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16 Dec, 2013

Masterpiece Speech: Former Indian President Abdul Kalam on “Creative Leadership for Transforming Societies”


Ministry of Defence, 15-December-2013, Press Information Bureau – Former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam delivered the first Defence Estate Day Lecture on ‘Creative Leadership for Transforming Societies’ here today. Here is the full text of his speech:-

I am indeed delighted to deliver the First Defence Estates Day Lecture organized by the Defence Estates Department commemorating the Defence Estates Day every year. My greetings to the Director General, Defence Estates, IDES Officers, former IDES officials, Officials from the MOD, young probationers from other all India services and students from Cantonment Board Schools.


Challenges of DGDE

Friends, I understand the mandate of DGDE is to run the civic administration of cantonments and manage defence land spread all over the country. They also manage 204 schools and 82 hospitals and dispensaries for the residents of the cantonments. Over the last decade or so, pressure on defence owned land has built up tremendously. Initially cantonments were established well beyond the towns and cities but over a period of time the cities have expanded and literally encircled the cantonments. This phenomenon has lead to encroachments on defence land. With the sky-rocketing of cost of land, in and around cantonments, holding, managing, preventing encroachments and defending government rights in courts of law have become the biggest challenge for officers and staff of DGDE. It is heartening to note that, in order to face such challenges, and in the quest for excellence, officers and staff of DGDE have continuously endeavoured to upgrade their skills and expertise in the field of land and cantonment management. My best wishes to the DGDE and other officers.

Friends, I have selected the topic “Creative Leadership for Transforming Societies” for my address today.

I have been involved with the defence services for more than four decades in various capacities. I have interacted with many defence scientists, leaders from defence services, Defence estate officials, cantonment boards and soldiers who dedicate themselves completely to the nation and its people. I have witnessed multiple occasions where the defence services have gone beyond their call of duty and actively participated in missions of development and relief, often in the most difficult terrains. The men and women of Indian Armed Forces are vigilant safeguarding the nation’s interests, ensuring peace in the nation so that the Nation can concentrate on economic development.

India’s vision: Economically developed nation (2020)

Friends, it is said that at the best of times, as well as at the worst of times in India, the Civil Service of the nation, keeps the nation going. When I see you all friends, I remember my unique experience in mid 1990s on formulation of India vision 2020 strategies. I was given the task of chairing Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC). I recollect, that in the first meeting of the Council itself, we took a decision that TIFAC must evolve a plan of how India can be transformed into an economically developed nation by the year 2020. At a time when the economy was growing at around 5 to 6% per annum in GDP, we had to envisage a growth rate of at least 10% per annum consistently for over 10 years for realizing the development vision of a billion democratic people of multi lingual, multi religious and multi cultural characteristics.

This really ignited the minds of all of us in the council. The members of TIFAC Council at that time included: Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Nine Secretaries to the Govt of India, Chiefs of CII – ASSOCHAM and FICCI, Chairman of IDBI – ICICI – IFCI, Chairmen of Public Sector of Corporations and Chief Executives of number of Private Sector Institutions, Vice Chancellors of different Universities and Scientists from DST. We debated and arrived at 17 task teams with over 500 members who had consultations with over 5000 people in various sectors of the economy. Committees worked for over two years resulting in 25 reports which we presented to the then Prime Minister of India on 2 Aug 1996. This is an excellent example of how different departments and organizations worked in an integrated way with system thinking for national development.

Of course, the India 2020 vision was also discussed in the Parliament. We are now left with seven years to realize the target of India getting transformed into an economically developed nation. I am sure, each one of you will be remembered if we all work together with a single minded purpose and accomplish the goal of India transforming into an economically developed nation by 2020. It should be remembered, “A nation without a vision will perish”.

Let me give a visualization of Developed India by the year 2020.

Distinctive profile of the developed nation

1. A Nation where the rural and urban divide has reduced to a thin line.

2. A Nation where there is an equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water.

3. A Nation where agriculture, industry and service sector work together in symphony.

4. A Nation where education with value system is not denied to any meritorious candidate because of societal or economic discrimination.

5. A Nation, which is the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists, and investors.

6. A Nation where the best of health care is available to all.

7. A Nation where the governance is responsive, transparent and corruption free.

8. A Nation where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed and crimes against women and children are absent and none in the society feels alienated.

