Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a former Indian international cricketer who captained the Indian national team in limited-overs cricket from 2007 to 2016 and in the test format from 2008 to 2014. He is regarded by some as one of the best wicket-keepers and captains in modern limited-overs international cricket. A right-handed middle-order batsman and wicketkeeper, Dhoni is one of the highest run scorers in one-day internationals (ODIs). He has scored more than 10,000 runs and is considered an effective ‘finisher’ in limited-overs cricket.
MS Dhoni is an inspiration to many. Dhoni has made Team India the best team in the world today with his charismatic leadership. Ever since he became a captain, Team India has performed like a champion in all forms of the game. I am sure not many hopes were pinned on the team that traveled to South Africa from England, especially after the big three – Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly – pulled out of the inaugural edition of Twenty20.
Still, the team, led by Dhoni, a youngster leading a team of youngsters, reached the finals to take on arch rival Pakistan. On their way to Durban, they knocked out big teams like England, South Africa and Australia, and even defeated Pakistan in the first round in a bowl-out.
From Dhoni’s leadership style, we can infer the following leadership tips:
• We should be a good performer and we should demonstrate the same to our team. Good performance is in itself the most effective communication
• Leaders must be humble and not consider themselves to be above the team
• Leaders must display genuine respect and trust towards the team members
• In case of failure, a leader must introspect and come back with more vigour and better planning
• Leaders should also believe in the ones who failed the team. At crucial times, a team member who was not able to deliver at first might do miracles
• Leaders ought to share credit with their team members and praise them in the public
‘Talent management skills’ might well be the title of another leaf out of Dhoni’s book. He utilises every team member at his disposal and brings out their best performance whether he be a senior or a junior player. He provides an opportunity for every team member to prove himself and contribute to the best of his ability. Going by his people management skills alone, he is truly a great leader. When team members see their leader calm in extreme situations, they will not be rattled.
Seeing their leader calm enables a team to focus on their individual role. This is the sort of leader Dhoni was. Dhoni was always calm — whether the bowler started off the last over in the finals with a wide ball or the batsman played a series of dot balls in a slog over. In a nutshell, Dhoni’s story is all about an ordinary man doing extraordinary things. Each one of us could use this model, its patterns and its design to create our own leadership qualities.
Hailing from a humble background, Dhoni never let this aspect of his life hinder his style or behaviour. In fact, he managed to channelise a raw rustic energy into his on-field performances. He was never shy of expressing himself in any given situation. In a competitive corporate world, you are often judged by your past or stereotyped, and it is important to maintain a positive ego at all times. In a hierarchy-led environment, Dhoni was catapulted to captaincy ahead of several established players despite the team being laden with stars and former captains. He took his time and didn’t interfere with their proven methods.
Yet, he managed to extract the best out of these stars most of the time, without ruffling feathers. Many young managers who inherit legacy organisations face this challenge at the workplace. Dhoni did not rush through with a change in personnel and team culture. He first established his credibility and, over time, managed the transition through the processes of natural attrition and performance management. Most CEOs confronted with change management issues at the workplace will do well to take a leaf out of MSD’s book and not take the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach while dealing with change.
As a leader, Dhoni is aware that the spotlight is on him but he never hogs the limelight. He keeps a check on his emotions all the time both in victory and defeat. He still has lot of cricket left in him and perhaps there are more lessons to be learnt from him still.