Military & Aerospace

SAM Manekshaw on Leadership and Discipline
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 Aug , 2023

“If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.” – Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

Anyway, I reached the lectern, and I addressed the gathering for my allotted time of forty minutes. I was heard in pin drop silence, and at the end of my talk, was given terrific ovation. The Vice Chancellor and his lady, the Dean, the professors and lecturers, the boys and girls, and even my own wife, standing up and giving me an ovation. After the convocation was over, we walked into the gardens to have refreshments. And I, having an eye for pretty girls, walked up to a pert little thing wearing a pair of tight fitting jeans and a body hugging blouse, and I started a conversation with her. I said, “My dear, why were you so kind to me, I not being an orator nor having the looks of Amitabh Bachhan, when only the other day you treated a VIP from Delhi so shamefully”. This pert little thing had no inhibitions.

It is one thing to be frightened. It is quite another to show fear. If you once show fear in front of your men, you will never be able to command.

She turned round and said, and I quote, “Oh, that a dreadful man! We asked him to come at four o’clock. He came much later and that too accompanied with a boy and a girl, probably his grand children. He was received by the Vice Chancellor and his lady and taken to the platform. He was garlanded by the Student Union President, and he demanded garlands for those brats too. So, the Union President diverged with the garland that was meant for the Vice Chancellor and gave it to the brats. Then the Vice Chancellor started singing the worthy’s praises. Whilst he was doing so, this man hitched up his dhoti, exposing his dirty thighs, and scratched away. Then the Vice Chancellor said, “This man has done so much for the country, he has even been to jail”. And I nearly shouted out, ‘He should be there now’. Anyway, when the Vice Chancellor asked him to come to the lectern and address the convocation, he got up, walked to the lectern and addressed us thus, ‘Boys and girls, I am a very busy man. I have not had time to prepare my speech but, I will now read out the speech my secretary has written’. We did not let him stand there. Without exception, the whole lot of us stood and booed him off the stage.”

Now, you see, Ladies and Gentleman, what I mean by discipline. Had this man as his position warranted come on time at four o’clock, fully prepared and properly turned out, can you imagine the good it would have done to these 2000 young girls and boys? Instead of that, his act of indiscipline engendered further indiscipline. I thanked my lucky stars, having been in the Army for so many years, that I arrived there on time, that I had come properly dressed, that I didn’t wear a dhoti to show my lovely legs, that I didn’t exacerbate an itch or eczema, to hurt the susceptibilities of my audience, by indulging in the scratching of the unmentionables.

Now, Ladies and Gentleman, you understand what I mean by discipline. We are the most ill-disciplined people in the world. So far, all of you have been very, very disciplined. Will you bear with me for another two minutes? Having talked about leadership, having talked about discipline, I want to mention something about Character. We Indians also lack character. Do not misunderstand me, when I talk of character. I don’t mean just being honest, truthful, and religious, I mean something more- Knowing yourself, knowing your own faults, knowing your own weaknesses and what little character that we have, our friends, our fans, the ‘yes-men’ around us and the sycophants, help us reduce that character as well. Let me illustrate this by an example:

Discipline can be defined as conduct and behavior for living decently with one another in society.

Some years ago, Hollywood decided to put up the picture of great violinist and composer, Paganini. The part of Paganini was given to a young actor who was conversant, somewhat, with the violin. He was drilled and tutored to such an extent that when the little piece, the Cadenza, was filmed, it was perfect. When the film was shown, the papers raved about it, and the critics raved about it. And this man’s fans, ‘yes-men’, sycophants, kept on telling him that he was as good a violinist as Heifetz or Menuhin. And do you know that I took eight months in a psychiatric home to rid him of his delusion?

Do you know, Commandant, that the same thing happened to me? After the 1971 conflict with Pakistan, which ended in thirteen days and I took 93000 prisoners, my fans, the ‘yes-men’ around me, the sycophants, kept on comparing me to Rommel, to Field Marshal Alexander, to Field Marshal Auchinleck, and just as I was beginning to believe it, the Prime Minister created me a Field Marshal and sent me packing to the Nilgiris. A hard-headed, non-nonsense wife deprived a psychiatric home (what we in India call a lunatic asylum), of one more inmate.

