Friday, June 25, 2010

Real Courage


It was yet another cold depressing evening in early December that year. She stood by the kitchen fire in her small two room home, reluctantly cooking some food which was to be her dinner. Reluctantly because she wasn't really interested in eating. For she was all alone - in the house that was small, and empty. She was all alone and lonely and that made her sad...

This winter the whole day was depressing, the evenings even more so. Like during every winter this year too, she sat each day on the cot laid out in the front veranda of her house, right under the bright warm afternoon sun. She sat and did what she had been doing for years. She sat and knitted. She knitted sweaters and dabbled off and on with crochet. Her fingers were old and wrinkled but they moved the needles with such speed that they seemed but a blur...

But there was something missing this winter. Her two sons, both officers in the Army, had not returned home for their regular two month annual leave. When her sons came for their annual leave those two months were the only time when her house seemed to come alive. This year it was not to be...

She had sent three sons into the Army.And had already lost one son many years ago.But she understood the power of faith in the Almighty and devotion to duty towards the Motherland. She was proud to be the mother to two more brave Officers who were now serving the Nation as its devoted soldiers.

Her instincts however told her that something this year was terribly wrong. Something serious enough for her two sons not returning home for their leave.

That evening just as she had begun to settle her tired old frame onto her bed and in between the quilts she heard a knock on her door. It was a violent banging of the door, suggesting a certain sense of urgency. When she opened the door, she saw policemen. Why did she have her lights on? Didn't' she know that there was 'black out' in the entire city of Dehra Dun? War had broken out between India and Pakistan this earlier in the evening.

The realization dawned on her in a few seconds. Her heart sank when she fully understood the implications of the news she had just heard. THIS was the reason why her two sons hadn't returned home for their annual leave. Their leave had been cancelled in view of the developing situation along the frontiers of the Country. And now - it was quite clear that they were in the thick of the war !

An entire life time flashed by, in her mind, as she forgot about her dinner, and just simply got into bed and lay there thinking. She thought about her home in her younger days, a few years after her marriage. She was newly wed but she took care of more than fifty members as the home maker. There were her own children and and her husband's sister and HER family. Those were happy times.

Then her entire World was shattered at the sudden demise of her husband in a road accident. All her children were still young - in their teens, with the exception of one son who had joined the merchant navy and was sailing. From that time, her the only one thing she asked from God, was the welfare of her family.

The tension in her mind was killing. And to top it all, no 'near and dear' one to share her state of mind. So she dealt with it the only way she knew. She prayed. Not that she otherwise didn't. She prayed all the time. Whosoever knew her, saw her always with her rosary in her hand, and her fingers continuously telling the beads, and her lips moving in a silent chant of the verses she remembered from the 'Granth Sahib' Her prayers were completely selfless. She only prayed for the welfare of her children. She wanted nothing else from God. Now, when she prayed, it was for the welfare of her two young brave sons - soldiers who were fighting on the frontiers.

Days went by. She went about her daily life performing all her chores in the best manner and old woman could. All the time, her lips moving with the barely audible chant of the verses. When her hands were free from work, they would normally be busy with knitting. Now, her fingers just moved with her rosary. All the time. Because prayers provided her strength. And helped her keep all depressing, scary thoughts out of her mind. And most importantly, praying meant she could talk to God.

The neighbours poured in all day - every day. They sympathized with her, made small talk and left. All along she maintained a dignified silence, little betraying the fear deep down in her. The fear of the worst. Almost everyone who came to meet her, returned totally awestruck. Here was an old frail woman whose two sons were in the thick of war and she went about her daily life without even a hint of fear or anxiety

In a way the days were moments to look forward to, because there were people around her. The nights were another story. Black out after sunset. No sign of human activity outdoors, with the exception of the occasional whistle from the 'Home Guards' keeping vigil, on those cold winter nights.

It was an endless wait. Every now and then she would be overcome with the horrible sinking feeling that there was bad news on its way. And then her distracted and scared mind would once again turn to prayer....

