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Leading from the front

Leading from  the front


Brig Jagbir Singh Grewal (retd)

The ‘will to win’, which is also interpreted as the unyielding perseverance to achieve results, is considered to be an essential trait of a military commander. This quality is equally imperative to attain success in any sphere of life.

It was during a military exercise, held in the scorching summer in a typically arid desert of Rajasthan in my fledgling years in the Army, that the ability to withstand extreme stress and strain for prolonged durations was instilled into me and other soldiers.

We had moved the entire night without sleep and rest as the exercise progressed, frantically consuming our meals on the go. The initial crust of the ‘enemy’ defences fell at daybreak. Thereafter, without giving the ‘enemy’ any chance to recover and recoup, we were to rush speedily to secure its inland territory, and that spared us no time for food or rest.

The sun popped up over the horizon and soon stunningly dazzled us as it set the parched earth ablaze. With no trace of vegetation around, the intense heat worsened. Sweat drenched our uniform. Irritating sunrays glared into our eyes. Hot sand burnt the soles of our feet. Gusts of wind menacingly swept the high sand dunes. Heated sand granules blew around and settled on our clothes, faces and arms like crushed soot. Situations in military life can be mercilessly violent, savage-like, brutal, horribly unbearable and cruel. Then, all illusions of fun and glamour fade away.

This desert exercise deeply ingrained into our psyche the commitment to lead from the front when we observed that commanders at all levels were omnipresent with a stoic resolve, trudging on foot with their subordinates, supervising, monitoring, inspiring, influencing, exposing themselves to hardships and danger, giving quick verbal orders, and pushing themselves beyond their limits of endurance. I realised that leading by example was not a one-time activity but a norm in the Army.

The terrain and the climate had proven to be formidable. The tenacity of our ‘will to win’ and the ability to sustain had been substantially put to the test. Though there was no real enemy and no enemy firing, the situation had been made realistic with simulated war-like conditions.

It became evident to us that most complex problems cannot be solved by remaining seated in the office. One field inspection is worth a thousand reports. An officer of any domain who does not move around and observe, but continues to be perennially chair-bound in his office, remains seated on a heap of troubles. Sound, imaginative plans fail if the leadership is poor and ineffective. What matters is the prudence to handle crucial situations in time and the judicious ability to be present at the right place at the right time.


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