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SAM Manekshaw on Leadership and Discipline
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SAM Manekshaw on Leadership and Discipline, 4.6 out of 5 based on 369 ratings
Issue Net Edition | Date : 03 Apr , 2015

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s Lecture at Defence Services College, Wellington on Leadership and Discipline 11th November, 1998.

Commandant, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am fully conscious of the privilege, which is mine, to have been invited here to address the college. A while ago, I was invited to a seminar where the subject was youth, and people said that the youth of this country was not pulling its weight, that society generally was not satisfied with how the young were functioning. When I was asked what I thought about it, I said that the youngsters of this country are disappointed, disturbed and confused. They cannot understand why all these untoward things are happening in this country. They want to know who is to blame. Not them. If they want to study at night and there is no power, they want to know who is to blame. Not them. If they want to have a bath, there is no water; they want to know who is to blame. Not them. They want to go to college and university and they are told there are not any vacancies; they want to know who is to blame. Not them. They say – here is a country which was considered the brightest jewel in the British Crown. What has happened to this Bright Jewel?

The problem with us is the lack of leadership.

No longer are there excuses with the old political masters saying that the reason why we are in this state is because we were under colonial rule for 250 years. They turn around and say that the British left us almost fifty years ago. What have you done? They point to Singapore, they point to Malaysia, they point to Indonesia, and they point to Hong Kong. They say that they were also under colonial rule and look at the progress those countries have made.

They point to Germany and to Japan who fought a war for four and a half years- whose youth was decimated and industry was destroyed. They were occupied, and they had to pay reparations; Look at the progress those countries have made. The youngsters want an answer. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thought I should give you the answer.

The problem with us is the lack of leadership.

Commandant, Ladies and Gentlemen, do not misunderstand me, when I say lack of political leadership. I do not mean just political leadership. Of course, there is lack of leadership, but also there is lack of leadership in every walk of life, whether it is political, administrative, in our educational institutions, or whether it is our sports organizations. Wherever you look, there is lack of leadership. I do not know whether leaders are born or made. There is a school of thought that thinks that leaders are born. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a population of 960 million people and we procreate at the rate of 17 million-equaling the total population of Australia-each year, and yet there is a dearth of leadership. So, those of you who still contribute to the fact that leaders are born, may I suggest you throw away your family planning, throw away the pill,throw away any inhibiting factor and make it free for all. Then perhaps someday a leader may be born.

So, if leaders are not born, can leaders be made? My answer is yes. Give me a man or a woman with a common sense and decency, and I can make a leader out of him or her. That is the subject which I am going to discuss with you this morning.

…there is lack of leadership in every walk of life, whether it is political, administrative, in our educational institutions, or whether it is our sports organizations.

What are the attributes of leadership? The first, the primary, indeed the cardinal attribute of leadership is professional knowledge and professional competence. Now you will agree with me that you cannot be born with professional knowledge and professional competence even if you are a child of Prime Minister, or the son of an industrialist, or the progeny of a Field Marshal. Professional knowledge and professional competence have to be acquired by hard work and by constant study. In this fast- moving technologically developing world, you can never acquire sufficient professional knowledge.

You have to keep at it, and at it, and at it. Can those of our political masters who are responsible for the security and defence of this country cross their hearts and say they have ever read a book on military history, on strategy, on weapons developments. Can they distinguish a mortar from a motor, a gun from a howitzer, a guerrilla from a gorilla, though a vast majority of them resemble the latter.

Ladies and Gentlemen, professional knowledge and professional competence are a sine qua non of leadership. Unless you know what you are talking about, unless you understand your profession, you can never be a leader. Now some of you must be wondering why the Field Marshal is saying this, every time you go round somewhere, you see one of our leaders walking around, roads being blocked, transport being provided for them. Those, ladies and gentlemen, are not leaders. They are just men and women going about disguised as leaders – and they ought to be ashamed of themselves!

What is the next thing you need for leadership? It is the ability to make up your mind to make a decision and accept full responsibility for that decision. Have you ever wondered why people do not make a decision? The answer is quite simple. It is because they lack professional competence, or they are worried that their decision may be wrong and they will have to carry the can. Ladies and Gentlemen, according to the law of averages, if you take ten decisions, five ought to be right. If you have professional knowledge and professional competence, nine will be right, and the one that might not be correct will probably 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 of omission is much worse than an act of commission. An act of commission can be put right. An act of omission cannot. Take the example of the time when the Babri Masjid was about to be destroyed. If the Prime Minister, at that stage, had taken a decision to stop it, a whole community – 180 million would not have been harmed. But, because he did not take a decision, you have at least 180 million people in this country alone who do not like us.