Finally on the fourteenth day, a caring neighbor ran into her to give her the good news - that the war had come to an end. There seemed to be a certain sense of festivity and celebrations amongst the neighbors. But to her, her prayers had once again been answered by her God.

When the neighbors came to congratulate her - she thanked God wished them well - and that was it ! As far as she was concerned, the recent past was 'trying times' and as usual her God had listened to her prayers.

She now went about her small home trying to catch up on the pending chores. And when work was done and her old wrinkled hands were free, they got busy with the knitting and the crochet. Her fingers moved with the same speed - that seemed like a blur...

And when her fingers got tired, they still moved. Now, slowly telling the beads of her rosary. Her lips moved in silent recitation of the verses from the Granth Sahib.

She prayed and she prayed more. Now she prayed not only for her two sons, but for ALL her children - my mother, my aunts and my uncles.....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Salute to a Fallen Hero

Colonel Neeraj Sood was the Commanding Officer of the 18th Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, a unit tasked to fight terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir.

Always the one known to lead from the front, the Colonel acting upon a tip off about the presence of militants in the Kupwara region, got his ''Quick Search Team" together and headed off to take on the terrorists. In the ensuing gun battle, Colonel Sood received a bullet in the head, and succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

Colonel Sood leaves behind his wife and an 11 year old daughter.

Heading the Quick Search Team was clearly something that COs of a battalion would not do. But Colonel Sood demonstrated rare courage and determination to duty, and in the process upheld the highest traditions of the Indian Army.

I salute this brave soldier who clearly exceeded his brief and in the process made the supreme sacrifice by laying down his life.

His sacrifice should also serve as a reminder to all Indians, of the innumerable sacrifices made by our troops - our officers and men, who guard our Country against hostile elements.

Let us not forget that it is because of their sacrifice that we sleep peacefully every night.

And the next time we see a man in uniform - let us salute him anyway.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Winners and Losers...

Occasionally, and when I can remember to tune in, I like to watch music reality shows like 'Indian Idol' or 'Sa Re Ga Ma'

I like to watch these programs because I like music. And to me its a special experience listening to good singers with melodious voices render familiar songs from old films.

But one thing about the music competitions is invariably disturbing. Some of the best singers are among the first to be eliminated.

Not surprising, considering the format of the competition. The audience votes and decides.
(The judges are mere show pieces).
Through text messages and phone calls.
Cell phone operators mint millions and in turn sponsor the show.

The result is there for all to see. Aspirants who are genuine singers fail to make the grade because they don't get enough audience votes. Contestants who are less deserving by any stretch of imagination move up the competition rounds.

The deserving contestants who get eliminated early manage to get singing contracts anyway because they are good. The winners and finalists fade away into oblivion. They are seen next only as anchors in the subsequent editions of the show.

So what's all this about? The good guys do make it big in the end. But not on the show.
The not so good guys win in front of the camera but are losers otherwise.

And what does the viewer do? Enjoy the music or grapple with this 'warped' competition?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My father didn't teach me anything.
Yet - in living his life, he taught me about living life.

He rose from a humble beginning and faced adversities when young
And I learnt about perseverance,determination and resolve

He brought up his young siblings
took care of his ageing and frail mother
Placing their welfare before his own
Always and every time
And I learnt about sacrifice

He stood upright through moments of trial
And I learnt about honesty, conviction and moral strength

When he was heart broken on the death of a sibling
and wept bitterly and unashamedly
I learnt about expressing and sharing grief

He took me for long drives and played with me
And I learnt about expressing and sharing happiness.

He loved to talk and share, cracked jokes and brought a smile to people's faces
And I learnt to enjoy the simple moments in life.

He sat long hours during the day, and at night
listening to 'raagas' with total concentration, fascination and involvement.
And I learnt to appreciate Indian music and India's cultural heritage.

He sat and sang 'bhajans' in praise of the Lord
in his melodious voice
Day after day - never tiring of it.
And I learnt about devotion and faith.

