Leadership Types — Military Paradigm

Vikram Karve
5 min readApr 10, 2021







On a prominent place on my bookshelves — proudly stands one of my “ancient” books — a novel on the most famous Naval Mutiny — “Mutiny on the Bounty”

The book is titled CAPTAIN BLIGH AND MR. CHRISTIAN — the author is Richard Hough — a distinguished historian — who took a unique, fascinating and controversial look at the Mutiny.

(The memorable 1984 Movie THE BOUNTY — directed by Roger Donaldson — and starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins — the excellent movie is based on this book)



In this book — the author comments:

Captain Bligh was an excellent “Foul Weather Commander”.


Captain Bligh was not as good as a “Fair Weather Commander”.


Bligh was unsurpassed as a Captain in adversity — when the going was tough.

He epitomized the saying:

“…When the going gets tough — the tough get going…”


But — surprisingly — when the going was good — when things seemed to be running smoothly — he seemed “out of depth”.


During my Navy days — I too saw such hard taskmasters — tough “Sea Dogs” — who were excellent leaders in adverse circumstances and tough operational situations at sea.

These “Foul Weather Commanders” kept their cool in a crisis and excelled in leadership during adverse situations at sea.

But — these same tough “Sea Dogs” were not that adept at “peacetime soldiering” ashore (“Fair Weather”).

These tough “Foul Weather Commanders” — they hated pushing files in Headquarters and were misfits in shore based offices.

In contrast there were many “Fair Weather Commanders” who were adept at pushing files ashore and who were excellent leaders when the going was good at sea — but who became panicky, nervous and lost their balance in a crisis situation.



Like the Navy — all Military Forces — especially the Army — all must be having their equivalents of “Foul Weather Commanders” who are good leaders in war and excel at combat soldiering — and — “Fair Weather Commanders” who are best at peacetime soldiering — but who are “out of their depth” in wartime and combat situations — and who fail to provide competent and resolute leadership to their troops — resulting in military debacles.

Many instances in Military History bear testimony to this fact.


The problem is that military promotion policies are designed to favour “Fair Weather Commanders” who may be good at peacetime soldiering but become shaky and confused in wartime and combat situations especially in adverse situations when the chips are down.

During peacetime — especially in Rear Headquarters — where the functioning of the military is more like a bureaucracy — there is a tendency for the “powers-that-be” to promote their protégés who are more likely to be “Fair Weather Commanders” who may prove to be incompetent in handling tough challenging military situations for which “Foul Weather Commanders” may be more suited.

It may be apocryphal — but — many years ago — an old Military Veteran once told us that Field Marshal “Sam” Manekshaw once told them that had it not been for the 1962 War — he would have probably retired as a Major General.

After long years of peace — politicians assumed that there would never be a war — and — in the end 1950s and early 1960s — the “powers-that-be” at that time (politicians) — they promoted their “blue-eyed boys” — and sidelined competent professionals whose military careers were put at a dead-end by superseding them or stopping their promotions.

It was the “blue-eyed boys” who ruled the roost while the professionals looked on helplessly.

These “blue-eyed boys” were good “Fair Weather Commanders” who obediently did whatever their political masters asked them to do — even if it was militarily unsound — and this resulted in a war.

In 1962 — once the war started — and the going got tough — these Fair Weather “blue-eyed boys” failed miserably — resulting in a military debacle — and the “powers-that-be” had no choice but to promote the same “Foul Weather Commanders” who they had sidelined — in order to save the situation — and to restore professionalism and morale in the demoralised defeated troops.

It has happened in the Navy too — when — after a mutiny happens on a warship — the “Fair Weather” Captain (Commanding Officer) and XO (Executive Officer) are replaced by tough “Foul Weather Commanders” to restore discipline and morale.


This phenomenon in visible in politics too.

The true leadership qualities of political leaders are exposed in times of crisis — some shine — others flounder.

I feel the same concept of leadership applies universally — even in the corporate sector.


Dear Reader:

Have you come across some tough combat/field oriented “Foul Weather Commanders” — who excel when the going is tough and the seas are rough — and — suave “Fair Weather Commanders” — who are best suited for peacetime soldiering and during calm seas…?



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  1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
  2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Link to my source blog posts in my Writing Blog: https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/07/07/military-leadership-fair-weather-commanders-versus-foul-weather-commanders/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/04/10/two-types-of-military-leadership/ etc

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Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger