Decision Making: The Crucible of Leadership

"Need is not only the jointmanship of three services but also unification of all resources of war making, under one commander to spare him the hinderances created by the loyalties to parent services."

Decision Making: The Crucible of Leadership

India in general and military veterans in particular have hotly discussed two issues these days. First one, pertains to Kashmir and the abrogation of articles 370 and 35A by the Narendra Modi Government, whose second anniversary falls on 5 August 2021. The second issue is about the establishment of Theatre Commands for the armed forces. It is being hotly debated by military veterans — some favouring, some opposing it. All said and done. both the issues pertain to critical decision-making by the Modi Government.

The issue of Theatre commands is a government decision, but its implementation has been left to the Chief of Defence Staff, who has been trying his best, but not been getting proper response from the Indian Airforce. In fact, one of his remarks had created a storm in the military circles.

In his frustration, he had equated the IAF as a supporting arm to the army. It caused a lot of resentment amongst IAF veterans. However, the IAF is primarily against this concept of Theatre Commands because its formation would adversely affect IAF’s existence, as a separate entity. This is why the IAF had also resisted created the post of CDS.

Besides the IAF opposition, military veterans are also objecting to the way the concept of Theatre Command was being implemented. It is not the decision but the modus operandi of its creation in a hurry. Notwithstanding the IAF’s objections, which are primarily self-preserving against, the conflict reality of 21st century, the decision to form Theatre Commands needs to be properly evaluated. One must eject emotional affinities and understand the reality of the emerging concept of the war.

Jammu and Kashmir were not suddenly in the news. The state has been in the hot waters since February 2019, after the Pulwama attack. After the victory of the Bhartiya Janata Party in the 2019 General Elections, there was a speculation about certain actions. And since 5 August 2019, after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, a sea change has taken place in J&K.

If so, question comes, was it not a right decision? If not, what would have been the right time? The abrogation of Article 35A and Article 370 had been the central point of BJP governments’ manifesto. Therefore, it had to do this before it lost its credibility. My question is what does it take to make such a vital decision? I shall highlight my views in the succeeding paragraphs to bring out the finer points of decision making.

Decision making is actually a selection of a course of action amongst various available choices. In fact, it is a measure of one's mental faculties to make a correct choice against all odds, which leads to accomplishment of desired objective. It is often based on half-truths and disconcerted bits of information. Information is an aid, a tool to decision making but not necessarily the only tool. Decision making is often governed by internal and external factors.

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Internal factors governing the decision making are:

  • Knowledge of the situation and the factors militating against it.
  • Ability to comprehend the issue and chalk out available courses of action.
  • Ability to take calculated risk in the wake of large gaps in the available information/facts.
  • Ability to weigh the effect of the decision in case of failure so as to ensure resultant damage was minimal.
  • Understanding of external environs militating against the likely decision.

External factors hampering decision making are:

  • Impact of the decision in terms of personal/organizational/group/community benefit/damage.
  • Restrictions imposed by the watchdogs/group.
  • General environments of trust and confidence by the heads of the organisation/group.

Lack of decision invariably leads to inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the decision maker. It has nothing to do with one's competence. It is lack of confidence and concern for one's own wellbeing. Leaders and managers, in such scenarios, often display a tinge of selfishness.

Such a profile of a leader, manager is harmful for the group or organisation. Indecisiveness is more costly and expensive than perceived failure. Ability to stand up when everything around is down the real test of a true leader/manager. Ultimately decision-making boils down to risk taking and risk management. Those, who cannot do so, would never taste success. Those who dread the consequences of one's decisions, are often square pegs in round holes.

In his book ‘How to be a better Decision Maker’, Alan Barker mentions that one of the managerial skills is to make good decisions. The 5C's of decision making is a basic decision-making process among many managers:

  • Considering: Identifying, exploring, and eliminating the alternatives.
  • Consulting: Getting those people who are affected to be involved. Consulting is part of considering.
  • Committing: Taking responsibility for the decision.
  • Communicating: Explaining your decision and implementing the decision by committing others to it.
  • Checking: Following through to make sure the decision actually works.
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In view of the above, do you think Modi’s decision to seek final settlement of Kashmir issue, was right? Or is it the right manner to abrogate the articles 35A and 370, which were undoubtedly, thorn in the flesh of body politic of India for the last 72 years?

Despite Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, harping about “No talks with India” till decision of 5 August 2019 was repealed, it was well timed decision. Imran Khan was giving unwanted importance to himself. Who cares about him— not even his own countrymen? Why should India talk to a person who has displayed all round incompetence and inefficiency?

According to me, it was a right decision and at the correct time. Along with abrogation of these divisive articles of the constitution, some other important decisions have been promulgated, which would lead to a final solution to the vexed Kashmir issue.

Similarly, decision to create theatre commands is probably a decision which rides the barometer of “future war making”. Need is not only the jointmanship of three services but also unification of all resources of war making, under one commander to spare him the hinderances created by the loyalties to parent services. Take the case of 1962 war. While the Indian Army was being thrashed by the Chinese, the IAF sat peacefully because it thought that its joining the war would escalate it.

The IAF did not impress upon the government to use the air power. Even the Kutch incident of April-May 1965, allegedly smacks of Indo-Pak Air forces staying away because the two Air chiefs were Course mates of pre-independent India. This had encouraged Pakistan to launch “Operation Gibraltar” in August 1965. Before this, Pakistan had retired its Air Chief, Air Marshal Asghar Khan in July 1965. Therefore, such arbitrary decisions of one component of armed forces, definitely damage national security.

(Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into 3 Bihar. He is a battle-hardened veteran who served in  ’71 War & has operated extensively in various insurgency environs across the country. He is a renowned author, and a highly respected defence & national security expert writing for several reputed publications such as  ‘Defence and Security Alert’ (DSA), the ‘Indian Defence Review’ (IDR) among others. You can reach him on Twitter: @RajeeKushwaha, Email ID: [email protected])

(Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')

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