I thank you very much indeed. Thank you.

Question: In 1962 war, what was your appointment, were you in a position to do something about the situation?

FM: In the 1962 war, I was disgrace. I was a Commandant of this Institution.

Mr. Krishna Menon, the Defence Minister, disliked me intensely. General Kaul, who was Chief of General Staff at the time, and the budding man for the next higher appointment, disliked me intensely. So, I was in disgrace at the Staff College. There were charges against me – I will enumerate some of them – all engineered by Mr. Krishna Menon.

There were charges against me – I will enumerate some of them – all engineered by Mr. Krishna Menon.

I do not know if you remember that in 1961 or 1960, General Thimayya was the Army Chief. He had fallen out with Mr. Krishna Menon and had sent him his resignation. The Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru, persuaded General Thimayya to withdraw his resignation. The members of Parliament also disliked Mr. Krishna Menon, and they went hammer and tongs for the Prime Minister in Parliament.

The Prime Minister made the following statement, “I cannot understand why General Thimayya is saying that the Defence Ministry interferes with the working of the Army. Take the case of General Manekshaw. The Selection Board has approved his promotion to Lieutenant General, over the heads of 23 other officers. The Government has accepted that.”

I was the Commandant of the Staff College. I had been approved for promotion to Lieutenant General. Instead of making me the Lieutenant General, Mr. Krishna Menon levied charges against me. There were ten charges, I will enumerate only one or two of them – that I am more loyal to the Queen of England than to the President of India, that I am more British than Indian. That I have been alleged to have said that I will have no instructor in the Staff College whose wife looks like an ayah. These were the sort of charges against me.

Then the Chinese came to my help. Krishna Menon was sacked, Kaul was sacked and Nehru sent for me. He said, “General, I have a vigorous enemy. I find out that you are a vigorous General. Will you go and take over?”

For eighteen months my promotion was held back. An enquiry was made. Three Lieutenant Generals, including an Army Commander, sat at the enquiry. I was exonerated on every charge. The file went up to the Prime Minister who sent it up to the Cabinet Secretary, who wrote on the file, ‘if anything happens to General Manekshaw, this case will go will down as the Dreyfus case.’ So the file came back to the Prime Minister. He wrote on it, “Orders may now issue”, meaning I will now become a Lieutenant General. Instead of that, Ladies and Gentleman, I received a letter from the Adjutant General saying that the Defence Minister, Mr. Krishna Menon, has sent his severe displeasure to General Manekshaw, to be recorded. I had it in the office where the Commandant now sits. I sent that letter back to the Adjutant General saying what Mr. Krishna Menon could do with his displeasure, very vulgarly stated. It is still in my dossier.

Then the Chinese came to my help. Krishna Menon was sacked, Kaul was sacked and Nehru sent for me. He said, “General, I have a vigorous enemy. I find out that you are a vigorous General. Will you go and take over?”

I said, “I have been waiting eighteen months for this opportunity,” and I went and took over.

So, your question was 1962, and what part did I play, none whatsoever, none whatsoever.

I was here for eighteen months, persecuted, inquisitions against me but we survive….I rather like the Chinese.

Question: The Army has changed and progressed. Do you find any difference in the mental makeup of the young officers compared to your time?

FM: Over the years, things have changed…… there is a lot of difference, dear. In my time, my father used to support me until I became a Lieutenant Colonel. I used to get an allowance to be able to live. Today, the young officer has not only to keep himself but has to send money home.

In my time, we did not have all these courses. The only course I ever did, (of course, we had the four rounds of courses that every officer had to do), but we had mules there so I had to do a course in training mountain mules. Today the young officer hardly stays in his regiment. He is sent from one place to another to do this course and that course, and he does not get a chance of knowing his men.We knew our men. Also there wasn’t so much work in those days. We got up in the mornings, did Physical Training for half an hour , came back ,dressed, had breakfast , then went to our company lines and spent all our time avoiding the Commanding Officer.

