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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Leadership Blues!

Karnail Singh, Gujral and Ravindra have perhaps been the only top bosses that railwaymen remember fondly, also with awe and respect. Ravindra in fact had a halo that was clearly visible, a halo formed  by the purity and clarity of his thoughts. There have also been a few others who contributed a bit, but their numbers can be counted on the fingertips with a few fingers to spare. The rest merely occupied the corner room and threw their weight around.

Why is it that a HR dominant, not centric, organization like the railways miserably fails in selecting its chief executive, with the result that the primary quality that one seeks in the role, the quality of leadership always remains conspicuous by its absence. The malaise however does not remain confined to the top job, but manifests itself in almost all positions that have more of an administrative or leadership requirement than technical. I wonder if that has to do with our direction less grooming on the job and the irrelevant training that our training institutes so carefully devise?

It is always the easiest to start performing or even supervising the role of the subordinate. And what a supervision galore, almost everyone is in the role of a monitor and the doer is always absent. I fondly remember my days in the school, when every section had one monitor who maintained discipline and relayed complaints. At that time, I could not have visualized a situation where everyone, right from top to bottom is in the role of a monitor and worse still, also trebles up as an advisor rendering unsolicited advise to all and sundry and a complainant par excellence.

My recent tenure as a head honcho gave me tremendous insights in the working of this great organization. The tremendsous backlog of infrastructure, the cultural decay, the lack of values and the lack of trust, but great on sycophantic behavior and aggressive on misuse of facilities and railway staff said it all in the beginnning itself. It also made me sad that many of those in leadership positions demanded things that they were neither entitled to, nor they had the guts to ask for in writing, yet the demands and the outflow continued. The tremendous verbal focus on the daily position and self aggrandizement and the vulgar display of power, not for growth and development, but for demeaning and ridiculing subordinates, are symptoms of decay, not even of status quo in any organization.

Recently a retired railway officer told me that a minimum of two out of the three traits of corruption, mediocrity and sycophancy are the essential ingredients of success and rise in this organization. It is indeed sad that things have come to such a pass in an organization that was once referred to with a "great" affixed to its name.

Mere lip service to issues is not going to help. Mere lip service to infrastructure is not going to lead to infrastructure in much the same way as lip service alone shall neither improve punctuality nor safety that are mere symptoms of a deep rooted malaise. We have to give inputs, if we desire outputs and this organization is crying for long for want of a good dose of administrative and leadership acumen.



  1. Sir, It gets ingrained in the minds of young officers, once they join Rlys, that they need to fire subordinates, bully them, threaten them.... basically do anything to get the work done. There is no concept of employee motivation,leading from the front, counselling.If we fire a subordinate, we must also give him a solution to his problem ... only then can it be justified. It's a sad state of affairs.

  2. Dear Sir, I was pleasantly surprised that a man with such views reached the chair which you vacated recently!
    We are an organisation where onus is on conformance, not on performance. Here, it is easier to punish and banish than to reward. As you rightly observed, position seekers outnumber the doers-before this daily spectacle- the talk to teeth'n'tail pales. We are so intolerant of truth, that doctoring of figures is in our arteries (not veins!). An organisation which is allergic to truth would hence be in perpetual state of denial-as we are. The prognosis is frightening. How long can nation tolerate such a parasitic organisational culture? A value map of every chair needs to be worked out.
    We are increasingly been seen as drag on the nation-a far cry from being the flag bearers of professional conduct.
    A hard look at relevance of multiplicity of services and consolidating them is urgently needed. We need to also introspect at the loss of professional conduct and inexorable rise of sycophancy.