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Leadership: By Choice or by Default

Having decided not sever my links with the egregious cricket carnival called IPL, I found that my evenings were not all that well spent with the mind often wandering towards the dinner-time matches. As they say, old habits die hard. And my penchant for turning couch potato got a shot in the arm due to a sudden bout of flu that came my way.

And so it was that for three days, I returned to watching the IPL matches and for once also listening to commentary by know-all ex-cricketers whom the players seemed bent on proving wrong each time. To be fair to them, commentators born in India, can hardly aspire to be honest with their views, especially if the point of focus is a star. What will the advertisers and sponsors say?

Well, to cut a long story short (too late!) I ended up watching the a few games and suddenly realized that there were two types of teams out there. One was filled with gifted performers who bludgeoned their way past the opposition while the other was made up of hard-working individuals who stumbled time and again but kept to the task.

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Upon further ruminating on the point, it emerged that the two types of teams had two types of leaders as well. The first one drew up the goal, got together a crack unit of gifted performers and entrusted the task to them, while leading from the front with their own masteries – be it batting or bowling.

The second one was the more intriguing. He too drew up a goal for the team, but did not chase gifted performers with wads of currency to stack up his unit. Instead, he lined up a motley bunch of sharp lieutenants and entrusted them with the task of mentoring relative newcomers or hardworking individuals.

At the risk of being garotted by most cricket lovers and believers in God, I believe someone like Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir under the guidance of their moneybags owners exemplified the first type of leadership while the a Shane Warne and possibly an M S Dhoni typified the second variety.

Of course, both types are leaders alright, but translated into a business environment, the former’s strategy may not readily endear itself to a Board keen on achieving savings. Not to speak of the continuous monetary supplements that will be required to retain this highly talented lot within the unit.

The other problem with Type-I leader is his inability to provide clear directions during a crisis, which in itself is a rarity given their all-star performances. The team is expected to do what it always does and the leader can at best goad his mate to deliver the goods. There is no mentoring involved and very little by way of communication.

For the Type-II leader, every problem presents an opportunity because he assigns specific roles to individuals before the game and communicates it very clearly. Of course, there are chances that his strategies may fail due to the old logic of a chain being as strong as its weakest link. But, there is learning that this leader constantly takes away.

In other words, this leader loves to lead and is someone who made the choice consciously. As for the other type, he would rather plow a lonely furrow but landed the role due to factors extraneous. And the only way such leaders can strike pay dirt is by getting together a high-value bunch of stars who can covert half-chances to success.

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