Fascinating Leadership Styles From Cricket for Organizations and Leaders

By | June 25, 2018

An in-depth and extensive analysis of the game of Cricket has provided following fascinating variety of leadership styles that can be adopted by organizations and leaders. Adaptation of capable leadership style is to be based on the organization / team composition, strength and weakness of members, organization and individual goals, nature of assignments to be handled-as to long / medium / short-term, commercial or social, new assignments or repeat / standard ones and so on. By identifying multiple situations that can confront leaders in their career path, this article brings to focus forcefully that leadership style can not be static for a leader and will require them wearing different leadership hats, suiting a variety of situations

We have chosen the fascinating game of Cricket to identify leadership styles for organizations and leaders, as it is characterized by the following features:

1) It offers a variety of formats like Test Matches, One-day, 20-20, knock-out, League format and so on, requiring different skill sets from team members and different leadership styles to handle them. 2) The long-history of Cricket has witnessed a phenomenal variety of leaders (Captains), some of them legends, some great, some average / passable, some downright failures and so on 3) On the personal side Cricket is a team game and has always consulted of a great variety with respect to the team composition, as to location, culture, language or dialect or way of speaking, economic strata, age, experience, physical appearance, nature and so on 4) On the technical side the complexity of skill sets consistent of Match winners, All-rounders, Batsmen (Aggressive hitters, balanced ones capable of long-hauls, slow-pick-up), Bowlers (Fast, Medium, Off-Spinners, Leg-spinners) Fielders (Close in , out-field, out-standing, good, bad and to be protected etc), Wicket-keeper and so on.

5) Also leadership styles to suit the style, stature and strength of opponents, type of pitches, situation in a series, qualifying requirements, availability of / injury to players etc. 6) A great entertainer (on its day) and a money spinning spectator sport. 7) However great you are (like star performers in an organization), you have to abide by the authority of umpires and captains on the field, with selective / limited options for appealing, calling for judicious usage Of such opportunities. 8) Need for all team members to alter their style to the format of the game or situational requirements and hence the expectation from the captains to prepare and mold them accordingly.

The fascinating range of Leadership styles unearthed as part of the in-depth analysis of game of Cricket reads as follows The leadership styles are listed in the alphabetical order for easy recall and do not signify any order of importance etc.


Here we are analyzing the 11 leadership styles :

1) ACTIVE (OMNIPRESENT) LEADERSHIP – Here the captain / the leader adopts the style of being present virtually everywhere, signifying an intention to be in the know of all and sunday events. Team members are likely to feel the leader virtually breathing behind their neck. Here is an example of how leadership (somewhat dubly modified), may be relevant in organizations / teams consisting of predominately freshers, less skilled etc. requiring and looking for constant guidance. The exceptions in the team need to be handled differently and hence the modification indicated.

2) AGGRESSIVE (TIGER ON THE PROWL!) LEADERSHIP – This is generally the style of leadership adopted by Australian Captains, who invariably with a strong and aggressive team backing them, mostly tried to play a psychological game (almost bordering on mini-warfare) of conveying to the opponents that Australians are supremely confident of winning and out to make a mince-meat of hapless opponents. While mostly it has worked for strong teams, when this borders over over-confidence or gross underestimating of opponents, this can back-fire very badly. In an organization / team environment such a style can succeed if the team members know and have adopted this style of their leader. In a situation of mixed team of old and new members, the new ones need to be put in through an orientation of this "TIGER ON THE PROWL" leadership style and old team members style of functioning, for this to succeed. Otherwise it can back-fire very badly, as new members may get alienated. Also this may work well even with new comers like ambitious management graduates, who believe in aggressive leadership for fast-track growth

3) CHARISMATIC (ROYAL!) LEADERSHIP – This style of leadership has occurred whenever captains have been towering personalities of the game or with royal lineage etc. We have instances of both legendary and successful captains and miserable failures under this category. In an organization / team set-up this can work (without much modifications), if the team members deem it a privilege to be working under a star personality. Otherwise there is a definite need for such leader to communicate in no uncertain terms, he is very much approachable and his stature need not be a deterrent for the team members

4) CONFIDENCE-BUILDING (IDENTIFYING GEMS!) LEADERSHIP – One of the examples always quoted in cricket for this style of leadership is Imran khan of Pakistan, who is credited with unearthing gems like Wasim Akram, Abdul quadir and others. Sensing their potential, he is supposed to have been always on their side, when they were down and out, to build confidence in them. Together they played a key part in taking Pakistan to their pinnacle of glory by winning world championship. In an organization / team set-up such leaders can be an asset in identifying and molding gems. However they will be opponents, if they are seen to be playing the game of favoritism, misusing their position.

