Mumbai, MH, India
Tel:+91 99870 82135

Women Leaders, Will You Like To Pick Up 5 Olive Green Lessons From The Army?

Women Leaders, Will You Like To Pick Up 5 Olive Green Lessons From The Army?

“How is it that when you give a command, it is obeyed and implemented unconditionally” asked the manager of a bank when I saluted her as I entered her office. Incidentally we are used to saluting lady wives {again a typical army term – lady wife} when in uniform.

As I lowered myself into the chair she added, “I am a Manager of this branch. I have the authority and power and yet I have to use techniques like influencing, pleading, showering compliments, encouraging and promising incentives to get my job done.
That was a googly. I had never thought of it. A gave her some impromptu ‘quick-fix’ responses.

a) We are trained in a few similar academies which teach common values and traditions.

b) We are caught young when we are open to learning and are ‘trainable.’

c) .. ……..and then I could not think of any more.

I was, at that point, in the process of hanging my uniform with the intention of transforming from a soldier into an educator. This got me thinking. What is it that makes a soldier stand out differently in society. Why does every countryman expect a soldier to do no wrong? What makes him enter the battlefield risking his precious life?

It took me some time to ponder over this question and then this is what I discovered.
a) The common belief that he dies for his country is a myth. He is patriotic, for sure. Maybe as patriotic as any other countryman. He dies for his ’paltan’ – a crisp Indian flavour word for ‘battalion, regiment or unit.’ He dies for the ‘izzat’ of the ‘paltan.’ He believes that he cannot lower the ‘izzat,’ – the respect, the honour that his predecessors have earned by shedding their blood and sweat.
b) He also dies for his comrade. For his commanding officer. Why? He finds that these are the people who are committed to his safety and welfare. They take care of him. And if need be they will sacrifice their life for him. So he feels obliged to reciprocate.
c) Self-discipline is ingrained in him. It becomes his DNA.

As I look back at the 42 glorious years I spent in uniforms, both khakhi and OG (Olive green), there was much to learn from it. These are the five most important lessons learnt from the Army which I feel all leaders can apply. Though the lessons are applicable to all, I have kept the woman entrepreneur and leader in mind for this article.

1. Mission. You need to have utmost clarity in your mission. Discover your inner calling leading to your purpose of life. From your purpose derive your mission, vision and goals. Once done, articulate this in absolute terms to your team. Everyone must know it – down to the lowest teammate in the channel. This is how a large organisation as the Indian Army (including Navy and Air Force) do it. Remember how 1000 plus rooms were searched in the three hotels in Nov 2008 Terrorist attack in Mumbai. Every pair of commandos who broke open a room went by the clear mission. There was no chance of going back to their leaders nor was there a chance for the leader to micro manage and supervise. The result? It is a case study in the world. Never was such an operation carried out in the world and that too with not a single casualty among tourists or hotel employees in those 72 hours.

2. Camaraderie. ‘Know your men,’ was a command we learnt in NDA. As a 2/Lt I was taught to maintain a register in which I had a record of each of my jawans with all his personal and professional data. I was expected to know every bit of it. You need to do the same. Very soon we realised the value of a comrade (and the word ‘camaraderie’ is derived from it. When I need help my comrade becomes more important as my parents or family members are not around. Do you know your teams. Their personal challenges?

3. Priorities. Right in our basic military training, the importance of time is engrained in us deeply. ‘Rig changing’ is an activity in which we are asked to change from one rig (uniform) to another in a record time. And that too with no compromise on quality. Time is always at premium. A resource that is extremely perishable. There is no escape from ascertaining what needs to be done first and what can wait. In this VUCA world leaders face this challenge too. Here is one for the women. Balancing responsibilities at home and office. They somehow increase at the same time. Just as you are getting into managerial positions with growing responsibilities, you may be stepping into maternity with increasing responsibilities at home too. Managing all this with multitasking abilities that women are said to be blessed with, is an art that all women leaders must pick up.

4. Self-Belief. You are what you think you are. Most women are conditioned to believe that they cant do many things that men can do. Many women have broken those boundaries of myth and proved to as well or even better than men. The irony is that it is hardly ever seen that men say women are incapable. It’s the women themselves who harbour these misconceptions. I will strongly recommend ambitious women to be trained in ‘Self-belief’ and breakout from the self-limiting beliefs.

5. Entrepreneurship of Time. What is entrepreneurship of time? As entrepreneurship stands for getting the best financial profit out of the least investment, a leader needs to get the best results, both financial and non-financial from the minimum time spent (NO, invested.) There is a term called ROTI coined to measure this. It stands for ‘Return On TIME Invested.’ A leader faces the challenge of managing his, as well as his team’s time in a way that maximum results are produced in the minimum time, with no compromise on quality.

Leadership is becoming more challenging with the speed of change that is taking place in technology rendering it a Digital VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment. Interestingly, this can be combated by another VUCA. A leader today needs to be strong in her VUCA (this time it is Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Adaptability) to combat this.

To know more watch out for my forthcoming book ‘Million $ Second.’ You can order a FREE sample ebook on and wait for the announcement of pre order sales being launched soon.
And to remain updated with my latest articles, YouTube videos and events please connect with me at

Related Posts