“I will thank you General to know who commands this regiment. Me, and not this young man. I will not have you ticketing him off in front of your daughter.”

Those Commanding Officers were nasty chaps. They did not give a damn for anybody. I will give an example of the Commanding Officer. I was made quartermaster of my battalion. The Commanding Officer sent for the Adjutant and myself. He said, I want to take the battalion out tomorrow morning for an exercise. “We did not have motor cars, we had to indent for mules, so, I as quartermaster intended for a company of mules. He said we were going to leave for the exercise at 6:30, so I ordered the company of mules to arrive at six. At eleven o’clock at night, the commanding officer changed his mind. He said, “I will not go at 6:30, we will go at nine o’clock. “There was nothing I could do. I got on my bicycle, went off to the lines, where the mules had arrived. I told them to unsaddle, and go into the shade, when who should arrive on a horse but the Cavalry Officer with his daughter!

I touched my hat. He said, “What are those animals doing here, young man?” I said that we were going out on an exercise.

“When are you going?”

“Nine o’clock.”

He tore strips off me – “going at nine o’clock and you have the animals waiting here at six o’clock”. He was riding with his daughter on a horse. What could I say to a General officer, I had two pips on my shoulder. Suddenly, who should be coming on a bicycle, but the Commanding Officer! He touched his hat, said, “Morning, General.”

Turning to me, he said, “What is the matter, Sam?”

I said, “Sir, the General is angry with me because we are going out at nine o’clock and the mules are here at six.”

He turned round to face the General, and said, I will thank you General to know who commands this regiment. Me, and not this young man. I will not have you ticketing him off in front of your daughter.”

He turned back to me and said, “Have you had your breakfast, Sam?”


“Go along. Have your breakfast.”

“Please do, Sir. You used to call me ‘bloody fool’ before. I thought that was my Christian name!”

I was delighted to go off. But when we came back from the exercise, at about eight o’clock in the evening, in my letter rack, was a letter from the General’s wife, inviting me to tea the next day. Now, I did not want to have tea with the General’s wife! But that’s the sort of thing that happens.

When I became the field Marshal, I was the guest of her majesty in England. I had given a reception at India House, where the Commanding Officer with his wife were also invited. He came in, shook hands with my wife, shook hands with me, and walked off. Everybody was drinking. After about half an hour, when everybody had arrived, I walked up to him with a glass of whisky in my hand, and he turned round to me, “May I call you Sam?”

“Please do, Sir. You used to call me ‘bloody fool’ before. I thought that was my Christian name!”

The difference between the officer now and then – my first confidential report written by him. Before you went in to sign your confidential report, you had to go in front of the Adjutant, beautifully turned out. We did not have any medals in those days. We had to have a sword to go into the CO’s office then. I walked in there, saluted the Adjutant, he looked me up and down and said, “You are going to see the Colonel, now? Look at you! Your bloody strap is filthy dirty, look at your belt, it is disgusting. Go on, go and get dressed.” I walked out, waited for five minutes and came back.

He looked me up and down, “Much better.”

Then he said, “You are going in there. Do you have a fountain pen?”

I said, “Yes.”

“The CO will read your report. You will initial on the left hand corner. Is that understood?”


I walked in there, saluted the Colonel, “Mr. Manekshaw reporting, Sir.”

He looked me up and down, thrust the report on me online- “This officer, I beg his pardon, this man, may someday become an officer.”

I initialed it and walked out.

Khalid Sheikh, another officer from my regiment, who became the Foreign Minister of Pakistan and a Governor there, came out. “Khaled, what report have you got?” I said. He said “Online- this officer tends to be irresponsible”. I said, “That’s a bad report, Khalid.” He said, Uh! Last year the bugger said I was irresponsible.”

But we did not mind. Today, if the commanding Officer writes and says this officer is irresponsible, the officer wants to appeal to the President of India saying he is more responsible than the Commanding Officer.

That was the difference, dear. We simply did not give a cuss.

Anything else?

Thank you Gentlemen, thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your patience and your discipline. I am delighted to see you all here.

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38 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.


  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 .

  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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