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Leadership Lessons From a Retired Indian Army Brigadier

How to lead from the front without turning into a demanding drill sergeant

Source | | Snehal Kundalkar

Imagine waking up to the deafening sounds and earth-shattering vibrations of artillery bearing down on you. Our natural human instinct is to fear for our life, hide or run from danger. But, members of the armed forces can be brave to a fault. What military principles transform an ordinary person into a warrior? 

To find an answer, I interviewed retired Brigadier Arvind G. Kundalkar of the 4th Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army, who was decorated with the Sena Medal in 1980 and who served in the military for 35 years. He’s also my uncle.

Kundalkar says the armed forces are no different from the corporate world: Both are relentless towards their pursuit of a successful mission. A military background can provide you with a variety of useful traits, all of which translate into useful business and leadership skills.

Below are four core military leadership principles that we discussed.

Related: Leadership Lessons to Take Us Into 2021

Esprit de corps

Virtually every task in the armed forces is a team task. For instance, When capturing an enemy bunker, soldiers in an assault group might be tasked to close in and destroy it by lobbing a grenade or placing explosives against the bunker walls. At the same time, a support group must provide cover and suppress the enemy fire. In such a situation, the assault group must have unwavering trust in the professionalism and commitment of the support group. Any doubt could result in mission failure and loss of lives.

For genuine esprit de corps to develop in the corporate world, a leader must consciously build his team culture around following three emphases:

  1. Making others successful. Give people what they need to be successful. At the same time, teach your team to nurture relationships and find their own success. Your team’s behavior will demonstrate your competence as a leader.

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