Professional knowledge and professional competence have to be acquired by hard work and by constant study.

When I was the Army Chief, I would go along to a formation, ask the fellow what have you done about this and I normally got an answer, “Sir, I have been thinking… I have not yet made up my mind,” and I coined a Manekshawism. If the girls will excuse my language, it was ‘if you must be a bloody fool – be one quickly’. So remember that you are the ones who are going to be the future senior staff officers, the future commanders. Make a decision and having made it, accept full responsibility for it. Do not pass it on to a colleague or subordinate.

So, what comes next for leadership? Absolute Honesty, fairness and justice – we are dealing with people. Those of us who have had the good fortune of commanding hundreds and thousands of men know this. No man likes to be punished, and yet a man will accept punishment stoically if he knows that the punishment meted out to him will be identical to the punishment meted out to another person who has some Godfather somewhere. This is very, very important. No man likes to be superceded, and yet men will accept supercession if they know that they are being superceded, under the rules, by somebody who is better then they are but not just somebody who happens to be related to the Commandant of the staff college or to a Cabinet Minister or by the Field Marshal’s wife’s current boyfriend. This is extremely important, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We in India have tremendous pressures- pressures from the Government, pressures from superior officers, pressures from families, pressures from wives, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and girlfriends, and we lack the courage to withstand those pressures. That takes me to the next attribute of Leadership- Moral and Physical Courage.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I do not know which of these is more important. When I am talking to young officers and young soldiers, I should place emphasis on physical courage. But since I am talking to this gathering, I will lay emphasis on Moral Courage. What is moral courage? Moral courage is the ability to distinguish right from wrong and having done so, 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 very high, he might even become the Managing Director of a company. He may do anything but he can never make a leader because he will be used by his superiors, disliked by his colleagues and despised by his subordinates. So shallow– the ‘yes man’.

…what comes next for leadership? Absolute Honesty, fairness and justice…

I am going to illustrate from my own life an example of moral courage. In 1971, when Pakistan clamped down on its province, East Pakistan, hundreds and thousands of refugees started pouring into India. The Prime Minister, Mrs. Gandhi had a cabinet meeting at ten o’clock in the morning. The following attended: the Foreign Minister, Sardar Swaran Singh, the Defence Minister, Mr. Jagjivan Ram, the Agriculture Minister, Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the Finance Minister, Mr. Yashwant Rao, and I was also ordered to be present.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a very thin line between becoming a Field Marshal and being dismissed. A very angry Prime Minister read out messages from Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. All of them saying that hundreds of thousands of refugees had poured into their states and they did not know what to do. So the Prime Minister turned round to me and said: “I want you to do something”.

“Yes, it is my job to tell you the truth. It is my job to fight and win, not to lose.”

I said, “What do you want me to do?”

She said, “I want you to enter East Pakistan”.

I said, “Do you know that that means War?”

She said, “I do not mind if it is war”.

I, in my usual stupid way said, “Prime Minister, have you read the Bible?”And the Foreign Minister, Sardar Swaran Singh (a Punjabi Sikh), in his Punjabi accent said, “What has Bible got to do with this?”, and I said, “the first book, the first chapter, the first paragraph, the first sentence, God said, ‘let there be light’’ and there was light. You turn this round and say ‘let there be war’ and there will be war. What do you think? Are you ready for a war? Let me tell you –“it’s 28th April, the Himalayan passes are opening now, and if the Chinese gave us an ultimatum, I will have to fight on two fronts”.

A ‘yes man’ is a dangerous man.

Again Sardar Swaran Singh turned round and in his Punjabi English said, “Will China give ultimatum?”

I said, “You are the Foreign Minister. You tell me”.

Then I turned to the Prime Minister and said, “Prime Minister, last year you wanted elections in West Bengal and you did not want the communists to win, so you asked me to deploy my soldiers in penny pockets in every village, in every little township in West Bengal. I have two divisions thus deployed in sections and platoons without their heavy weapons. It will take me at least a month to get them back to their units and to their formations. Further, I have a division in the Assam area, another division in Andhra Pradesh and the Armoured Division in the Jhansi-Babina area. It will take me at least a month to get them back and put them in their correct positions. I will require every road, every railway train, every truck, every wagon to move them. We are harvesting in the Punjab, and we are harvesting in Haryana; we are also harvesting in Uttar Pradesh. And you will not be able to move your harvest.

I turned to the Agriculture Minister, Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, “If there is a famine in the country afterwards, it will be you to blame, not me.” Then I said, “My Armoured Division has only got thirteen tanks which are functioning.”

“Because you are the Finance Minister. I have been asking for money for the last year and a half, and you keep saying there is no money. That is why.”