He went through mishaps, injuries, hospitals and surgeries
through his life
And when his call came from his Maker
He lay on his hospital bed
Suffering, quietly waiting for the final moment
of leaving this World, to be with God
And I learnt about enduring pain
And I learnt that our Life on Earth
is only a brief stop.

My father didn't teach me anything.
He just held my hand and walked through thick and thin....

He still holds my hand.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Final Salute

Today I read a news item in the newspaper that made me happy, because it was about how people can be nice to animals.

This was a story about Varun, a Doberman, who was a police dog. Varun died of a heart ailment, after serving the police in Koppal in Karnataka, for almost the same time as his entire life -eight years.

Varun was inducted into the police force when he was one month old ! And his training started when he was just three months.

During his career in the police force, Varun actually helped solve about 90 cases of theft and 30 cases of murder.

When Varun died, the citizens and police force of Koppal gathered in the District Armed Reserve Police grounds for an official 'funeral'. Wreaths were laid and a bugle was sounded after which Varun was laid to rest.

Varun's feat as a police dog was exemplary. What was amazing though, was the love and respect the police force and the local citizens had for this canine.

This in a way restores one's faith in humanity - that there are human beings who are kind enough to love an animal, who were grateful for what he did for society, and who went out of their way to pay their last respects.

Long live Varun, and long live the police and the people of Koppal..

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

That lovable chewable delight called "Chewing Gum"

I would like to meet someone who will tell me that he or she hasn't ever chewed gum. All of us did - when we were young, and continue to do so even today. The difference is - when we were small we blew bubbles, and now we chew gum for different reasons.

We know chewing gum existed in the 'Neolithic' period - almost 5000 years ago. But modern chewing gum was developed in the 1860s when 'chicle' was exported from Mexico as a rubber substitute. Most gum manufacturers have since switched to synthetic gum bases for reasons of cost.

Chewing gum has a long history. And more importantly it has a great great future.

The United States military has regularly supplied soldiers with chewing gum since World War II, because it helped both to improve the soldiers' concentration and to relieve stress.
In the 60s and 70s, chewing gum was a product which people consumed for two reasons. The first reason was 'just fun' - you didn't chew gum for any reason, but just for fun. Later, chewing gum had a very distinct use - that of a mouth freshener.
Towards the beginning of the 80s, functional gums were introduced (they were there for many years, but this period saw some very serious work in the area of functional gums).
The first kind of functional gums were 'dental care' gums. Chewing gum manufacturers claimed that chewing gum could perform the same function that a tooth brush and tooth paste did every morning. So, instead of brushing your teeth each morning, you could actually have a dental gum !
And these claims couldn't simply be false or misleading, in a very strict, regulatory environment.
Then we have the 'Nicotine Gum' a boon for all those that want to quit smoking. So when you have the urge to smoke you simply consume some Nicotine by chewing a Nicotine gum, and relieve your craving. You still do have Nicotine, but you avoid consuming the the highly poisonous 'tar' which you do when you smoke a cigarette - which is burning paper.
Chewing gum has a promising future - in the pharmaceuticals industry. In the form of medicated gums. And this thought is really very exciting. You already have 'OTC' or 'Over The Counter' medicines that are available in the form of chewing gum. And what kind of medicines are these that we can now consume by simply chewing gum?
These are vitamin and herbal supplements, anti motion sickness medicines, digestive supplements, and what have you. While chewing gum, you can now even have supplements to aid breast enhancement. And to top it all - you can even have 'VIAGRA' by chewing gum !
Imagine - that in the very near future you can have a 'Digene' or a 'Gelusil' or a 'Hajmola' in the form of chewing gum....
The utlimate destination for chewing gum of course is to pave a way for itself in the 'New Drug Delivery Systems'
This means - you can have all the unpleasant, bitter medicines - the actual pharma drugs, by simply chewing gum. And you can have
Imagine administering an anti biotic to a small child who will gladly chew gum, without even being remotely aware that he or she is having a medicine. Technology will ensure that the bitter taste of medicine will be masked, and to the child - it will be - well - chewing gum !
In India, chewing gum is considered 'indecent' in many sections of society across our Country. Its high time we stopped thinking that way. Chewing gum can actually benefit us in so many ways, only some of which have been discussed above.
With the hundreds of uses of gum - all good for health, why chew paan or paan masaala or 'gukta'?

