Rewind 2016: Leadership lesson at Goafest, on what your troops expect
Raghu Rajan was a befitting finishing speaker; he inspired the audience, moved them to tears and left the stage to a standing ovation
Dec 29, 2016 07:06:00 AM | Article | Campaign India Team Share -
Speaking at the final session of Goafest 2016, Raghu Rajan, a former army man known for setting up Natgrid, and currently group president of risk and security at Reliance Industries, inspired the audience, moved them to tears and left the stage with a standing ovation.
The instances he touched upon in his talk of just over 30 minutes were about the Indian Army, and not necessarily involving him directly (except for Natgrid). But they were delivered and received passionately – from one Indian to his countrymen. And there were lessons in them for anyone from the corporate world.
“When we train our youngsters, they have to be constantly reminded of what their previous generations have done,” said Rajan.
He cited the example of a 24-year-old son of a school teacher from Uttar Pradesh, who had laid down his life in a crucial operation during the Kargil war. The Indian army had to take out the enemy’s machine gun-firing camp. After intense exchange and 20 to 30 minutes of hiding behind a rock, the officer with five troops realised that it had to be a ‘death charge’. When the havaldar offered to lay down his life, his officer had said, recounted Rajan, “Aap toh biwi bachche wale ho” (You are a family man) and gone in first. He had laid down his life, but the mission had been accomplished. When the martyr’s family wanted to see the exact spot where their son had breathed his last, they were taken there, and told the story of how it happened.
Displaying a picture of a leopard hung on the wall of an officer’s mess, he pointed to the text below it: ‘The leopard that died of shame’. Many rounds of drinking one evening at a unit left the mess staff working late into the night during the 1971 operations in what is now Bangladesh. At around 2 am, when washing the utensils, one of the staff members was throwing away the remaining food. When what seemed like a dog (in the dark) kept approaching the vessel for more, he hit it with a large cooking spoon. The next morning, they found a dead leopard nearby. The legend of the unit is that even its cook kills lions, said Rajan, explaining how units build.
He read out from a customary speech delivered by the trainers, when younger folk who enter the defence academy march out as their superior officers. Underlining the need to lead from the front, part of the speech reads:
“If the mission requires, we will storm the very gates of hell, right behind you.”
(This article first appeared in the 15 April 2016 issue of Campaign India)