Recently, I was listening to an old student of mine who narrated an incident that happened in a place where he was posted as a sub-collector. It was a tricky situation where a tahsildar was detained by an angry mob over the death of a person. As it was a remote place, mobilisation of police force was also not easy. The young sub-collector had to think out of the box to solve the situation. But he acknowledged the support given by other staff and emphasised that it is always teamwork.
Many a time people who want to get into civil service get inspired by the individual acts of courage by dynamic officers. There are others who swear by movies like The King and The Commissioner where the superhero acts like a one-man army. Media also focuses on the officers who get into any kind of feud with politicians or people of influence. The real hard-working officers often remain anonymous. In short, the future aspirants almost never come across proper role models.
All about teamwork
The training of civil servants includes a lot of teamwork. There are a number of group activities and there is an award called esprit de corps (team spirit) in the National Academy of Administration which is given by voting. The person who gets this award is the one who is the most favourite person of the batch and often the ones who win this award maintain that reputation in the career too. But one comes across a lot of probationers who are extremely selfish and careerist. They go to any extreme to be in the limelight. There are others who are not at all comfortable in interacting with others. One such person refused to share the password of the official Facebook page to the successor! This person was a loner during the training too.
One needs to maintain a cordial relationship between different services. The officers who were district collectors underline the importance of having a good rapport with the district police chief. Whenever any sensitive issue occurs, the chemistry between the collector and superintendent of police matters a lot. Any ego clash between these two can affect the law and order situation of the district. Many smart officers arrange to get together meets to maintain close connections with batchmates, seniors and juniors. This informal networking comes in handy in the long run. This may sound unethical to some. But in reality, it helps a lot in the smooth functioning of the system.
Even during preparation, it is a bliss to have a good team with you. The main advantage of joining a coaching institute is that one gets to know like-minded people. As the syllabus of the general studies is vast, it will be a lot easier if people from different background sit together and discuss various portions. Each can take turns in teaching subjects of their comfort to others. The study materials could be shared and the answers could be compared. This will automatically improve the performance of everyone. Even if 10 people study the same materials, their answers will not be the same. So, one need not worry about losing an edge in this competitive examination by sharing.
During the interview preparation, teamwork becomes even more important. One definitely needs a group to discuss issues as well as to do mock interviews. It will help in clarity of thought and one will be enriched with information. Most importantly, as the final stage approaches, candidates will be usually tensed up. In a group of people who face the same situation, one can share the anxieties and get relief. In my experience, the friendship which blooms during these times is for a lifetime.
As civil service is all about managing people and resources, the ones who get along well with people will always have an edge. It is never a one-person show and people who have made a lasting impact in governance are all team players. As quoted in the Three Musketeers, it is a “one for all and all for one” system where one needs cooperation and support from others. So, if you want to be a civil servant, the first question you should ask yourself is “Am I a team player?” If the answer is no, forget it because you will end up in a lot of trouble.
(The author is a former IPS officer and trainer for civil service aspirants)