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Leadership Lessons From Indian Cricket

By Ganesh Natarajan

Apr. 13 – It is not often in the history of a nation that two red letter days appear within the space of three days and when this happened recently, India’s joy could not be more apparent. As is expected in this cricket crazy country, both events were prompted by cricket matches, played out on the most important stage of all, the World Cup Cricket. The tense semi-final against Pakistan in Mohali and the final where India demonstrated sterling qualities that were only a mirage a few years ago to edge out Sri Lanka in Mumbai were those events. Both were replete with leadership and team lessons that would be the dream of every corporate guru and chief executive in a growing country and industry.

The clash with Pakistan, that has so often in the past been acrimonious and replete with jingoism and sentiments of hatred expressed by both sides was defused by the cricket diplomacy played out by the two prime ministers in the week leading to the game and also the desire for peace expressed by many business to business initiatives like “Aman ki Asha.” There is a genuine belief that while the problems of terror-infested Pakistan are many and will not lend themselves to simplistic solutions, collaboration between business communities like IT and textiles and young hands reaching across the border from the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII’s) Young Indians and Student federations could pave the way for the future.

The game itself demonstrated the harmony that could exist right down to the gracious speeches of the politicians and captains. One swallow does not make a summer but a few green shoots of a possible spring are visible after a long winter of discontent. The final had all the buildup and more of the American Super Bowl and when the gladiators strode out into the Wankhede coliseum, the scene was set for what normally turns out to be tension filled but mediocre game of cricket. A flash of runs by the Sri Lankans at the end of their innings and the early fall of superheroes Sehwag and Tendulkar would, in the past have led to the team losing heart and falling like ninepins. However, this team has not acquired its pole position in all forms of cricket for nothing.

Two Delhi lads took up the job as though it was just a walk in the park, won the initial war of attrition with Malinga and Murali and had a billion people daring to remove their hearts from their mouths though fingers were still being bitten to the quick when the third wicket fell and “Captain Courageous” walked in. The next two hours had some of the best leadership lessons any management student, politician, army general or corporate chief can hope to see.

Like a Colossus striding into the arena and surveying the ruins, Dhoni showed a quick assessment of the situation, superb display of practical batsmanship, excellent motivation of Gambhir and later Yuvraj when the former succumbed to a rush of blood at the end of a heroic knock and finally just the courage and conviction needed to see his team and country through in what must have been one of the most testing times of a young man’s life!

For a country poised on the brink of greatness despite the evil spread of corruption and a fractious polity showing little or no vision beyond the opportunism to rule, this stellar demonstration of a clear vision, mission, strategy and team orientation should be an inspiration to move forward. For an industry which has already demonstrated many of these qualities through individual Dhonis like Murthy, Nandan, Ramadorai and Chandra and Team Nasscom rallying the collaborative spirit to take the outsourcing sector to 55 percent global market share, this win should provide the spur to move on to our US$200 billion destiny by 2020. And for the many CEOs who are first time leaders of the several hundred companies—IT, BPO, captive, engineering and product firms that now dot the IT and BPO landscape, this win should provide the elixir of hope that new goals can be set, new paths to success found and new heroes discovered for every occasion.

We are entering one more results and increment season. The “Quarter se Quarter tak” compulsions for leaders and the “get rich quick” syndrome that makes greed and short term opportunism hold sway over industry and career building can still cause hurdles in the way of success. It would be well for industry participants and watchers to heed the counsel that Captain Dhoni gave to the country on the eve of the match—support the team irrespective of the result of one game!

Our nation and our industry both have enormous potential—for economic success, for jobs and livelihood creation in an inclusive India and for demonstrating the success that only a vibrant democracy can build and sustain. It will need long term players who accumulate the singles and choose the balls to be hit hard on the way to building a collective industry and country that can be dominant and sustainable for a long time to come.

Ganesh Natarajan is vice-chairman and MD of Zensar Technologies and is a Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s National Committee on IT and ITES.

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One Response to Leadership Lessons From Indian Cricket

  1. Geeta says:

    After long time India win the world cup!
    Good job Ganesh Natarajan. Thanks for sharing!

Comments are closed.

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