9. A Nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, devoid of terrorism, peaceful and happy and continues with a sustainable growth path.

10. A Nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership.

Integrated Action for developed India

To achieve the distinctive profile of India, we have the mission of transforming India into a developed nation. The five areas identified in the Technology Vision 2020 are; (i) Agriculture and food processing (ii) Education and Healthcare (iii) Information and Communication Technology (iv) Infrastructure: Reliable and Quality Electric power, Surface transport and Infrastructure for all parts of the country, PURA and (v) Self reliance in critical technologies are correlated and progressed in an integrated way that will lead to overall national progress and development.

Leadership is the essence of good governance

Friends, how to make the governance system of the country most effective and ensure development of the nation which will make and sustain the nation as an economically developed, prosperous, happy and peaceful society in the world? For that what we need is to have creative leadership at all segments of the governance of the nation.

Friends, I have seen three dreams which have taken shape as vision, mission and realization. Space programme of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), AGNI programme of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) and PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) becoming the National Mission. Of course, these three programmes succeeded in the midst of many challenges and problems. I have worked in all these three areas. I would like to convey what I have learnt on leadership from these three programmes:

a. Leader must have a vision.

b. Leader must have passion to realize the vision.

c. Leader must be able to travel into an unexplored path.

d. Leader must know how to manage a success and failure.

e. Leader must have courage to take decisions.

f. Leader should have nobility in management.

g. Leader should be transparent in every action.

h. Leader becomes the master of the problem, defeats the problem and succeeds.

j. Leader must work with integrity and succeed with integrity.

Passion to realize the vision

Friends, now let me describe to you an example of how passion to realize the vision has facilitated the successful and on-time implementation of a two billion dollar metro rail project by the Managing Director of a public sector organization.

The Delhi Metro Rail Project has given to the nation the potential of executing a fast transportation system using high technology with reliability through a time bound mission mode operation. Delhi, the Capital of the country with over 20 million population, has the distinction of having a world class metro rail with frontline technologies. The work on the metro rail commenced on 1st October 1998 and the first phase with three lines covering 66 kms has been completed by December 2005. Today over all route length created by Delhi Metro is around 190 Kms. Everyday, metro handles minimum movement of 2 million passengers.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has brought to the country, the most advanced rail technologies for the first time. Here is a leader who has passion and passion for excellence. The notable gains to the country are, light weight stainless steel, sleek, modern trains with pneumatic springs, regenerative braking, public information display, wide vestibules and automatic doors. The sophisticated coach technology which was not available in the country so far, has been transferred to M/s. Bharat Earth Movers Ltd., Bangalore, which is now assembling these trains with progressive indigenization. BEML is now in a position to supply train sets needed for Phase-II of Delhi Metro Rail Project and meet the requirement for Metros coming up in other cities of the country.

Mr. E. Sreedharan, the Managing Director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has ensured that, all the scheduled sections were completed by their target date or before and within their respective budgets through his programme management skills. The dedicated and transparent leadership backed up with professional competence of Mr. Sreedharan has given to the nation, one of the best transportation systems of the world at the most economic cost. He is a recipient of many national and international awards. Also, he is in demand for undertaking the development of metro system in different countries of the world which he has politely declined due to pre-occupation with committed Indian programmes.

Now let me talk about nobility in Management.

Nobility in management

Friends, the next leader I would like to discuss is Prof Brahm Prakash. When I was the Project Director of SLV3 programme, Prof. Brahm prakash – a great scientific leader with nobility, was the Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), which integrated multiple institutions based on the advice of Prof. Kamala Chowdhuri, a management guru from IIM. Prof Brahm Prakash took hundreds of decisions for the growth of space science and technology. One important decision which I will always cherish was once a programme such as SLV3 is sanctioned the multiple laboratories of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and also the multiple centres of ISRO including the Space Department have to work to realize the stated goals of the programme as a team. Particularly during 1973 – 1980, there was a tremendous financial crunch and competing requirement from many small projects. He converged all scientific and technological work to be focused towards SLV3 and its satellite.

