Lessons from Dadagiri: What managers can learn from Ganguly's leadership

Topics Sourav Ganguly | Leadership | BCCI

Eleven years after his retirement from international cricket, Sourav Ganguly is set to begin another important innings in his spectacular career. Ganguly has of course downplayed his role as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, saying no job in Indian cricket is more difficult than being the captain. That might be true, but what one of India’s finest cricket captains is trying to do here is known in corporate lexicon as expectation management. 

Taking charge of the BCCI is a formidable task, and Ganguly wants to make it clear that no one should expect miracles from him especially when he has just 10 months to implement his administrative skills before he goes to a three-year cooling-off period as per BCCI’s constitution. Like all shrewd leaders, he is drawing a line on expectations from him and the new team of BCCI office-bearers. 

The BCCI is indeed facing a formidable task of regaining its bargaining power with the International Cricket Council (ICC). It’s unlikely, however, that the BCCI with Ganguly as the boss will go down without fighting. That’s because the former India captain has already given enough evidence of his calibre in team-building skills and ability to think big that helped turn Team India into a combative unit. More importantly, criticism was a leitmotif throughout his 12-year-long international career, but he took it chin up — first as player and then as captain.

Ganguly has been a prolific speaker at some of India’s premier management schools and has written a book, A Century Is Not Enough. Both give insights into his leadership vision that has relevance in corporate life, too.

Nurturing talent

Spotting talent is important, but the leader’s job just begins there. Ganguly not only spotted talent in youngsters, he backed them to the hilt. At an IIM, Calcutta lecture, Ganguly said once a leader is convinced about someone’s class, he should allow him to blossom by removing his fear of failure. Ganguly revealed how he backed Harbhajan Singh in 2001, when the selectors wanted to drop him. “I believed in throwing the younger players at the deep end. The better ones did handle themselves, swam their way and beat the odds. I had backed Harbhajan because I saw a spark in him”, he said. The spinner justified the faith by almost single-handedly winning a series against Australia. 

The trust factor

Every leader has to take harsh decisions but the team members must believe that they are purely for professional reasons. So, every time he had to drop a player, Ganguly would explain the circumstances in details to the player concerned before discussing the matter with the selection committee. A player knew exactly why the captain has taken the decision and believed he can make a comeback if his performance improves. In short, a leader has to create an atmosphere where personal equations do not matter in professional matters. Shane Warne and Steve Waugh had no love lost between them personally, but that did not prevent them from collaborating on the cricket field for Australia.

Strategic vision

Ganguly wanted to change the perception of the Indian team being tigers only at home. In his book, Ganguly writes, “The day I became captain I told myself this age-old policy (of spinners being preferred) had to change. I wanted to build a bank of fit and strong fast bowlers and create a new template. I said, within the subcontinent, the emphasis will be on spinners. But outside, pacers will have to assume primary responsibility for picking 20 wickets.” 

The new template — a team with a killer instinct overseas — did pay off, as India notched up several memorable victories under his leadership.

Self-belief

Ganguly once referred to a conversation he had with West Indies great Gordon Greenidge. Every time he opened the innings against the likes of Dennis Lillee, Greenidge erased the slip cordon from his mind. That’s because the moment he became conscious of the four slip fielders, he would invariably nick one to them. That was Greenidge’s way of overcoming fear. That anecdote from one of the world’s most successful opening batsmen, said Ganguly, taught him to believe that he would succeed every time he walked into a cricket field. A leader can’t be tentative and must be confident that he would deliver results, come what may. 



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