Military to Corporate: Practical Lessons

Last updated on July 13, 2020

Today, as organizations become larger and man power intensive with complicated structures, the importance of values and ideals is increasing more than ever; while it is becoming increasingly difficult for such companies to find common areas which can sustain them as a close knit entity in the longer run. Such scenarios arise in the life cycle of most rapidly growing companies and this is when I think they can imbibe some lessons from the Indian Army. Known for its integrity, culture and values, the Indian Army has always been the epitome of a rather perfectly managed organization. With their streamlined approach towards most issues, Indian army has shown in the past that values such as collaboration, loyalty and discipline can make the most difficult missions look easy. So what lessons can corporates learn from the Indian army? Several but let us look at two for now.

In the 1965 Indo – Pak war, the aircraft of Indian Air Force Fighter Pilot and Squadron Leader, K.C. Cariappa was shot down by the Pakistani army. During the process of ejection and parachuting down, Cariappa‘s spine got injured and he was unfortunately captured by the Pakistani army as he landed. The news reached President General Ayub Khan that Pakistan army had captured the son of India’s first Army Chief Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa. General Khan announced this big news on Radio Pakistan however, at the same time, asked the Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi to personally meet Field Marshall and offer the release of his son. In his reply to the Pakistani High Commissioner,  Field Marshal Cariappa said, “The Prisoners of War are all my sons, look after them well”, while denying the sole release of his son. “Service before Self” is the ethos of the Indian Army. All officers of Indian army are expected to live by the Chetwode Credo.

“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.

The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time”.

The credo is what makes Indian army officers lead from the front. The casualty ratio of Indian Army officers to jawans is possibly the highest world over because of the ethos of always leading from front. That’s what makes the Indian Army truly great. Great organizations are distinguished by a great leadership team who lead by example. They are able to inspire their troops, articulate the vision seamlessly and back their team till the end. Army veterans are often asked the reasons for soldiers’ loyalty to their Battalions/Regiments. Many wounded/ decorated soldiers when asked why did they do what they did, often answer by saying, ‘Paltan ke izzat ka sawaal tha’. Why is the izzat of “paltan” so important? That comes from the ethos of ‘Naam, Namak, Nishaan’- the honor code which drives the officers and men alike. This ethos permeates the whole of the Indian Army, and is strongest where there is the Regiment and Battalion concept – Infantry, Artillery, Armoured Corps and the Combat Engineers.


NAAM – Name/Reputation of your Regiment or ‘Paltan’

NAMAK – Fidelity to the salt you’ve partaken

NISHAAN – Insignia, Flag or standard. This can be the Indian flag and the Colors of the regiment. In older times, the regiments carried the Regimental Standards/Colors into the battle and it would be considered an utmost disgrace if a Regiment was to lose their Regiment Standard/Colors. Men rallied around their flags and would make ultimate sacrifice to protect it from falling into enemyhands. Can corporations also try and imbibe these and if so – would it do them any good? The simple answer to that is “Yes, Of Course”. Imagine a corporate that has its leadership following the motto –

“the good of the company comes first, well-being and welfare of the teams that you lead comes next and your own ease, well-being, etc. comes last always and every time”.

And all employees sworn to the ethos of Naam, Namak, Nishan.

NAAM – Prestige/reputation of the company – which must be upheld at all times

NAMAK – Loyalty to the one that provides you your livelihood

NISHAAN – the flag / logo of the company If an organization can successfully get its leadership and employees to follow such a code and inculcate similar ethos, it would perhaps dramatically change the culture in an organization, bring in high level of camaraderie and make an organization function as one unit.