Leadership at 26000 feet
The classrooms of IIM Ahmedabad have had many a leader from the Corporate World, everyone an accomplished achiever in many a different business battlefield. The uniqueness of this visitor was the battlefield that he got his MBA from, the highest and most difficult war terrain the world. For, guarding the Siachen Glacier is not like guarding the rest of the motherland. For a short span of 1 year (which seems like forever in that inhospitable and inhabitable terrain), our brave and committed soldiers volunteer risk their life in the midst of hostile rivalry and freezing cold to protect a strategically important piece of territory which is bitterly fought for between us and our neighbors to our west. Mr. Raghu Raman’s contention is that there is no better place in the world than here to gain lessons about leadership, managing complex situations and even life.
Raghu has had a distinguished career both in the Armed Forces and after it, in the boardrooms of businesses. A Commerce graduate from Delhi and a passout of the Indian Military Academy, he has served in various units of the Army and has also served abroad in Indian Peacekeeping missions. Outside the Army, he has had diverse stints in primarily three different Organizations; the Mahindra Group, Government of India and Reliance Industries. Look closer into his profile and you will realize the sheer variety of his work; his roles in the Mahindra Group have included being head of Mahindra’s World College, risk mitigation and security consulting businesses and a Joint Venture with British Aerospace ! In his tenure with the Government, he was distinctly handpicked to run a start-up in the area of National intelligence (Nat-Grid), a highly ambitious and successful venture of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Given that Raghu had such a variety of experience and he could have talked about any of these roles, it is only fit that he talked about his one year stint in the Siachen Glacier, which he proudly claims to be the period in which he gained the best lessons possible. We were given a detailed overview of life in the Siachen Glacier (no pictures or videos please!) and came a little bit closer to understanding the kind of adversities our soldiers face in reaching the glacier and keeping it draped with the tricolors of the national flag throughout the year.
When every step taken during a routine patrol (which could take days at length) could lead to a fatal fall into a bottomless abyss, teams are tied at the hips and you trust your teammates to the peril of their lives. Decisions are taken by commanding officers which could send men to their death. Your carelessness or bad fortune could lead to the loss of lives of your entire team. Orders are obeyed beyond question. A Commanding officer leads from the front and this inspires his team to protect each other at every cost. And the leader often bears the burden of the lives of his team and their world.
The outstanding lessons which Mr. Raman taught us by invoking the experiences of Siachen Glacier as well as his expansive knowledge of the 26/11 operations in Mumbai by our NSG are lessons which will be far remembered by us even when we would have forgotten other worldly subjects like finance or operations. Them, and an inerasable sense of love, respect and gratitude for the kind of work our Armed forces perform in order to let us go about our businesses.
Aniruddha Srinath PGPX Class of 2016-17