Memoirs of a dear friend - Vivek

Vivek Sanyal was my class mate through many years in School. I stayed in RK Puram, and he, close by in Munirka. We became friends.

When School finished, we parted ways, each one anxious of what lay ahead in life. And in that keenness to look forward to the future, most of us forgot to say our 'good byes' and forgot to promise each other to keep in touch....

Thirty one year later we reunited. And now while the faces were the same, the reunion was all about rediscovering each other.

Vivek went to the Armed Forces Medical College, and became a Doctor.He completed his 'tour of duty' in the five years that he served in the Indian Army.

I discovered that Vivek was also a good story teller. One of the stories - part of his memoirs of his life back then in the 'fauj' particularly struck me as very 'absorbing'. With Vivek's permission I am reproducing it right here - on my blog.

So here it is - a short story titled "Long Ago" by Captain (Retd) Dr. Vivek Sanyal :

"October 1991. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, had sent 5 Divisions into Punjab ... the combined Corp HQs was in Jullundur ... I was the RMO ( Regimental Medical Officer) of 12 Sikh ( 12th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment ) which was stationed at a Tehsil called Garshankar in Hoshiarpur District.

Mission was to 1. Cordon & Search' the villages in & around the area; 2. Arrest, confine, interrogate, nuetralise or eliminate all & any terrorists that were heard of, found, suspected intercepted; and 3. Establish trust of the local civilian population towards the Congress Government. Long term plans were to disinfest the whole state so that there could be free-n-fair Elections in Feb 1992 ( which ultimately did take place )

Towards this endeavour, I was required to hold Medical Camps at various villages, which were to be 'set-up' by 10:00 hours.and continue until 17:00 hours. Every 'patient' was searched, frisked, interrogated as well. But I generally gave treatment, free medicines, medical counselling, health education lectures to school children, referred seriously ill patients to the Civil Hospital; in "deserving cases" ( read - those cases which would give the Army/Govt mileage in popularity ) even sent them for comprehensive treatment to Military Hospitals.

Each Medical Camp required mobilization @ 4:00am in the morning, travelling 25-50kms to the designated village, establishing camp, going through the whole day, and the wrapping up the whole set-up by 19:00 hours & returning to our Battalion HQs by 21:00-

22:00 hours. Exhaustion demanded a serious drinking session to reset the organism to 'Alive-again' mode ! Altogether, we held about 9 camps in 2 months. Everywhere, we went, we had an incredible escort of troops, armed to the teeth with extreme armament, to be prepared for organized ambushes by those merciless "kharkoos" as the terrorists were called in local dialect. Heavy-machines guns, grenade launchers, mortars were rife ...we officers were issued Semi-Automatic Carbines & personal side-arms (German-made 9mm Luger Automatics)

In the 2 months that I spent there, we had 2 minor skirmishes & 1 major one which they blew up the last 2 trucks in our fast moving convoy. 6 men were killed. So one can imagine the innate tensions in everybody's mind. Death & destruction was a possibility ... all the time ... for anyone.

And it was in this setting, that I found myself having some serious communication gap speaking to the populace in Punjabi. Especially the old men, women & children. And she was a local, but convent educated, married to a Captain in the Artillery, whose unit was posted in the Eastern Sector, ahead of New Jalpaiguri ...for 8 months already. She & her 4 yr old daughter were staying with her her father, who was a 'jathedar' in the local Gurudwara. I have no remote idea how she ended up being my interpreter, translator secretary, nurse, chaperone & liason officer ... who sent her, how did she qualify .... no idea at all ! Do I need to mention that she was very attractive; that she was pretty too ...and that we had this instant, intense chemistry ?

