In this blog post
Introducing Pratap Pawar, Director – HR & IT, GS Lab
- Tell us something about your childhood. What values have been instilled in you that helped you excel later in your life?
Born and brought up in a farmer family in rural Maharashtra, India, life was hard yet filled with small moments of happiness. This self-paced rustic lifestyle changed quickly as we migrated to Aurangabad for schooling and Engineering (BE Ec&Tx). Every privilege had to be earned and savoured till it lasted. Sacrifices made by family members to provide me a good launchpad were evident at every step and I am still struggling to repay that moral debt. Few life lessons instilled and acquired are:
- Start the day early. Health is always top priority.
- Every problem is your problem. Think of solutions.
- Knowledge stagnates. Upgrade and share.
- Keep your flock tight, happy and healthy.
- What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life and how that has shaped you?
Switching career tracks has been one of the biggest self-challenges that I have planned and faced. I have switched tracks 4 times during my career and none of those tracks overlapped with each other. From Quality assurance of guided missiles to active physical combatant and from Network risk manager to core HR, my domains have run a parallel course. Every switch was an orchestrated attempt to move out of the comfort zone and avoid stagnation. The uncertainty and insecurity of transitional phases have shaped me as an adaptable person.
- Could you share some interesting experiences or lessons learnt during your time at the Indian Navy?
Theatre of war brings out the real human behaviour and it shocks yet pleasantly surprises you every time. I consider myself lucky for getting opportunities to engage in active combat and experience the emotional see-saw. I would like to share 2 incidents:
- Captain going down with the ship, is the ultimate test of ownership of a leader. We have numerous examples of Indian Commanders and even junior officers sacrificing their lives for the larger welfare. One of my mentees sacrificed himself to save lives of 15 complete strangers who were on-board his sinking ship during a rescue mission. After handing over his assigned life jacket to them he ensured that everybody was transferred onto life rafts and calmly went down with the ship. He was only 29 years old and had his wife and child waiting for him to celebrate the child’s 1st birthday that very evening. Old timers will remember Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla insisting on going down with the ill-fated INS Khukri during the 1971 war.
- Enemy is temporary, human is permanent. During one our visits to the Chinese port of Shanghai, we encountered a Pakistani ship in the South China Sea. We had lot of fun exchanging “choicest pleasantries” with each other before realising that our ‘port of call’ was same. Upon reaching Shanghai port we maintained polite distance. To our surprise we received a strange request from the Pakistani ship’s Captain on the second day. Weary from long sailing and utterly frustrated with foreign food, they were craving for simple Khichadi, papad and pickle, a simple South Asian meal. An extended luncheon paved way for informal interactions (with the permission of the Indian Ambassador) and the realization that we are not very different. Real pleasantries were shared during the return journey, before we turned enemies again!
- How would you describe your leadership style? Do you believe leadership can be taught?
I was groomed in the autocratic style of leadership which served me well in short bursts during strategic and critical missions. However, delegation and decentralization (democratic style) worked best during the long term planning, execution and support phase. I try and strike a (10 :90) balance between these 2 styles. Without trust and honesty both styles fail miserably. I strongly believe that Leaders can be groomed and evolved to shoulder ownership. The leadership style and domain of influence may differ according to the personality and exposure but with opportunity and support everybody can evolve into a good leader!
- How would you describe success?
No success is final and no failure is fatal. The definition of success changes with age depending upon the level of Maslow’s hierarchy one is travelling through. Material and certain intangible possessions that define success (and rightly so) at one stage become irrelevant quickly. Therefore, I would describe success as the point where a person turns altruistic. Oxytocin is an awesome chemical to be addicted to.
- Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is the one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?
Control the controllable and be patient with what’s beyond your sphere of influence. Times change.