What’s the Ashes got to do with Leadership?

As a number of you know, my first love in sport is cricket. One of the more educated writers for sport is Ed Smith who wrote an interesting article after the Ashes triumph which I would like to use this month in relation to leadership. As a leader today, whether it be of a small team, a large company or the captain of the England cricket team, there are pressures, and resilience is a key part of being a good leader.

Ed Smith started off by saying in the last 18 months “Alistair Cook, is under siege as the great voices of English cricket almost universally call for his sacking. Urging them on and baying for blood is a sector of social media driven by a sense of frenzied vengeance on behalf of the sacked Kevin Pieterson.” OK, as leaders we do not normally have to put up with this much pressure but stubbornness or, in a more positive light resilience, is so important in times of adversity.

“Warmed by the glow of an early Ashes victory and holding back tears of joy, Cook paid tribute to Peter Moores, the coach who was sacked this spring, for helping to develop an exciting generation of young players. It was typically gracious of Cook to attribute praise outside the current circle of power and influence.” For me this is a leader considering the wider issues and not forgetting those people who had an impact yet had also had a very difficult time. Also the way Cook responded to the Michael Clarke interview was pure class through the insights he had already gained as a captain and leader.

“Yet it is difficult to imagine this Ashes success without Cook at the centre of it. So let’s not forget, now that the Cook’s grip on the Ashes urn is secure, how often over the past 18 months his position has been called into question.”  Cook had his farm to disappear to and collect his thoughts and talk to people in his inner circle who he could trust.

“In truth, an honourable leader brings different cards to the table. Being respected and trusted are undervalued qualities of a captain, arguably more important than the ability to conjure up funky fielding placings. Over the long term, Cook has provided the best answer to his critics. Authenticity, resilience and understatement are not thrilling virtues that make catchy headlines but they do provide the basis for long term success” Wow wouldn’t this make you proud if somebody said this about your son or wife or father. These are good solid values that seem to be washed away with the celebrity culture of today.

“Cook has survived some of the most fractious periods in English history. He has come through it with his dignity intact and as a long term winner. Those two facts are connected”. I don’t know whether Cook has a coach other than for his batting but as cricket is played in the mind, as much as the technique of playing the game I would be very surprised if he has not been supported during this very difficult time by a life coach or someone similar. I do know Freddie Flintoff had a life coach when he had his Ashes success.

If you are going through tremendous change or you are under real pressure, there is often another option, or a different way of tackling the issue or opportunity. To talk to a professional who is detached can make a real difference. Contact neil@nvwsolutions.co.uk or visit my website www.nvwsolutions.co.uk.

I know I won’t make the England cricket team now and when we dream of such things we don’t consider the incredible pressures involved!

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