In the very 1st Medical Camp, she set my lunch out at an uneducated elderly village widow's house ... served me every item unobtrusively, while simultaneously translating for me, when I was charming the 60-year old widow. Her chunni didnt cover her head ... in fact her mid-back length hair was free, and brushed my face & arms when she served the food. She poured water from a jug so I could wash my hands. She handed me the towel so I could dry my hands. I never knew it was 16:30 hours until she sent my orderly to call me aside to have tea in my jeep. She didnt even look at me, when she handed me a plate of Marie biscuits to dip ino the tea. Later, while wrapping-up the camp, I saw my Senior Nursing Assistant telling her the details of our equipment, how it all was packed, what all went into my 'Doctor's Bag' !

Every camp thereafter, my clinic was impeccably arranged & organised ... the basin never ran out of water when I needed to wash my hands. Old women came to the clinic b'cos they had 'heard' that I was a 'kind, caring & able' doctor. A farmer's daughter had a large abscess in her private parts. She helped me drain it, though I noticed her sweating & trying to control her nausea at the sight of the lesion & smell of the pus. She was trembling when I hacked off the gangrenous finger of a young man, whose finger had got caught in a threshing machine. I never figured out, how or when, amidst all that she arranged for the best 'Sarson-da -Saag & Makki-di-Roti' I ever had, to be served on the back-seat of my jeep parked right behind my clinic.

She held limbs steady when I bandaged them or applied plaster. She meticulously buried all the syringes I used in deep in the soil after every camp. She held crying babies on her shoulder, when I examined them with my stethoscope. Once she arranged a table-fan wired to a lamp-post too, when she saw me sweating mid-morning. She translated all the ailments people poured out to me; she translated whatever advice I gave to each patient; she used to have a check-list of the patients who I had referred to the Civil & Military hospitals; she wiped the sweat from my brow when I was carefully excising dead skin from a severe burns injury.

And through all that, incredibly, she hardly ever looked into my eyes ! She never addressed me directly. Never stepped in my Staff's way. Maintained an impeccable decorum, absolutely above reproach, giving no chance to any of my lecherous staff to make a single disrespectful comment about her. To one-n-all, be it my staff, troops, my Commanding Officer and the patients ...she was simply 'Madam' ! She could anticipate my needs, orders & instructions. To a direct question she replied she had always wanted to be a nurse. It had been a few weeks, I didnt even know her name !

I think it was the 5th or 6th camp, when I was invited by a very dignified looking couple to have supper at their house after the camp was over. My sweet-elderly hostess lavished praise on me, wishing there were doctors like me in their area. She asked me about my origins, my education, my wife and my life in the Army. Her husband, a big-built heavily all white-moustached-bearded poured me a Double Rum-with-Soda, while the lady called out to her daughter Sonia in the kitchen, to help her lay out the table.

I almost stumbled & choked, when I saw it was her ! There was a smile hovering on her lips. All through the meal she kept telling her parents about things that happened at the camps. She knew I was watching her ... enchanted, sometimes even stuttering ... but she only had eyes for her Dad & her mum. Perfect hostess. Perfect daughter.

She came to see me to the door when I was leaving ...and then ... for the first time .. she really loooked at me. A frank, wide-eyed, intense, soul-baring look, that got me breathless ! My ears buzzing ! She was glowing ... shining ! I was afraid to hold her gaze, lest I revealed my desire. And yet, I was mesmerised. She simply shook my hand and said, "Thank you for coming, Captain !" in an unusually trembling, husky voice. And she ran back inside before I could recover.

Once, over tea, she asked, 'Is your wife very beautiful, Captain ?' Another time she asked , 'Was yours a love-marriage, Captain ?' Once while waiting for road-clearance, I began to sing a romantic song ... halfway through, I felt her still ... silent presence next to me ... and I belted out a whole bunch of songs ....all meant for her .... though I didnt even turn & look at her. As my staff joined in, I could hear her clapping to rythm.

