Leadership Lessons from our Proteas Captain

This afternoon I recalled the Proteas cricket match on the 27th February, especially the interview with AB De Villiers that was conducted immediately after his great score against the West Indies in the Cricket World Cup. He holds three world records-the fastest fifty, fastest century and fastest one hundred and fifty in world class cricket. In the past, individual batsmen have held one of these records, yet De Villiers holds all three and all by a comfortable margin. As humble as ever, when interviewed he was not aware of the third record and credited his team mates for setting the energy and pace for him, and sincerely felt that this great innings was a team effort. 

This approach has had me thinking and in reality, we may see individuals as great, yet they are not great alone. 

AB de Villiers, Cricket captain and leaderIn MEDO we interview many entrepreneurs and one of the key characteristics we look for is the capacity to be a team player. Our experience has shown that only those who can work with others towards a common goal will build successful, sustainable businesses. In life we play many team roles as active parents on the school committee, caring neighbors and conscious consumers.

As entrepreneurs, our role in the economy is that of a high performing team member, and often we need to go out there to bat for our industry. Yet, can we have an impact if all our industry colleagues don't do their bit? Can we make the difference if our suppliers and customers aren't involved? 

Too many emergent business owners think that they can succeed in isolation, and have visions of themselves riding alone towards a golden wealthy sunset. They don't listen to their customers and hear the voices of the marketplace, they don't hire people because they think only they can do anything well, and they treat their suppliers like crap. They call themselves entrepreneurs, yet here is nothing entrepreneurial about this attitude and behavior. To be an entrepreneur one has to be enterprising, innovating and above all, collaborative. 

All of us in business lead teams, and our young subordinates are watching us constantly, so that they can imitate what we do. As human beings, this is how we learn, by observing others, seeing what works and what doesn't, and then imitate what we believe seems to be working. Young bright team members will not follow what we say, but what we do, so we had better be sincere and do want we say we do. 

Decades ago I had a manager who told our team to work hard, yet we knew he was off cruising malls with his friends during working hours. I knew this was wrong because my parents had succeeded through dedication and hard work, yet my colleagues who didn't have strong role models thought that this was the way to drive the Mercedes. 

As business leaders we need to demonstrate that we can do the job well, before we expect anyone else to do it, and if we don't have the particular skills we need to employ someone who has exceptional skill to deliver on our behalf. 

Now we get back to AB De Villiers… Here we have a great batsman who says its the team, and over and above a batsman he is a terrific fielder, excellent wicket keeper (although he thinks he's second best at this), and captain. Would he be captain if he was a talented Lone Ranger? He is captain because he is extremely talented, can lead from the front and is an excellent team player. 

With this I look in the mirror and I ask myself, "Judi, you do have some talents, and you are good at what you do, but how do you lead? Are you a team player?" It's also a tough question I have to ask our talented team members, as it is my responsibility to ensure that they don't become vain egocentric loners, victims of their talents. 

AB, I want to thank you, as you inspire us all, not only cricket fans, as you clearly demonstrate that we can win as a nation if we all work on our talents and pull together as a team.

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