HUMOUR IN UNIFORM - A LESSON IN MICROMANAGEMENT
I can never forget this anecdote narrated by General Eric Vas [Lt Gen EA Vas (15 May 1923-18 Aug 2009)] during a lecture he delivered at IAT Pune on “Leadership” many years ago.
While taking rounds of his infantry battalion deployed in mountainous terrain, he found that a post was dangerously sited – it was directly in the enemy line of fire.
He told the post commander, an NCO, to move the post to a safer location which he indicated.
During his next rounds a few days later, he found the post at the same location.
When he angrily asked the NCO why they had not relocated the post, the NCO said that they were happy in the present location.
Seeing the reluctance of the men to relocate the post, he gave express orders that the post was to be moved immediately and personally supervised the relocation of the post to a new safer location.
Next week when he paid a surprise visit, he found that the post was back at the previous dangerous location.
He asked the JCO why his orders were not being obeyed.
He told the JCO to explain to the NCO and soldiers that the present location was dangerous and they would die the moment the first shot was fired.
The JCO spoke to the NCO and soldiers for some time.
Then the JCO came back to Eric Vas and said in hindi, “साहब, वोह बोल रहे हैं कि वोह यहाँ खुश हैं [Sahab, woh bol rahe hain ki woh yahan khush hai (Sir, they are saying that they are happy here at this location)]”
“But tell them that this place is dangerous and they will all die,” an exasperated Eric Vas said to the JCO.
The JCO replied, “साहब, अगर वोह खुश हैं तो रहने दो – वोह मरेंगे – लेकिन खुशी से मरेंगे [Sahab, agar woh yahan khush hain to rehene do – woh marenge – lekin khushi se marenge (Sir, if they are happy here, let them be – they will die – but they will die happily)]”
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