The Crux of Leadership:
“You are as good as your last performance,'' says Anil Kumble. Leadership is about leading oneself, and building a team to navigate the highs and lows. Kumble owes his best performance (1999), to his courage to be unorthodox and carve his own niche. Leaders are under constant radar, and so was the young version of Kumble. “I was 19 and was doing my engineering- plan A. Cricket was plan B, and when I was out of the team after my first series, it was tough,” says the icon.
Despite people discrediting his bowling style, he pushed ahead to prove them wrong. A leader has to prove time and again, that he can perform. The SA series was very crucial and with it going well, he got the confidence.
Once you know you can do it once, you know you can repeat that
This confidence must be coupled with learning. Kumble met former leg spinner, V V Kumar to learn the orthodox leg spin. He unlearned, relearnt, and changed his action and within five days, applied the technique live in the Bombay versus Rest of India at Wankhede. To sustain the performance for a period of time, evolve, innovative, think and act different. “Keep asking those questions differently,'' says Kumble. How to best camouflage your weaknesses will allow you to bring your strength to the forefront with a calm mind, in the toughest situations. “This is my style, and I will stick to this”, quotes Kumble.
The Obstacles to Leadership Success
Organizations aspire for diversity. Yet, people who do not fit in often face doubts. Kumble often questioned, “should I change my style?”. The key lies in persisting with who you truly are. Leaders today must train the mind to try. This encompasses getting out of the comfort zone, unlearning and persistently actioning.
Sticking to your strengths can help own up responsibilities for the team. “I looked at myself as someone who had opportunity to change the course of the game, whether the situation was hopeless or good”, says Kumble. Being a leader entails being a part of the group, at the same time being honest with yourself and also about the team. You cannot change, just because you are captain. Keep open the developmental eye i.e. gear up your people for any eventuality on the field.
Perhaps the single biggest challenge in successful leadership is being authentic. Kumble seconds this, “with honesty and straightforwardness, upfront, people know who you are and it is easier to handle any situation.” This came handy during the Australia-Sydney incident, when, after the match, Kumble had to handle the team from a different perspective, in the wake of media glare. Every leader faces the dissonance- “Should I stand up and own up, or should I send someone?” For Kumble too, this doubt lingered, and he decided to speak to everyone head-first- a great learning curve indeed!
Technology versus human touch – Leadership Enablers
Cricket has adopted a lot of technology for key decision-making. Today, cricketers observe recordings and reflect. “I was the first captain to take a laptop into the dressing room and everyone was like, how does that help us?” says Anil Kumble. With so much data, one single delivery can be tackled in multiple ways. Of course, experts like Kumble are still relevant to decide for the data, simplify and help people understand so that the fabric of the game stays intact. No one will enjoy an interaction where the leader is appealing to the computer!
Thus leadership must merge the best of both worlds- technology and human skills so as to take everyone towards success.