The Finance Minister, Mr. Chawan, a friend of mine, said, “Sam, why only thirteen?”

“Because you are the Finance Minister. I have been asking for money for the last year and a half, and you keep saying there is no money. That is why.” Then I turned to the Prime Minister and said, “Prime Minister, it is the end of April. By the time I am ready to operate, the monsoon will have broken in that East Pakistan area. When it rains, it does not just rain, it pours. Rivers become like oceans. If you stand on one bank, you cannot see the other and the whole countryside is flooded. My movement will be confined to roads, the Air Force will not be able to support me, and, if you wish me to enter East Pakistan, I guarantee you a hundred percent defeat.”

Click to Buy: Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times

“You are the Government”, I said turning to the Prime Minister, “Now will you give me your orders?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seldom seen a woman so angry, and I am including my wife in that. She was red in the face and I said, “Let us see what happens”. She turned round and said, “The cabinet will meet four o’clock in the evening”.

Everyone walked out. I being the junior most man was the last to leave. As I was leaving, she said, “Chief, please will you stay behind?” I looked at her. I said, “Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, would you like me to send in my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?”

“No, sit down, Sam. Was everything you told me the truth?”

“Yes, it is my job to tell you the truth. It is my job to fight and win, not to lose.”

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36 thoughts on “SAM Manekshaw on Leadership and Discipline

  1. Thank you so much for the information Sir, the information what you told is very important for Growth and Well begin , It is a booster dose for my career .

    Once again I am very thankful to Mr Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw Sir.For the immense knowledge what he has given thorough his experience and from his point of View.

  2. Thank you so much for the information Sir, the information what you told is very important for Growth and Well beign , It is a booster dose for my career .

    Once again I am very thankful to Mr Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw Sir.For the immense knowledge what he has given thorough his experience and from his point of View.

  3. Every word in his address is so true and so normal. Since I practised most of these traits in my own carrier in the corporate world where I rose from a very humble beginning to become the managing director and remained so for18 years I can very easily relate.
    A very simple man endowed with great virtues.

  4. I have had the privilege of hearing the Field Marshal a few times. It was a treat to listen to him. He never looked down to see any notes. He looked into your eyes and you know he meant every bit of what he was saying. His speech at the Passing Out Parade in IMA in Mar 72 was extremely inspiring. I cannot forget his words ” You will now be in command of men who have won, men who are best soldiers in the world, men who expect a lot from you. make sure you give it to them.” or words to this effect. I had attended the parade. Had about 15 months service at that point in time. I was totally impressed, highly motivated and felt extremely proud of the uniform I was wearing.

    Happy Birthday SAM. We miss u. Indian Army needs more SAMs

  5. Happy Birthday SAM. I fondly remember you, Miss you,and love you.can’t forget your aura. Please be born again this Indian army needs you badly to save it from downfall. I know you will be watching it from heaven ,leave heaven come to lead it once again. Show it the way as it has got lost after you left it. I m sure you are listening.come before it becomes BER.

    You live in our hearts for ever.Thank you SAM for being our leader

  6. SAM BAHADUR IS BORN : Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, 8th Chief of Army Staff was born on 3rd April, 1914 (Amritsar Punjab).Indian Army under his leadership compelled Pakistan to kneel before India along with 93000 troops in 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. This war resulted in creation of Bangladesh which was earlier known as East Pakistan.

    HIS FAMOUS QUOTE “IF A MAN SAYS HE IS NOT AFRAID OF DYING, HE IS EITHER LYING OR IS A GURKHA.”

  7. Where’s the doubt? lack of leadership,right FM is.

    There are academies to teach leadership to officers but where do you teach the politicians and how.until unless they learn problem not going to be solved. And I don’t find an answer to it .Winston Churchill’s warning has come true

  8. The British Trained officers who later rose to become fieldmarshals , generals
    like Carriapa , Himmatsinghji,SAM Bhadur and dartmourth trained admirals LIike
    Ronny Pierra Marshal of the airArjan singh were the jewels in the crown of the Indian army navy and airforce . If the poorly paid , poorly equipped forces performed well in 65 and gave india a resounding victory in 71 it was because of their leadership and many unsung heroes . Who can forget the battle of Rezang la in 1962 when the brigade under the brig RAINA AWORLD WAR -2 expierenced vetran gave a bloody noze to the chinese with so many chinese casulties and the IndianS led by maj Shaitan singh faught to the last man and to the last bullet all falling near the posts without abandoning or withdrawal . TIMES HAVE CHANGED . WE NOW HAVE CHIEFS STEALING HOUSES IN ADARSH SCAM MEANT FOR WIDOWS , RATION WALLAS , MEDICINES WALLAS , RENT SEEKERS , ARMS MERCHANTS , DALALS and commission agents ready to sacrifice the service interests for petty joint secretary level ambassoderships and governerships .
    THE INSTITUTIONS OF NDA , IMA NAVAL OR AIRFORCE ACADEMIES SIMPLY DO NOT MAKE THEM ANY MORE LIKE THEM . TIMES HAVE CHANGED . THE AURA , PRIDE AND HIGHER VALUES OF LEADERSHIP HAVE ALL FALLEN TO THE WAYSIDE, CRASS COMERCIALISM AND PERSONNEL GREED

