You are required to ensure the security of this country against any aggression. You shall have to fight and fight to win. There is no room for the loser. If you lose you won’t come back. you would have disgraced the country. The country won’t accept you. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, at the Indian Military Academy Passing Out Parade
Field Marshal Sam Jamshedji Manekshaw, MC, widely known as Sam Manekshaw and also as Sam Bahadur, was the Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army during the victorious Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh. He was also the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal.
Years after he had quit as Chief of the Army staff and had settled in Nilgiris, Manekshaw was invited to declare open a lecture series on leadership hosted by St Xavier’s College in Mumbai.
In his iconic inaugural address, Manekshaw talked of shortages eveywhere in terms of fuel, food, schools and colleges but according to him these shortages were due to shortage of leadership. He said it is not just the shortage of political leadership but leadership in all walks of life.
In his speech, Field Marshal Manekshaw focused and defined the attributes of leadership. Giving examples of his own life, he pinpointed and defined these attributes.
The cardinal attribute for leadership is professional knowledge and professional competence.
The next important attribute is the ability to make up your mind and take a decision.
The leader should ensure absolute justice and impartiality.
Leadership also requires moral and physical courage, discipline and character.
Above all, leaders should have a human touch
We present below excerpts of Manekshaw’s speech at St. Xavier’s College on Leadership
“For a long time I have been watching the scene in India very carefully. Wherever I go, wherever I pick up a newspaper, I find there are shortages. There’s a shortage of fuel. There’s a shortage of food. There is a shortage of foreign exchange, there is a shortage of housing, shortage of schools, colleges everywhere. And everybody talks about these shortages but one shortage which is responsible for all these shortages, is generally glossed over, which is the shortage of leadership. When I talk of shortage of leadership, I do not mean just political leadership. I mean leadership in every walk of life. Whether it’s political, administrative, in education institutions, in our sports, in our industry, amongst labour, amongst the law and order contingents, there’s shortage of leadership. I do not know whether leaders born or leaders are made. There is a school of thought which says leaders are born. We have a population of 780 million people (the speech was delivered at St Xaviers College in Mumbai when India’s population was 780 million. Now it is 1.3 billion) and we procreate at the rate of one Australia every year and yet there is a shortage of leadership. So if those of you who think leaders are born and contribute to that theory, may I suggest you throw away all that theory and really let yourselves go. If leaders are not born, can leaders be made? It is my view that give me a man with reasonable common sense and decency, you can make a leader out of him.
What are the attributes of leadership?
There are many attributes. The cardinal attribute for leadership is professional knowledge and professional competence. Now you will agree with me that you cannot be born with professional knowledge even if you are child of a minister, the son of a Member of Parliament or the progeny of a Field Marshall. Professional knowledge has to be acquired the hard way. It is a constant study…….
We in India, as soon as we reach positions of power – whether its ministerial, secretarial, armed forces, or anywhere else, we think we are the repository of all knowledge.
Without professional knowledge you cannot have professional competence and if you haven’t gor professional competence, you cannot be a leader. I wonder those civilian gentlemen who have been charged with the security of this country, whether they have ever read a book on the military profession. I wonder if they know the difference between a gun and a howitzer. Professional knowledge is a Sine qua non leadership.
It doesn”t matter whether you are in the Army, whether you are in the teaching profession, whether you are in industry. Unless you have professional competence, amnd professional knowledge, you can’t be a leader and it has to be acquired the hard way. you have to study all your life.
The next attribute, the second requisite for leadership
It is the ability to make up your mind and take a decision. And having taken a decision, accepting full responsibility for it – Don’t pass the buck to you subordinate.
An act of omission is much worse than an act of commission.. An act of commission can be put right, even when the decision is wrong by colleagues, by subordinates, by somebody but an act of omission cannot be put right. Why a person does not take decisions? because he lacks confidence. Why does he lack confidence” because he lacks professional knowledge and competence.
What comes next?
Absolute justice and impartiality. Those of us who have dealt with masses of men…and I have dealt with over a million men in my time, know the value of this – Absolute justice and impartiality. No man likes being punished and yet men will accept punishment if they know that everybody who commits that sort of a crime gets the same sort of punishment. They will take it straight. They may not like it . They may not like you but they will respect you.
No man likes being superseded and yet people will accept supersession if they know it is being done fairly and they have been superseded by some body who is better than them. but not because he happens to be a minister’s son. Men will accept suprecession. They may not like it but they will do it.
It is very important in our country, We have tremendous pressures. We have large families. We have pressures from them, we have pressures from Members of Parliament. We have pressures from all sorts of people and we lack the courage to withstand that pressure. This is very important for us in India.
That takes me to the next attribute – Moral and physical courage.
You should have the courage to stand up and say your piece – irrespective of what your superior thinks, irrespective of your colleagues, irrespective of your subordinates. You must have the courage to say so. A Yes Man is a horrible man. He must be shunned. He is a disgrace. He may rise very high. he may become a minister. He may become a Field Marshall. But he will never, never become a leader. He will be used by his superiors. He will be disliked by his colleagues and his subordinates have no respect for them.
Moral courage is essential
Then we come to Physical courage – it is essential to leadership
Fear is a natural phenomenon like hunger and sex.Anyone who says, he is not frightened is a liar – except perhaps the Gorkha. Everyone is frightened. It is one thing to be frightened and quite another to show fear…..If once you show fear in front of men you may be commanding – it doesn’t matter whether they are soldiers, whether they are clerks, labour, students, once you show fear you should quit.
Another attribute for leadership is loyalty
Does loyalty require very much explanation. We all expect loyalty from our subordinates. Do we give loyalty to them. Loyalty is a two-way thing. Do we give loyalty to our colleagues..
Remember leadership is nothing else but management of men and resources. Men have problems. Men in numbers can be very nasty. Leaders must be able to deal with them very firmly. If people misbehave there is no use saying Jai Hind to them with folded hands. You have got to deal with them very very firmly. But you must never forget that men may have problems. They have human problem. They have problem of debt, they have family problems. They get easily despondent and therefore the leader must have a human touch. He must have a sense of humour to get them out of their despondency. He must have the gift of the gab. Unfortunately our leaders have the gift of the gab but they don’t have sense of humour.
No amount of leadership will put things right — there are two other aspects that we Indian must know and we lack badly. One is discipline and the second is character.”