Skip to main content
June 12, 2023

#266: Karuna Ramanathan – Accidental Leader

Podcast Details

Karuna has been a leadership journeyman for a long time.

Over nearly four decades of work and lived experiences, he has studied, observed, led, suffered, been mentored, and gained much from simply observing and learning from both amazing, and unfortunately, appalling leaders.

His leadership journey began quite by accident at 19 at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, undoubtedly one of the finest leadership training institutions in the world. Over a year, his first conceptions of leadership were uprooted against the time-honoured traditions of the seafarer. For good reason, as the sea has always been and remains a harsh punisher of poor leadership and judgement. He went on to gain his sea legs working with ship-crews, and leading small numbers of highly capable and well-trained men and women. During his time in the Navy he also lived in Sweden, Australia and the United States, training with other navy men and women, and in the process learning how others chose to lead. He capped 19 years in the Navy in Singapore with two consecutive warship commands over six years, a 45-meter minehunter with 38-crew, and a 150-meter landing ship tank with 120 crew.

Leaving the Navy after successful command at sea as the pioneer crew of the Landing Ship Tank was a forced choice. Karuna chose to prioritise his life at that stage to be a father to his two children, and a better version of himself to his wife, who had earlier already given up her career to stay home with the young son and daughter. Leaders make choices, and commit to those choices, and often find themselves in difficult trade-offs.

Karuna again found himself another accidental opportunity in the newly created military leadership centre, where he spent a decade as part of the pioneer team to transform military culture through the development of leaders and values work. He successfully retired after three decades in the military, and went on to work for three years as the Singapore Government’s Senior Organisational Development Consultant. His work with Brunei Government leaders was acknowledged by the World Bank in 2016.

Over the past 6 years, Karuna has coached and worked closely with Senior Leaders, organisational leadership teams, and middle managers to help them grow into the leaders they need to be. His success rate at supporting organisational transformation is evident from repeat client requests for his support.

Karuna is a firm believer in RESPECT as the Core Value for Organisational Leaders. Respect underpins Empathy as a Leadership Practice, and when leaders began to empathise well, they might be described as humble, and demonstrating Humility. Respect is also key to Diversity and Inclusion, and a powerful anchor to much needed people and culture work.

How can we help you?