When I say that Prof. Brahm Prakash is famous for the evolution of management with nobility, I would like to give a few instances. He enabled for the first time evolution of a comprehensive management plan for SLV-3 programme towards the mission of putting the Rohini satellite in orbit. After my task team prepared the SLV3 management plan, in a period of 3 months time, he arranged nearly fifteen brainstorming meetings of the Space Scientific Committee (SSC). After discussion and approval, this management plan was signed by Prof Brahm Prakash and became the guiding spirit and working document for the whole organization. This was also the beginning of converting the national vision into mission mode programmes. During the evolution of the management plan, I could see, how multiple views emerged and how, many people were afraid of losing individuality due to the main mission, thereby throwing anger in the meetings. I could also see how Prof. Brahm Prakash radiated with smile in the midst of continuous smoke coming from the cigarette continuously being lit one after the other. The anger, fear and prejudice have all disappeared in the presence of his nobility in thinking. Today, the space programme, launch vehicle, spacecraft, scientific experiments and launch missions all are taking place in the centres of Indian Space Research Organization in a cohesive and cooperative manner.

I learnt the hard way from this great mighty soul “before starting any programme, it is essential to have the project management plan with the details of, how to steer the project during different phases of the project and foresee the possible critical paths and possible solutions and keeping time, performance and schedule as key factors.” I thank this great mighty soul who evolved the concept of management with nobility and was a very famous professor in metallurgy at the Indian Institute of Science. He was also a pioneer for giving the country – nuclear material by establishing the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC).

Managing success and failure

Friends, three decades ago while I was working at ISRO, I had the best of education which won’t come from any university. I will narrate that incident. I was given a task by Prof. Satish Dhawan the then Chairman, ISRO to develop the first satellite launch vehicle SLV-3, to put ROHINI Satellite in orbit. This was one of the largest high technology space programmes undertaken in 1973. The whole space technology community, men and women, were geared up for this task. Thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians worked resulting in the realization of the first SLV-3 launch on 10th August 1979. SLV-3 took off in the early hours and the first stage worked beautifully. Even though all stage rockets and systems worked, the mission could not achieve its objectives, as the control system in 2nd stage malfunctioned. Instead of being placed in the orbit, the Rohini satellite went into Bay of Bengal. The mission was a failure.

There was a press conference at Sriharikota, after the event. Prof. Dhawan took me to the press conference. And there he announced that he takes responsibility for not achieving the mission, even though I was the project director and the mission director. When we launched SLV-3 on 18th July 1980, successfully injecting the Rohini Satellite into the orbit, again there was a press conference and Prof. Dhawan put me in the front to share the success story with the press. What we learn from this event is that the leader gives the credit for success to those who worked for it, and leader absorbs and owns the responsibility for the failure.

This is leadership.

The scientific community in India has the fortune to work with such leaders, which resulted in many accomplishments. This success generated great happiness among all my team members. This is an important lesson for all youth who are aspiring to be tomorrow’s leaders. The great lesson we learn: the leader in any field, political, administrative, scientific, education, industry, judiciary, or any other human activity, should have the creative leadership capacity and courage to absorb the failure and give the successes to his or her team members. This is a important lesson I learnt from him.

Work with integrity and succeed with integrity

Friends, on 22nd Nov 2011, I went to Jorhat for addressing the World Tea Science Congress. There I addressed the Administrative and police officers of Jorhat and Dibrugarh district which was organized by Mr R C Jain, DM Jorhat on 21st November evening. There I administered an oath to the participants “I will work with integrity and succeed with integrity”. The decibel level was very high when they said “work with integrity” and decibel level went down when they were repeating “succeed with integrity”. But next day, I saw a very beautiful situation in the World Tea Science Congress in the presence of CM of Assam and the Jorhat Administrative team. I saw in front of me the Chairman of Tea Board Mr MGVK Bhanu an IAS officer, giving the introductory speech to the participants of World Tea Science Congress.

Mr Bhanu said, “Yesterday, Dr.Kalam administered an oath to all the IAS and IPS officers including myself”. I would like to assure you Dr Kalam that I have worked with integrity and succeeded with integrity during the last 24 years as an IAS officer in different parts of the State and the Centre. Now I am in the Tea Board. I was Secretary to the CM of Assam”. I would like to assure Dr. Kalam that I have tried to create a brand of moral uprightness in all my tasks”. Shri Bhanu also mentioned that he was thinking for the whole night “what he should be remembered for” he said he would like to be remembered for making India the largest producer of tea, and largest exporter of tea in the world.

