Book Review : The Be – Know Do – of Generalship by Major General Anil Sengar (Retd)

A well written book – it takes a lot of courage to come out with the truth – and the author has successfully done it.  One could feel the conviction in the writing – not like the utterances of most veteran generals of today – as if the problems did not exist during their times.  My heartfelt compliments to the author.  I have neither served with the author nor interacted with him before and I consider it as my misfortune.

The language is simple and easy flowing.  The book contains worthwhile anecdotes and quotes, mostly from American and German Army and a few anecdotes about Sam Manekshaw.

Our Generals were Colonels and Commanding Officers before becoming a General.  The last place where one is in direct command of soldiers is as a Commanding Officer.

In the book, the word ‘General’  if replaced by ‘Colonel’ and if it is read by Lieutenant Colonels before being promoted to be a Commanding Officer, it  is sure to help them.  The contents are least likely to be of any value to the Generals as most may not accept what is written and their minds are already ‘hardwired.’ A Colonel’s mind can still be influenced.

The chapters 1 to 3 speaks about listening skills in details, but hardly about reading – ‘The Generals who command against me will never read it and the young men who read it will never command.’

The Conference syndrome begins at Battalion/ Regiment levels.  If a Commanding Officer needs to hold a conference, I feel there is something wrong with him – he surely does not know his job and is not clear about the way the task is to be executed.  It is more for finger pointing and to save his ass.  Conferences must be avoided at all costs and must be held only if inescapable.

The author speaks of thirty percent of Infantry Brigadiers being incompetent – thanks to the pro-rata system – in fact only 30 percent are fit.

Lack of moral courage is surely the cause of downfall of many Generals of the Indian Army and it did not happen because they got promoted beyond a Colonel, it was inherent in them during the Academy days itself. Moral values and the lack of it begin to be expressed in command – from battery/ company/ squadron commander days.

It is high time the Indian Army goes in for an objective performance assessment of officers and it got to begin with the Commanding Officers.  Peer evaluation by officers and Junior Commissioned Officers – selected at random, maintaining confidentiality – as suggested by the author will prove credible in the long run – though there may be a few aberrations, but would end more objective and accurate than the present appraisal system.

A must read for all officers of the Indian Army.

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