When the local Magistrates 15 yr old daughter came to me for a toothache, she told her about how she got married, how she missed her husband, how she hated the terrorism in Punjab, how she wished she could travel with her husband ... for all practical purposes, she wasn't talking to me ... but she knew I was listening very intently to every word she spoke ! And then, she softly said, 'I wonder if all Officers in the Army are faithful to their wives when they are away from home for so long ?' And sudenly I turned .. and caught her steady meaningful gaze over the young girls shoulder .... ! Another moment when everything else around faded ... the only

reality was ... this 'magic' ... this frail, intangible, unproclaimed, beautiful ... magic ! Magic of youth calling to youth ! Of a woman glowing in a man's admiration ! Of passion held in check, of unspoken words, secret smiles & stolen glances !

After the last Camp, there was a long gap, when I made preparations to submit my papers for release from the Army. I was completing my 5 years of commissioned service soon. 2 days, before I was to leave, I visited her. When her mum let me in, I asked for her. She must have heard my voice ... I turned and heard her, before I saw ... her running down the stairs ! Her mum, took one look at her..and then at me ... and she stepped back ... and left us alone !

I gave her the bouquet of flowers, gave her the chocolates I had arranged from Jullunder specially for her ... and just looked into her eyes ! Oh I wanted to ! I needed to .... hold her, hug her, embrace her ! But I was a married man ... and she a married woman !

And we both loved our spouses ! And yet !

Finally, I said, 'Happy Birthday, Sonia-ji !'

Her surprise was a thrill. Her eyes formed the question. Her smile was brilliant. Her pleasure ... a rare gift. Then I said, "Sonia-ji, did Capt Sukhwinder ever tell you about the Doctor he met at Ladakh when he had come for his High-Altitude para-jumps ? That was also during your Birthday, right ? Did he tell you, how he and that Doctor had got drunk and chased a mountain-hare all over Leh town & finally crashed the Jeep into a Yak ? Do you know that Sukhwinder always keeps your photo in his wallet & shows it to his drinking buddies everywhere ? Well, I'll tell you this, your husband, loves you very much ... and the last time I met him, he was completely faithful to you !"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Here is a old lesson that we could all learn - about leadership and teamwork - from 'geese !

Many of us might be familiar with this. But this still remains a gem....

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

Author: By Robert McNeish, former Assoc. Superintendent of Baltimore Public Schools, 1972

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Photos that make you feel good.....

The Giza pyramids of Egypt, stand tall and elegant, as if a testimony to an entire era, and entire life, and entire World gone by...

And the 'Sphynx' stands alone to guard the pyramids and those that rest within...
In St. Patrick's Garden Dublin, a little girl enjoys playing with the birds, along with her young mother.
The birds enjoy too - and why shouldn't they? The park has everything, trees, water, a beautiful climate, and of course nothing to disturb them.
Its just after sunset in Amsterdam (March 2010), and the setting sun provides such a spectacular combination of colors when the light reflects on the water.....
A different kind of sunset - this time in Dublin, with an overcast summer sky. (August 2009)
And yet another sunset - the setting sun's light reflects upon the old building - an architectural beauty - of the Grand Central Station, Amsterdam (March 2010).
Back home in New Delhi, the sun peeks in from just above the horizon, one morning (September 2009), symbolic of a new beginning, and new hope.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Washington - At a glance

The 'Lincoln Memorial' in Washington DC - built to honor Abraham Lincoln the 16th President of the US.

The Washington Memorial with 'The Capitol' or the Sentate building in the far background.

The 'Roosevelt Memorial'. I got to see all of these landmarks thanks to Swati - my classmate and friend, and her husband Rajeev, who invested a good part of their weekend for my benefit.

The United States Supreme Court, which is just opposite 'The Capitol'

The United States Capitol - the meeting place of the Congress - the legislature of the United States Federal Government.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lessons in Leadership - by General Colin Powell (Part - II)

Lesson 7 - "Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds"

In a brain bases economy, the best assets are people. This is a well known fact. But how many leaders actually 'walk the talk"?

How many leaders immerse time in the goal of creating and environment where the best, the bright and the most creative are attracted, retained and more importantly 'unleashed'?

