The Indian armed forces, which for long enjoyed a pristine reputation, has been of late tainted by news of irregularities, increased corruption and also instances of skirmishes between the men and the officers. This is attributed generally to degradation of values in society; but the finger of suspicion also points at the defects in the leadership development methods. Quite naturally, when leadership is suspected questions also arise about the processes of selection and training of the officers.
One of the institutions responsible for military training, the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla Pune, is considered to be the cradle of Military leadership. Many senior retired officers who have been associated with this institution have taken on the task of looking inwards for correction. The result is a compilation of articles related to selection and training, with a special focus on the NDA and this has appeared as the book “Victory India” published by the Pentagon press. A sequel is also due to be released soon. The cause inspiring this work is nationalistic and it is heartening to find that many of the senior alumni are pitching for serious internal audit of this institution to see whether it has adapted to the times or whether it is caught up in a time warp.
The quest is on to look for good benchmarks—even from abroad—and may be, it is time to look for standards from outside the military circles too. Traditionally, the best of knowledge on matters of leadership has flowed from military organizations into the corporate houses but the trend has changed of late; as of now, management research is producing its own cutting edge knowledge on matters related to leadership and management.
Armies have existed since time immemorial while companies are a recent phenomenon, and considering that, traditional wisdom contained in armed forces formations should be deeper in content. Besides, the intensity is comparatively higher in the armed forces because the consequence of failure in war is mostly death. But corporate wisdom still has an edge because researchers have had the opportunity to study tens of thousands of companies that are continuously forming and disappearing in the present world. The growth of corporate knowledge has therefore been phenomenal in terms of volumes.
Several decades ago a leading company offered jobs to the candidates selected to join the Indian Military Academy even without interviewing them which proved the Service Selection board was held in such high esteem. But times have changed and Military experts too are questioning the veracity of the methods used. It makes one wonder whether it is time for knowledge workers in the field of corporate management to be incorporated in the HR related efforts of the armed forces—so that the bar can be raised higher. May be the National Defence University that is coming up, will offer opportunities for corporate learning and development to make contributions to the knowledge reserves of the armed forces.