Home Entrepreneur Leadership lessons from a retired Indian Army Brigadier

Leadership lessons from a retired Indian Army Brigadier

April 21, 2021

8 minutes of reading

Comments expressed by Businessmen the contributors are their own.

Imagine waking up to the shrill noises and terrifying vibrations of artillery descending on you. Man’s natural instinct is to fear for his life, avoid danger. But, members of the armed forces can bravely commit mistakes. What army Principle of turning an ordinary person into a warrior?

To find out, I interviewed Brigadier General Arvind G. Kundalkar, retired from the Indian Army’s No. 4 Gorkha Rifle, who was awarded the Sena Medal in 1980 and has served in the army for 35 years. . He’s also my uncle.

Kundalkar says the armed forces are no different from the corporate world: Both are constantly pursuing a mission of success. A military background can provide you with many useful traits, all of which translate into productive business and leadership skill.

Here are four core military leadership principles that we have discussed.

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Almost every mission in the armed forces is a team mission. Example: When capturing an opponent’s bunker, soldiers in the shock group can be tasked with approaching and destroying it by throwing grenades or placing explosives on the bunker wall. At the same time, a support group must support and block the enemy’s firepower. In such situations, the attack team must have a strong belief in the professionalism and commitment of the support team. Any suspicion could lead to mission failure and loss of life.

In order for the esprit de Corps to truly flourish in the corporate world, a leader must consciously build his or her team culture around following three key points:

  1. Make others successful. Give people what they need to be successful. At the same time, teach your team to nurture their own relationships and seek their own success. The team’s behavior will demonstrate your competence as a leader.
  2. Focus on a higher purpose. Facilitates effective cooperation between teams for a common northern star. This will help you avoid field wars and support general behavior.
  3. Plan team building activities: Invest in team-bonding experiences like game nights or outdoor group activities. This allows employees to understand each other and build common interests, goals, and attitudes.

Leading from the front

Share all the highs and lows, the risks and discomforts your subordinates go through. The war is not like you see in the movie: the fighting is more fierce and you suffer casualties. Leaders understand these risks deeply and have a vision of what victory will be like.

A leader is never absent from action. They are taught to take responsibility for the fate of their own mission and the destiny of their people.

When the first bullets start to fly, the human can be pushed down, and once the human has landed, it is difficult to get up while the bullets are flying. Usually, a leader has to make the first move. When you show that you are still growing, your team must be motivated and follow your lead. Thus, the central leadership spirit in the armed forces is encapsulated in two eloquent words: Follow me.

In the corporate world, leading from the front doesn’t mean you get the job done. It means that you understand details of all jobs and maintain three essential routines.

  1. Responsible: Take responsibility for your team’s failures and your team’s personal and professional growth.
  2. Present: Participate in product planning, architectural design, and final product release. Be the first to guide the team in emergency production issues, fire-fighting situations or other situations.
  3. Keep involved: If possible, take turns being on the call. Assign some bugs or tasks to yourself and work on them with the team.

Decision-making art

According to Kundalkar, to learn the art of decision making, one must also understand the science of human behavior. Life experience shapes our mental models to make relatively quick, unconscious decisions driven by familiarity as well as slower, more deliberate decisions made in unfamiliar circumstances.

In the armed forces, indecision can be catastrophic. Book, Himalayan Blunder, is one of the most devastating accounts of the military catastrophe of the 1962 Indochina War. The inability to make decisions by the leaders led to a military disaster, national shame. and can avoid damaging hundreds of precious lives without their fault. owned.

We all wish we knew what to do when standing at a crossroads of a dilemma. Kundalkar explains a four-step process for learning how to make a decision.

  1. Acknowledge the ambiguity. Great leaders admit that most situations are ambiguous. You will never get a complete and accurate picture until the situation is over. Hence, you make the best possible decision with the information available. You should also use your gut feeling, which contains years of experience that are deeply rooted in your subconscious mind.
  2. Believe in yourself. As the saying goes, “shradha and saburi” (trust and be patient or persevere). This means mutual trust and confidence in one’s own abilities, training, methods, philosophies and principles.
  3. Get over your mindset. Avoid the pitfalls, prejudices and tendencies of overthinking and self-esteem that are caught with us. You can achieve this by eliminating “why” in critical situations. In a time-limited situation, the “how-to” will consume more of your time.
  4. Expect objection. Test yourself as to why your choice is the right thing to do.

Don’t be paralyzed by fear of failure. Make decisions from models of hope and chance of success rather than fear of failure. No significant success has been achieved without facing many failures.

Related: Leadership lessons from successful entrepreneurs and founders

Teach science about war

Willpower alone is not enough to win battles – you need immense technical prowess. The training and education of an officer or soldier in the military is an ongoing process from entry to exit. This process helps him understand the science of combat.

So how do soldiers complete missions during various war operations, such as patrol, ambush, attack or defense? Processes typically consist of three phases: Summary, preparation and rehearsal, implementation, and interview.

1. Summary

Commanders and staff at all levels use briefings as a coherent means of communicating correctly, exercising control, ensuring coordinated actions, making decisions and answering questions. The length and comprehensiveness of the press conference, as well as the aids used (such as powerpoints, sand models, maps, sketches, ground drawings, and video), are dependent on level. complexity and activity level.

The briefings focus on, but are not limited to, the following aspects:

  • Mission briefings. This includes the terrain where the activity will take place, the weather forecast, information about the enemies, their strength, and more.
  • Logical briefings. This includes ration details, ammunition, length of self-incarceration, placement, casualty evacuation responsibility, and repair coverage.
  • Staff briefings. Military selection, assignment of roles and responsibilities, analysis of fitness level, energy level, current health conditions such as coughing, sneezing and allergies. A staff briefing meeting is not a forum for solving problems or presenting decisions for approval.
  • Contingency plan. Prepare for Plan A, B, C, D and enemies will surely surprise you with plan F. You can never be fully ready, but do your best.

2. Prepare and practice

Preparation is where all the elements of the briefings come together in the form of a series of events. Next is the rehearsal. The deepest insights come from the demonstrations, and both the mental and physical outings allow you to visualize the workings and the complexity of changing situations. This is where you can find content delivery mistakes and understand details. The exercises tend to reveal gaps in the plan.

3. Performing duties and tidying up

Mission execution requires mental flexibility, the ability to tolerate ambiguity, make quick decisions, and cope with setbacks. Equally important is the cleaning step. Here, teams conduct searches around the area, analyze the consequences, stockpile ammunition, search for casualties and seek more information.

4. Interview

An activity is not completed until a thorough interview is conducted. The interview includes a full summary of events, challenges faced, things going well, things go wrong, and suggestions for continual improvement.

The science of business is no different. A successful product lifecycle involves a series of ideas, followed by planning, development, demonstration, release, review and feedback.


Military leadership qualities are formed in an ongoing and progressive series of carefully planned training, educational, and experience events. The military teaches leadership in a way that not only increases efficiency but also improves efficiency. Company leaders can take advantage of time-proven military approaches and practices to create a lasting competitive advantage.



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