Michael Clarke has presided as captain through a period of highs and lows of Australian cricket. With the release of his Ashes diary, we gain some insight to Michael’s methods of captaincy, his leadership and the importance of team culture as a means to produce high performance outcomes.
There is one recent event which I believe makes further comment pertinent, and hopefully useful for Michael, and young aspiring leaders like him in their respective futures.
In the last couple of days Richie McCaw long serving captain of the ALL BLACKS (AB) announced his retirement, weeks after the conclusion of his and the team’s crowning glory – back-to-back World Cup victories.
There would be precious few people around the world who would say that Richie McCaw did not distinguish himself on the field as well as off. As captain, he led a team that performed at the highest level with a winning record verging on 90%. As a leader, he inspired all those around him, and all those that followed him and the ALL BLACKS, through his deeds and actions. As a person, he lived and breathed the values and principles of the ALL BLACKS, and ensured the legacy, begun over 100 years ago, was enhanced during the time that he spent in the company of the AB traditions and brand.
I am passionate about Leaders and Leadership, what it means, and more importantly what it does.
Without strong visionary Leaders who walk the walk and talk the talk, every moment of every day, then high performance in sport, business, and community is transitory – it cannot be sustained.
Great Leaders bring their people with them. They equip others with the capacity and the desire to lead as well. They create an environment for their people which is stimulating, challenging and rewards personal growth. And they are very clear on what constitutes direction and measuring whether individuals or the group are on track or not. If an individual or group veer off course, the Leader will ensure appropriate intervention. If the individual or group meet or exceed expectation, the Leader will celebrate success.
In the context of the Australian Cricket team, Michael is indeed correct when he says I never wore the ‘baggy green’. My first Test as coach was November 1999 – the same match in which Adam Gilchrist (381) and Scott Muller (382) made their Test debuts. We ensured that such a moment was very special in the life of a cricketer, and so looked to always have cricket legends present a first cap. In Brisbane that year, it was Bill Brown. There were another 17 presentations in my time as coach including Michael Clarke’s first ‘baggy green’ (389) in Bangalore, India, October 2004. Each moment was designed to strengthen the role that the ‘baggy green’ symbol played in growing the aura of the Australian Cricket team . The debutant had now become part of history, tradition and values, and must honour those responsibilities.
However, the role of the coach in this environment is such that the person is a leader, a manager, a mentor, a parent, a friend, at all different times, in different circumstances, and for different people – the art is to know when to adopt the correct role, and how to deliver it.
The role is also about constantly challenging individuals and the team in pursuit of High Performance. High Performance was all about driving towards new benchmarks, game changing results over the long-term.
And as those who operate business, sport, and community teams appreciate, just because you have assembled the pieces one day to chase team goals, there is no guarantee the pieces will remain in position the next. Why? Because we are dealing with people whose needs, emotions, circumstances change constantly.
Being a captain, coach, corporate leader is not easy. Each is driven by a relentless passion to inspire others to succeed. The leadership skills that accompany these roles are demanding and complex.
The opportunity to continue to learn these skills is always available, and hopefully Michael will continue to take these opportunities as they will be presented in his future life and careers.