Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hail the leader

If you wanted to understand leadership, you couldn't have done better than to be glued to the TV screens in India yesterday. It was the final of the Cricket World Cup, it was played in Mumbai and India won, setting off a celebration, the likes of which is  unlikely to be seen anywhere in the world - not even if and when Brazil wins the football World Cup in Rio.

This post is not about the victory , but about the leadership of the captain MS Dhoni. They say leaders are born and not made and he seems to be a perfect example of that cliche. Early on in his career, some brilliant selector spotted his leadership skills and elevated him as the captain of the country. And today he has pulled perennially underachieving India to the top of the world cricket. Indian teams have been as talented before, but the deadly element in the mix now is a leader.

Just look at the calmness on the field even when things are going disastrously wrong. With that steely calmness, he gets everybody to claw their way out of the hole. There is never a display of anger, never a dressing down of somebody who isn't performing, rarely the drooping of the shoulder when defeat seems to be looming large.

Leaders have to be incredibly bold. The team selection he did yesterday was bold, even with the benefit of hindsight that his pick was wrong. But he'll probably never make a bolder decision than when India was tottering at 114 for 3 chasing 275 and he promotes himself and walks in to a pressure cooker situation. His form with the bat hadn't been good lately and the conventional thing to do would have been to drop himself down the order and play safe. But in he walks, takes the pressure on his shoulders as a leader should and  the rest is history. Even if he had failed, it would have been unparalleled as an act of incredible boldness as a leader.

But to me, the final proof of greatness as a leader was after the game. Did you notice that as every player was celebrating wildly , doing victory lap after victory lap, Dhoni wasn't to be seen much. He received the cup, gave it to his teammates to parade it around and simply disappeared. Now that is a truly great leader. Let the team rightfully receive and soak in the adulation. His own joy was simply knowing that it was his leadership that made the difference.

A truly class act.