Colonel (COL) Mikail Kalimuddin embarked on his journey with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), after receiving the SAF Scholarship in 2005, to deepen his skills as an effective leader. Leading by example, he challenges himself to go beyond the call of duty. Today, he serves as the Commander of 3rd Singapore Infantry Brigade (3 SIB).
Did you originally plan on having a career in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)?
My leadership journey was somewhat different from others. Unlike most of my peers, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue as a career. My parents believed that among the choices available to me, the SAF Scholarship was the best option because it would give me access to a world-class education, the excellent professional development practices of the SAF, and the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the nation’s defence.
Tell us more about your roles in the SAF
My journey with the SAF has exposed me to a series of command, instructional and staff appointments. I have led artillery fire missions as a Fire Direction Officer, groomed new generations of leaders as a Platoon Commander in Officer Cadet School, and commanded an Artillery Radar Battery. From 2018 to 2019, I was the Commanding Officer (CO) of 23rd Battalion, Singapore Artillery. As the CO, I was responsible for everything and everyone in my unit – training, operations, finance, logistics, human resource, people development, security and safety. In my previous appointment as the Director of MINDEF’s Manpower Policy Department, I oversaw the development and review of policies and programmes to attract and retain talent for the organisation. I am currently the Commander of 3rd Singapore Infantry Brigade (3 SIB).
What do you find most fulfilling about your job?
The most fulfilling part of my job is helping people develop personally and professionally. For our NSF (Full-time National Serviceman) commanders, that can mean guiding them from a trainee to an effective tactical leader in a matter of months – confident, calm under pressure, able to command and control a team even in challenging situations. People development does not happen by accident; it takes energy and patience. In the long run though, it makes a lasting impact because the skills and abilities are gained for life and applicable in all sorts of contexts. There are also parts of the job that are unique to the SAF and the Army. In 2018, I supported the National Day Parade organising committee in the area of branding and publicity. When I joined the military, I did not expect to find myself doing work related to advertising, social media, and marketing, but a career in the Army is full of pleasant surprises!
How has your experience in the SAF influenced your leadership style?
Being in the military demands an incredibly broad swathe of leadership skills – critical and creative thinking, coaching, providing direction, managing people and systems, communicating effectively and so on. This encourages the development of a holistic and wide range of leadership skills and styles.
What are the challenges you face as a leader and how do you manage them?
I find the biggest challenge to be balancing short-term needs with long-term goals. Focus too much on immediate issues and you lose sight of the broader intent; ignore those same issues and you are unlikely to last long enough to do anything long-term. Managing this tension requires a very clear sense of what is beyond the horizon and what it will take to get there. With a clear vision, immediate issues can be dealt with in a way that supports that vision.
What’s your advice to aspiring individuals who wish to embark on a military profession?
Be authentic; leadership is a very personal thing. Be courageous; challenge yourself – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
COL MIKAIL KALIMUDDIN
The SAF Scholarship and President’s Scholarship, 2005
Commander, 3rd Singapore Infantry Brigade (3 SIB)