Kolkata: The MBAEx (one-year full-time MBA for Executives) 16th batch of Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, recently hosted Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa PVSM AVSM YSM VM (Retd.) for its Leadership Speaker series. The topic of the talk was his ‘Journey in the Indian Air Force and the Leadership Skills it taught’. Mr Dhanoa talked with pure passion and an open heart throughout the session which was followed with a Question & Answer segment. He segmented his talk into 4 parts: the 1st part reflected on his schooling and the essential learning that fueled his journey into the armed forces; 2nd part reflected on his journey within IAF as he navigated through various roles and responsibilities; 3rd part was about the crucial leadership skills that he learned and taught during his tenure including the famous Kargil war and Balakot Airstrike; last 4th part being his assessment of India in terms of warfare and economic strategies and capabilities vis-à-vis our neighbouring nations. Director of IIM Calcutta, Prof. Uttam Sarkar graced the occasion, along with faculty and staff, and students of IIM-Calcutta, transforming the institute’s amphi-theatre into a packed venue of enthusiastic participation.
Being an alumnus of Rashtriya Indian Military College, the National Defence Academy, and the Defence Services Staff College, ACM Dhanoa in his inimitable ethnographic style spoke at length about his learning days and how foundational knowledge assimilated in those institutes helped him shape his journey at the IAF. He also articulated the thought process and emotional journeys that are undertaken at various hierarchies, during wars and conflicts. He spoke a great deal about what leadership means in the armed forces and what it takes to lead, that eventually shapes the outcome during wars and conflicts. Everyone could immediately relate it to his flying stint on MiG-21 sortie with Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman in Sep, 2019, just weeks prior to his retirement from service. He also spoke in detail on the Kargil war, Uri, and Balakot, the contribution of IAF in the same and overall strategies deployed by armed forces during those conflicts. He showcased the difference in leadership, political will and economic opportunity in India vis-à-vis Asian and global states, which would make every Indian proud. He also emphasised on institutional support for research and empowering initiatives and innovations that can bring in revolution in fuel manufacturing and technological capabilities in our country. In effect, it was a clear signal to institutions to invest in systemic support for innovators, in the face of deliberating policy deterrents to limit flaws and failures. Through his impactful narratives on constraint management, he repositioned the skillful usage of limited resources as important leadership insight, which would help us as a nation in leveraging our strategic capabilities.
Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa PVSM AVSM YSM VM took over as the Chief of the Air Staff on 01 January 2017. He was commissioned in the IAF in June 1978 as a fighter pilot. He has mainly flown the Kiran and MiG-21 aircraft with flying experience across the entire spectrum of fighter aircraft from the Jaguar to the state-of-the-art MiG-29 and Su-30 MKI, with an immaculate record of flight safety throughout his distinguished career as a field commander. The Air Chief Marshal has many feathers in his hat. As Commanding Officer of a front-line ground attack fighter squadron, he led the IAF punch during the ‘Limited War’ against Pakistan to evict the enemy from their ‘dug-in’ defenses in the icy heights of Kargil region. During the conflict, under his leadership and supervision, the squadron devised unique and innovative methods of bombing in the night at altitudes. The Air Chief Marshal has the distinction of having held several significant staff appointments at Operational Commands, Joint Training Establishments, and Air Headquarters. During his staff tenure, he developed the aerial targeting 2 philosophy against our potential adversaries that transformed the concepts of Air Operations of the Indian Air Force to contemporary war fighting practices of Air Power. As the Chief of Air Staff, he conducted Major Exercises; Exercise Gagan Shakti in 2018 and Pan Air Force Exercise that tested IAF’s capability to execute a two-front war at short notice and Vayu Shakti that demonstrated IAF’s Day/Night Firepower prowess. He led the IAF when an Aerial Strike was carried out on the Terror infrastructure in Balakot. The Air Chief Marshal retired from Service on 30 September 2019. Post retirement he joined as a Non-Executive Independent Director with Hero MotoCorp from 01 October 2020 and Inter Globe (IndiGo) Aviation Limited from 27 May 22
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