Many of us many a time might have realized that leadership is not about a position but an attitude. It is all about making a difference to one’s own self and others. It is an inner shift, a calling, an urge, a pull, a realization and a cause that kick starts the leadership or changes journey for many. Over the years I have looked for a role model, or a story of a leader that is embedded in an experience that is life changing and learning for every aspiring leader. It might be a great idea to draw some lessons from the leadership style of successful people around us from all walks of life.
My search ended the other day in an In flight magazine while I was traveling from Chennai to Portblair. It was an interview with New Youth Icon of our Country, the Captain of Indian Cricket Team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Born on 7th July 1981 in a small town called Ranchi at Jharkhand, he announced his arrival into the international arena in 2004-05 with a bang. M.S Dhoni has come a long way with his unique leadership style and aggressive brand of cricket.
Dhoni has made Team India, the best team in the world today with his charismatic leadership. Ever since he became a captain, Team India has performed like a champion in all forms of the game.
A young captain leading a team of youngsters in a game. I am sure,not many hopes were pinned on the team that traveled to South Africa from England, especially after the big three – Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly – pulled out of the inaugural edition of Twenty20.
Still, the team led by a Mahendra Singh Dhoni reached the finals to take on arch rival Pakistan. On their way to Durban, they knocked out biggies like England, South Africa and Australia, and even defeated Pakistan in the first round in a bowl-out.
Against Australia and later against Pakistan in the finals, he trusted the inexperienced Joginder Singh to bowl the last over! This too was ignoring the tested bowlers he has in the team.
He displayed tremendous potential of a great leader after he led India to victory in the finals of Twenty20 against Pakistan. The icing on the cake was the triangular series win against Australia in Australia in 2008. And the journey continues with a clean sweep against Srilankan's in their own land.
The first thing he said to Ravi Shasthri during the presentation after India won the action packed India-Australia semis was “Before I start Ravi, yesterday I read an article on Cricinfo. It says according to you Aussie's are the favorites. I think me and my boys proved you wrong and I think you are happier than us." In fact when I heard it, I told myself, here is one guy who knows how to touch the right nerve of the people!
After the series win, look at his statement - "It doesn't matter whether people say we are the best team or not or whether we have won or lost the previous match. In every match, one has to start from the scratch. It is important that we carry the momentum in the game. During the series we had the motivation, we had the plans and most importantly we executed those plans well." Doesn't it speak of a great leader?
When Ganguly was playing his last match, as a gesture of respect, or so it was claimed, Dhoni asked Ganguly to take charge of the team when the ninth Aussie wicket fell. Whenever he has an opportunity, he showers his players with praises.
Well, I guess its time for Corporate India to learn from this young leader. In business, most of us with no experience head on against the global biggies, just the way as the Indian cricket team had no track record to back them against in-form teams like South Africa, England and Australia in the Twenty20 Cricket. And the fearlessness and confidence have helped the Dhoni's devils that they are globally the best. That tells us, Dhoni's leadership kit mean a lot for Indian Industry and Corporate Leaders.
I think managing under change is a vital attribute to be learned from the leadership under Dhoni. A good leader doesn't mind going out and exploring. Change in business is very rapid. Platforms, markets, products keep changing, and when change happens, a new and fresh leadership perspective comes handy, just the way it did for a new cricket format like Twenty20, which is a completely new and disruptive change. Dhoni's risk taking ability, inclusiveness and time-pressure qualities are good examples of leaders on the business side.
If you notice, instead of pressing teammates to win, Dhoni told them to just enjoy the game. Also, he has mentioned at several forums that he believes to live in the present and not worry about future or past. That's another management tip. Too much strategizing for the future is not recommendable in a dynamic business environment. Dhoni's leadership style represents teamwork, empowerment and confidence.
Dhoni's style is not just aggressive, it is more rational. Even in the absence of seniors, he could lead the team to success. This tells us, with a "B" team, it is easy to focus on getting the best out of the team - it gives opportunity and environment for the untested to show themselves and become stars.
Learning from this, even in our business, putting the team before ourselves, and putting the organization before the team, is the single biggest challenge in execution. At the end of the day it is about joining the dots (aligning the strengths and weaknesses of individuals) to work for the team rather than against.
Leaders need to be assertive yet humble and must rarely allow their personal egos to be an obstacle for the success of their organization and that's what M.S. Dhoni showing us through his current leadership style.
Another learning from Dhoni is about, Optimal utilization of resources, which is vital for any business. Instead of giving excuses for lack of best resources, especially with the current scenario economic crisis, it is better to perform in whatever resources a leader has to his disposal. Interestingly, Dhoni never complains about absence of a Sachin or Sourav or Rahul Dravid.