  9. An excellent reading. Had the good fortune of escorting the Field Marshal to College of Naval Warfare, Mumbai in 1990 and listening to his lectures on two occasions. So I could visualize him delivering this lecture too, in his typical charismatic style! His lectures were full of experiences, anecdotes, humour and always with a glint of mischief in his eyes! He was undoubtedly the most dynamic Military Leader the Indian Army has had – whether he was a born Leader or made through long experience and training, I am not competent enough to say! He stressed upon moral courage, discipline and character, traits which are very much wanting in the modern youth and society in general. One only wishes that he should have been at the helm during 1962!

  10. the speech is very stimulating and describes stste of art in India. leadrers are made and not born.

    we lack leadership in all fields of life. we need to develop a system for our country and people.

    political system is corrupt. govt employees are corrupt

  11. the speech is very stimulating and describes stste of art in India. leadrers are made and not born.

    we lack leadership in all fields of life. we need to develop a system for our country and people.

    political system is corrupt.

  12. from the experience of Manekshaw and Gen VK Singh, Indian Army officers are true moral leadership citizens of or nation. So they can also put incharge as the politician masters and other government Officers. Because today Indian Defence Services stand tall in nature. I hope all soldiers and citizens can joined together to make INDIA prouder in the countries among the world.

  13. Hats off to the Field Marshall. Now thats how one delivers a lecture. Full of lively, engaging anecdotes with messages that are direct and tacitly forcing our minds to retrospect and learn. Alas, we do not have The Field Marshall physically today; but he lives on, in our minds and hearts. A true leader and an example to us all Bharatiyas. Jai Hind.

  14. What a wonderful speech… a very academic pitch with notes of humour in between (typical with Manekshaw)
    All points conveyed in detail and attested with elaborated examples. This must be added to the curriculum of young officers’ academy.
    A great speech by the soldiers’ General, with conviction.

  15. Yes, knowledge of your job/ subject is absolutely paramount, thats why Manekshaw was able to rattle our PM. Now take our politicains, most of them have no bloody knowledge of their ministry except how to rake in the moolah for themselves and their relatives- Mayawati, Mulayam, Laloo, Jayalalitha etc readily come to mind, and these mo fuc@@ers have the gall to become prime ministers. If they do so even god cannot help this country

  16. He was the upfront and down to earth person. Our Indian Army was very lucky to have such a person of high caliber and compassion for his subordinates. This was an answer to claimants of nationalism who only offer the lip services but totally lacking in leadership. He has won the hearts of millions of people in India and abroad. He was the true nationalist, a true Hindi and last but not the least a true Parsee. Jai Hind !

  17. An awesome article that must be read by everyone in our armed forces and in our government. Wish we had people like Field Marshal Manekshaw in the army – and indeed in all walks of life in our country – today.

  18. A Superb Article- Late Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw was a True Legend & a Icon for the Armed Forces. In India,There is NOT ONLY LACK OF LEADERSHIP AT ALL LEVELS,but also Wrong type of so called leaders [Scoundrels ] at all levels. These Scoundrels [ Politicians ] are able to Fool,Sway & get support of the illeterate & gullible masses by making False promises,by lies & by promising Freebies etc… Ultimately, People get the leaders they Deserve & Leaders get The opposition they deserve & this Rigmarole goes on & on.The Aam Aadmi in India is NOT A SIMPLETON !!!-Always Remember the Golden Saying – ” THE STRENGTH OF THE WOLF IS THE PACK, THE STRENGTH OF THE PACK IS THE WOLF “.

  19. It is very singular, that this speech was for army personnel. I must express, it is very singular and people see it as so, that Gen. V. K. Singh does speak about matters to do with, and to people, who do very much want to shake his hand, but wouldn’t perhaps understand him. It appears, he didn’t and others also don’t perhaps communicate at all, so that they need to really be understood, in the armed forces. I really seem to feel, he cannot understand what people might understand of him, in measure. I mean, if he was discussing military matters, in uniform or not, people might not be interested at all, but he would be heeded, with regard.

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