defence Services Staff College
, India’s premier Defence Institution which trains Officers from the three arms of the services to be groomed for senior level appointments, to lecture on Leadership and Discipline.
One of the finest lectures on the subject of Leadership delivered by Sam Manekshaw in November 1998, when he was 84 years old, can serve as a lesson to anyone who aspires to become a successful leader in his or her walk of life. Sam’s definition of the key attributes of a successful leader can be summarised below:Attribute 1 – Professional Knowledge and Professional Competence
This is the first, the primary and the cardinal attribute of leadership. As Sam describes it, professional knowledge and competence are a ‘sine qua non’of leadership. Unless you know what you are talking about, and unless you understand your profession, you can never be a leader. Professional knowledge and professional competence have to be acquired by hard work and constant study.Attribute 2 – The ability to make up your mind to make a decision and accept full responsibility for that decision.
If you take ten decisions, by the law of averages five ought to be right.
If you have professional knowledge and competence, nine will be right. And the one that is not will be put right by a subordinate officer or a colleague. But if you do not take a decision you are doing something wrong. An act f omission is much worse that an act of commission. An act of commission can be put right, an act of omission cannot. Make a decision, and having made it, accept full responsibility for it.Attribute 3 – Absolute honesty, fairness and justice
After all, leader deal with people. A leader should be perceived by his team, to be fair in his dealings with one and all. Only then is he or she accepted as a leader.Attribute 4 – Physical and Moral courage
While physical courage probably applies more to the armed forces, moral courage is universally applicable. Moral courage is the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and having done so, to say so when asked, irrespective of what your superiors might think, or what your colleagues or your subordinates might want.A ‘yes’ man is a dangerous man. He may rise high, but her will never make a leader, because he will be used by his superiors, disliked by his colleagues and despised by his subordinates.Attribute 5 – Loyalty
We all expect loyalty. Do we give loyalty – to our subordinates, to our colleagues? Loyalty is a three way thing. You expect loyalty, therefore you must give loyalty to your colleagues and to your subordinates. Loyalty also means dealing immediately and firmly with team members who cause trouble. Do not allow any nonsense. But understand their problems. When they get despondent, motivate them and shake them out of their despondence.Attribute 6 – Manliness
Men and women like their leader to be a man with all manly qualities and virtues. By manliness Manekshaw suggests a certain measure of flamboyance, a certain style and a vibrant personality.