I am very happy to share this unique experience. If every functionary of Govt of India has such a vision and mission, I am confident that we will get transformed into a developed nation well before 2020.

Role of Leadership in a Knowledge Society

Friends, the world in the 21st century will be a knowledge based society with multiple opportunities naturally in India and we have to become knowledge driven. A book by Denis Waitely, “Empires of the Mind” describes the type of the new world, “What was yesterday and what is today” and specifically emphasizes on what worked yesterday will not work today. Following points give the role of leadership in a knowledge society.

1. Yesterday – natural resources defined power

Today – knowledge is power

Leadership should empower itself with knowledge

2. Yesterday – Hierarchy was the model

Today- synergy is the mandate

Leadership will be enabler for intersection of multiple faculties towards mission goals

3. Yesterday – leaders commanded and controlled

Today – leaders empower and coach

Leadership will enrich itself through exposure to the needs of sustainable development

4. Yesterday – shareholders came first

Today – customers come first

Leadership should inculcate sensitivity to the needs of all the stakeholders

5. Yesterday – employees took order

Today – teams make decision

Leadership will promote team spirit

6. Yesterday – seniority signified status

Today – creativity drives status

Leadership will be judged by innovation and promote creativity

7. Yesterday – production determined availability

Today – Competitiveness is the key

Leadership will constantly evolve as more competitive with knowledge, management and technology

8. Yesterday – value was extra

Today – value is everything

Leadership will have the priority to inculcate value addition at every level

9. Yesterday – everyone was a competitor

Today – everyone is a customer

Leadership will value feedback and action based on that.

10. Yesterday – profits were earned through expediency

Today – Work with integrity and succeed with integrity.

Leaders will have to work with integrity and succeed with integrity and act as promoters of such a culture in their subordinates.

Conclusion: Linkage between National Development and Creative Leadership

To keep the aspects of 21st century in mind which will facilitate the Youth of our nation to evolve the learning process for meeting the demands of the 10 components of knowledge society. For that, what is needed is the creative leadership. The economic development of any nation is definitely linked with the creative leadership. The linkage between national economic development and creative leadership is as below:

1. A nation’s Economic development is powered by competitiveness.

2. Competitiveness is powered by knowledge power.

3. Knowledge power is powered by Technology and innovation.

4. Technology and innovation is powered by resource investment.

5. Resource investment is powered by return on Investment.

6. Return on investment is powered by revenue.

7. Revenue is powered by Volume and repeat sales.

8. Volume and repeat sales is powered by customer loyalty.

9. Customer loyalty is powered by Quality and value of products.

10. Quality and value of products is powered by Employee Productivity and innovation.

11. Employee Productivity is powered by Employee Loyalty.

12. Employee Loyalty is powered by employee satisfaction.

13. Employee satisfaction is powered by working environment.

14. Working Environment is powered by management innovation.

15. Management innovation is powered by Creative leadership.

For success in all the missions, it is essential to have creative leaders. Creative leadership means exercising the vision to change the traditional role from the commander to the coach, manager to mentor, from director to delegator and from one who demands respect to one who facilitates self-respect. For enhancing enterprise value, we need a large number of creative leaders.

A nation’s strength predominantly resides in its natural and human resources. In natural resources, India is endowed with a vast coastline and valuable minerals like titanium, uranium, etc. India is also endowed with a rich bio-diversity and human resources, particularly a young population. Knowledge-based value addition to natural resources would mean more earnings for India in the form of exports of finished products instead of merely raw materials. India is a secular country and has very good diplomatic relations with its neighbours. Be it trade or political or economical, India maintains a positive approach and good relations. With our civilization heritage and core strengths of large natural and human resources, with value addition and launching of mission projects, the desired goals of food, health and social security, economic prosperity and national security can be achieved leading to a developed India in a decade and will attain its rightful place in the world. This moment will define India as a ‘Developed Nation’.

Let me conclude with an inspiring message from Yoga Sutra by Maharishi Patanjali :

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents come alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamt yourself to be.”

With these words let me wish all the Defence Estates officers and other civil service officers success in your professional career.