Lesson 8 - "Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing"

In a well run organization titles are meaningless. Titles mean little in terms of 'real' power, which is the capacity to influence and inspire. A team will commit to a person who might not have any authority on paper but who possesses drive, expertise and genuine concern for team members....

Lesson 9 - "Never let you ego come so close to your position so that when your position goes, your ego goes along with it..."

Very often change is stifled by people who cling to their familiar turfs and job descriptions. Real leaders understand everyone of our jobs will become obsolete. Effective leaders therefore create a climate where peoples' worth is determined by willingness to learn new skills, grab new opportunities, and reinvent jobs.
The most important question in performance appraisals should not be "How did you perform in yoru job since we last met"? rather "How did you change your job..."

Lesson 10 - "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier"

The ripple effect of enthusiasm and optimism is awesome. So is the impact of cynicism and pessimism. Perpetual optimism is not about accepting organizational stupidity or incompetence. Its about a 'gung-ho" attitude that says - we can change things here, we can achieve big goals, we can be the best !

Lesson 11 - Fit no stereotypes. Don't chase latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the mission"

Flitting from fad to fad creates confusion and reduces the leader's credibility. Blindly following a fad generates rigidity in thought and action.
Some situation require the leaders to hover closely while others require a long loose leash. Leaders honor core values but are flexible in how to execute them.

Management techniques are not magic 'mantras' but tools to be reached at the right times.


Lessons on Leadership by General Colin Powell (Part - I)

General Colin Powell is known to most of us. He was excelled in his career in the US Army, to rise to the position of Commander - United Forces Command, and later Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After retirement from the Army, he served his Country as the 65th Secretary of State under President George Bush.

Genl Powell's presentation on Leadership is an invaluable lesson on the subject. Here's the summary

Lesson 1 - "Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off...."

Good leadership means looking after the welfare of the people you lead. And this means that some people can sometimes get people angry at your actions and decisions. This is inevitable if you are honorable.

A leader has to focus on what or who is right. Trying to please people is a sign of mediocrity. The right choices can many times be the tough choice. By procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying hard not to get anyone mad, and by trying to be nice to most people regardless of their contributions, you will ensure that the only ones angered are the most productive and creative in your team.

Lesson 2 - "The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems, is the day you've stopped leading them.They have lost confidence that you can help them, or they have concluded that you don't care. Either way it's a failure of leadership"

As Genl Powell say - "if this were a litmus test, most CEOs would fail'. Because they build a culture where even the idea of a junior person looking up for help is ridiculous. Or, asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness.

Real leaders though expecting high standards of performance, also show concern for the problems and challenges their men face. The result is a culture of problem analysis rather than 'blame'

Lesson 3 - "Don't be afraid to challenge the pros - even in their own backyard"

Learn from the pros, seek them out as mentors and partners. But remember even the pros level out in terms of their learning and skills. Pros can also become complacement and lazy.
Leadership does not emerge from blind obedience to anyone. Good leadership encourages every one's evolution.

Lesson 4 - " Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted, the leader must be doubly vigilant".

Strategy equals execution. All the great ideas and visions in this World are useless if they are not implemented rapidly and efficiently. And while leader delegate and empower generously, they must pay attention to detail.

Lesson 5 - "You don't know what you can get away with, until you try"

It is said that it's easier to seek forgiveness than permission. Good leaders do not wait for 'official' blessings before trying things out. But they are prudent - not reckless.
Less effective leaders believe "If I haven't been told 'yes' - I cannot do it". Good Leaders believe "If I haven't been told 'No' - I can do it" There's a World of a difference in these two points of view.

Lesson 6 - "Keep looking below surface appearances. Don't shrink from doing so (just) because you might not like what you find"

"if it ain't broke don't fix it" is the slogan of the complacent, arrogant and the scared. It's an excuse for inaction. This sort of mindset assumes today's realities will continue tomorrow in a linear, predictable fashion. In this kind of culture you won't find people who proactively solve problems as they emerge

(To be continued...)