Wednesday, September 17, 2008


A young fighter pilot, a jilted lover, committed suicide by diving his MIG-21 into the ground, so they said. A Court of Inquiry is in progress to find out the cause of the accident. One of my squadron officer's, S, is called by the court for a statement. S gives his statement and on being questioned tells the court that their questioning would drive him to do the same as the other young officer.

I am called by my boss and told "If I were in your position, I would stop S from flying". Was that a hint?

I stop S's flying with immediate effect, realising that S must be under stress after such a mishap. Life continues, and so does the court.

A few days later I have S walk into my office, he gives me a smart salute and with a very stern look on his face asks me, "When do I start flying?" I look him in the eye from behind my desk, and unthinkingly without batting an eyelid, respond, "The day I see a smile on your face, S". S bursts into a broad smile, like a young kid who has been given his toy back after a punishment.

I call the flight commander and ask him to put S on the flying programme for the next day. I was aware of the enormous risk I was taking, specially after the big, and not so subtle hint, given to me by my boss. Next day, I cross my toes and my fingers and wait for S to go to the aircraft. He goes up in the sky..... and comes back safely, and signs 'DCO' (Duty Carried Out) in the authorisation book. I now find time to uncross my fingers and toes.

God has been with me. My faith and trust in S has not been unfounded. I loved S for confronting me with his 'right to fly', but I loved him even more for living upto the trust that I had placed in him. I had risked my career on this one move. Leadership never comes without risk.

Uncharted territory is always risky, and it is the leader's duty to tread on it, even though he has nothing to gain from it personally, but a lot to gain for his follower and the organisation which he serves. Leadership, they say, is not for the weak hearted.

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