5) COOL (ICE-BERG) / PASSIVE LEADERSHIP : One classic case of Cool leadership (as coined by commentators, Media & others) has been Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India. This type of leadership has the risk of being classified as cool, when the team is winning and passive when the team is losing! In an organizational / Team environ this style of leadership can work, if you have a well settled team / products / services, stable organizational / economic environ and the organization / team is perceived to be succeeding. When this situation changes, unless there is a perceptible change in leadership style, the leader will be branded "PASSIVE" or inactive.

6) ENDURING (STABILITY & COMMANDING RESPECT) LEADERSHIP : Even though many Australian captains have exhibited such leadership style, slightly less credit is being given here for their endurance, as their teams have been actually "WORLD-CHAMPIONS" for prolonged periods of time. Very rarely a boat is disturbed, when the sailing is smooth. Here is a little bit more focus is on leaders / captains like Daniel Vettori of New zealand, Greame Smith of South Africa, Mahela Jayawardane of Srilanka as they have been Enduring leaders, enspite of their teams not being the Champs. This style of leadership in organizations / teams is possible for leaders, who are perceived as people oriented and when no major competitiveness leader of stature is in sight. The stability should not lead to too much comfort, familiarity & personal relationships with the team members leading to difficulties in extracting performance. Also this style of leadership may not sustain when strong alternative leader emerges (with general preference for change) and when the performance of the organization / team goes below certain benchmarks.

7) INSPIRATIONAL (TRANSFORMATIONAL) LEADERSHIP : Possibly the most striking example in cricket for this style of leadership is Mike Brearly of England, whose leadership qualities are termed out-standing. The legend goes that he could have been part of any team in the world as a captain, but not as a player! The classic example is that of Ashes series, after England was down & out 2-nil after 2 matches and their star performer performing miserably, as per Australia's aggressive game plan of containing Botham (who is a match winner on his day). The arrival of Mike as a Captain from the 3rd test turned the series on its head, with the wholly transformed Bothham, single-handedly winning the remaining 3 matches and the Ashes for England. Such inspirational is highly relevant for Organizations / Teams involved in creative activities, has star performers / Orgaisations / Teams under bad patch, to transform people at leadership levels and so on, rather than in routine and mundane type of activities. They can be ideal for start-ups to inculcate a sustaining performance culture from the beginning itself.

8) PARTICIPATIVE (OUTSTANDING OR STAND-OUT ?!) LEADERSHIP – Possibly a positive example of this style of leadership is former Indian Skipper Saurav Ganguly, going both by his track-record and the team members, recalling his leadership always with kindness and pride , long after he ceased to be the Skipper. There are many examples in International cricket, where captains have transported it to the extreme and failed. This style of leadership will have to ensure in an organization / team environ, that it is clearly communicated that while quality participation from the team is welcome and appreciated, the final decision taking authority, based on facts, figures and organizational requirements will rest with the leader. Also such leadership should avoid excessive, endless, free for all participation bordering on LAISSEZ FAIRE style of "NON-LEADERSHIP" Instead of being an "outstanding leader" the leader may have to "stand out" of the leadership position !.

9) PROJECT STYLE (SLAM-BANG!) LEADERSHIP : This style of leadership requirement is akin to having different captains for shorter versions as against test matches. For instance Bailey for Australia, Kohli for India and so on. Generally they are perceived to be more aggressive captains, basically more risk-taking in nature to meet the deadlines as demanded by shooter versions of the game. In an organization / team situations, leadership is required to complete different types of tasks / projects with deadlines, uncertainties etc, through being very alert and dynamic, risk taking, able to take decisions at very short notice, even with limited information. A word of caution would be, though dynamic such leaders need to have a mature head on their shoulders and capable of reasonable restraint, otherwise in the name of dynamism, there is every possibility of going overboard with decisions with disastrous results.

10) TASK-MASTER (MILITARY TYPE) LEADERSHIP : We have come across this type of leadership in cricket. Some have shown good results, handling a team of rookies and some have misfortunate failed, trying this style even to an experienced team leading to resentment. This style of leadership is difficult to practice in letter and spirit in modern organizations. Still this is being followed with varying degrees of control on shop-floors, where routine, compliance oriented and automated operations are pre-dominant etc. Such leadership style should provide flexibility for potential employees to grow, lest they leave

11) UNOBTRUSIVE (CARROT & STICK) LEADERSHIP : These are leaders in the know of things with their hands on the pulse of the situation and the team, without forcing themselves on the team, all the time. Anil kumble of India was considered one such captain. In the organization / team situations, such leaders can produce good results, if the team consists of experienced / senior professionals, who normally prefer a hands-off leadership style and if the leader has the stature to command their respect, when required. The leader should ensure that the leaders presence is clearly felt, in all Important decision-making by the team. This type of leadership, makes their presence felt by rewarding right behavior and vice-versa. The leadership style should be never allowed to degenerate in to passive / Laissez faire category in the name of extended freedom for the team. Such leaders need to be more hands-on, when the composition of the team changes with more of fresh / less experienced team members requiring guidance

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