“Dhoni is the best captain I have played under.” – Sachin Tendulkar
“I am really gifted to play under the leadership of MSD.” – Michael Hussey
“Dhoni is the greatest captain of our country. His record is proof of that.” – Sourav Ganguly
Take a close look at the names above. These are not quotes from just any random bunch of cricketers. These are bona fide legends of the game lavishing praise at the leadership skills of a man who went from being a Ticket Collector for the Indian Railways to becoming India’s most successful captain in Tests and ODIs.
A leader possibly ahead of his time, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is now reputed as one of the greatest leaders a sporting field has ever seen. We take a look at a few traits that make Dhoni click.
From the front
In front of a rabid Wankhede crowd, with India on edge in their chase against Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup final, MS Dhoni walked out to what should have been the tune of Yuvraj Singh’s footsteps. The rest is history. A finisher extraordinaire, Dhoni leads by example especially when his team needs him the most. This is something that people in a leadership role can definitely learn from.
Managing personnel (and egos)
MS Dhoni became the captain of the Indian cricket team ahead of several other experienced players in 2007. He was fearless in making changes and establishing methods that eventually proved to work. He managed the egos of his players. This is something new managers in business often have to contend with. Dhoni was in no rush to mark his personal stamp. His main focus at the start of his captaincy was to establish credibility by learning from seniors in his team, which is an important lesson in feedback for all future leaders.
Dhoni did not rush through with change in personnel and team culture. He first established his credibility. Over time he dealt with these issues and managed the transition through the process of natural attrition and performance management. Leaders confronted with change management issues should take a leaf out of Dhoni’s book and not take the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach while dealing with change.
Success and failure go hand-in-hand
Soon after the heady success of the 2011 World Cup, it all went downhill for Dhoni and his team. After a string of embarrassing losses, it took great attitude and character to bounce back. And he did it in style. Failure has to be dealt with in the same fashion as success and one has to continue to be focused on the job at hand.
You are nothing without your team
MS Dhoni backs his players. Always. Whether it’s the inexperienced Hardik Pandya bowling the last over of a crucial match or the old warhorse Gautam Gambhir making protracted returns, Dhoni always backs his team. This support gives them the confidence to play at their best. It also endows them with a sense of responsibility to perform well. Entrepreneurs should feel safe to experiment and fail if they need to, on their way to success.
To put it simply, the 2011 World Cup final innings personified Dhoni as a leader. He rose to the occasion and the crowd rose to him.
What are some other traits you think one can pick up from Dhoni’s leadership style? Tell us via comments.