Graeme Smith, a greatly underestimated leader of South African cricket

March 6, 2014


Graeme Smith is rarely mentioned among lists of the great cricket captains. This is mostly a matter of style over substance

Graeme Smith announced his immediate retirement from international cricket this week [6th March 2014]. The timing of the announcement was curious,and appears to have been a shock to his closest colleagues. I want to return to this, but my main interest is why he has not received far more recognition for his achievements.

His track record as captain starting as a 22 year old is outstanding with numerous achievements. His 109 tests as captain far exceeds that of second player Alan Border, and his batting average of nearly 50 is only surpassed as an opening bat in Test Cricket by the great Sunil Gavaskar.

He has been a particular success over England with team and personal displays that have contributed to several retirements of his English counterparts.

His curious departure

There have been rumours over the last few years that he was becoming disenchanted with his lengthy time as captain. Changes in his personal life contributed recently. Even so, to announce his retirement as his team were struggling in series-determining match against Australia goes against the principles of a leader putting his team above personal considerations. It suggests considerable internal conflict or a cranky individualism of another controversial South African, Kevin Pietersen whose defections to the ranks of the England team and then out of it are infamous to English and South African cricket lovers alike.

Why is he rarely hailed as an all-time great captain?

The only explanation I can think of is that he is the antithesis of a stylish player. His personality verges on the dour and anti-charismatic. Cricket is a game that loves the effortless style and flamboyance of players such as David Gower and Ian Botham. You can see more psycho-analytical ramblings on leadership style, Geoffrey Boycott and Kevin Pietersen in an earlier blog post


End of an era as Sir Alex Ferguson retires as Manager of Manchester United

May 8, 2013

Sir Alex FergusonSir Alex Ferguson retires in a relatively smooth fashion. Nevertheless, his departure means an inevitable period of transition for the global club he helped to build. Front-runners are emerging as a successor

The announcement today [May 8th 2013] should not have been surprising. Sir Alex announced his retirement once before, some years ago, and the shock waves around the news prompted a recantation.

Age shall not weary them

I do not need to check his age. He was born of December 31st 1941, making him a few days younger than myself. Our careers took us on very different paths, although over the last two decades I have found myself regularly writing and talking about his leadership style and achievements.

The most bizarre of those efforts was at an event in Miami where I had been asked to compare his achievements with those of Pat Riley, the iconic coach of the Miami Heat basketball team.

What they do teach at Harvard Business School

Much later, Harvard business School invited Sir Alex to talk about his leadership style. My envy was only slightly lessened by the comforting thought that at Manchester, business students had been studying a case through the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership [Edition 1 only : maybe a revised case is possible for Edition 3, if I don’t retire before it comes out].

The Ferguson touch

The story of his exceptional career and robust style is becoming well-known. [Use the right-hand vertical side bar to find the tags to the various LWD posts written since 2006].

A period of mourning

On hearing the news, someone with inside knowledge of the club told me “It’s a period of mourning. I’ve followed them since I was a child. I love the club. For young people, he’s the only manager they remember.” She listed a range of well-known names as possible future managers, including an insider.

The 3Ms

Speculation on succession throws up three early front-runners, David Moyes of Everton, Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid, and Roberto Martinez of Wigan Athletic. One a Scot, one Portuguese, and one Spanish. I would not want to place a bet although I expect there to be a name already close to being announced.

Footnote

Another list of front runners from The Independent

Later, the three names were linked as follows. Moyes replaced Ferguson; Mourinho went to Chelsea, and Martinez replaced Moyes at Everton.


Apple faces a Jobless future

August 25, 2011

Tim Cook and Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, iconic leader and one of the great creative innovators of his era, leaves the company he founded and built into a global superstar

The departure of Steve Jobs as leader of Apple on medical grounds has been anticipated in and outside Apple for some time. We can anticipate even more news coverage of the iconic figure whose design genius was behind a steam of products since the time of the first Apple personal computer, launched as the Apple 2

Quirky but much loved

This was quirky but much but much loved. Even the earliest versions were revolutionary in appearance and functioning. They suggested a future for personal computing that could not be imagined in the market leading IBM product and its host of imitators trying to be as compatible as a possible at lower cost.

The Apple Mac

Then the Apple Mac came along. This was even more obviously evidence of new species emerging. They are coming from a common ancestor, but retaining a genetic capacity to visualize as well as to digitalise.

IBM and clones under threat

Apple products become a serious threat to the generic sounding PC (i.e. IBM’s products and its clones). Compatibility was more an aspiration than a reality for each set of products, and even today there are enough differences to create famous entry barriers to switching from one of the two IT tribes.

Design excellence

Apple developed a brand image of innovation and design excellence. The company succeeded in grabbing a share of the emerging mobile phone market with its i-phone and then the tablet market with the i-pad. Apple stores became cathedrals for worshippers.

And each of the innovative leaps in the company was utterly associated with the design genius of Steve Jobs. Stock levels were seen to shift according to reports on his deteriorating health.

Symbolic leadership

This is one of the clearest example of symbolic leadership to be found in modern times. Steve Jobs was Apple. The closest parallel I can think of is that of Walt Disney. Incidentally, you can find fascinating comparisons of the two companies in the book Disney Wars.

All is not gloom and doom

There are naturally signs of bereavement at present at Apple. But all is not gloom and doom. Apple has had a strong internal candidate waiting to step up. The evidence is that the company has faced the realities of succession. Tim Cook is already highly regarded internally for his operational and organizational talents. He was appointed in what seemed like one last symbolic act after his strong endorsement by Steve Jobs in his letter of resignation. We will learn much more of Mr Cook in the coming months. Will Apple now enter a post-charismatic era in its public image?


Alex is not perfect but is a perfect example of situated leadership

June 3, 2008

Sir Alex Ferguson announces his planned retirement as manager of Manchester United. He represents, “warts and all”, a perfect example of situated leadership

In a now famous incident a few years ago, when approaching his 65th birthday, Alex Ferguson announced his intentions to retire. There was a sense of panic and loss, and a considerable period of upheaval followed at the club.

It was a perfect example of the manner in which a leader can provide a deep sense of security. Strictly speaking, it might be seen more as the evidence for a deep sense of loss and anxiety at a leader’s passing.

Today [Tuesday 3rd May 2008] Sky Sports broadcast an end-of-season interview at which Sir Alex announces his second going. It would have been a notable exclusive for Sky Sport even if it had not contained the news of his retirement.

As it was, the broadcast itself made news. Glen Moore in The Independent reported in advance:

Two more years. That is how long the rest of the Premier League title contenders, and putative Manchester United managers, will have to wait until Sir Alex Ferguson drives away from Old Trafford for good.

In the wake of United’s Champions League victory last month Ferguson, now 66, had indicated he would not work past his 70th year, which was interpreted as meaning he would retire in three seasons’ time. Tonight, in an interview with Sir David Frost, he fixes his retirement date as summer 2010.

The interview is a must-see for millions of football fans. It is worth a look for leaders and wannabe leaders as well.

A future post will take a more reflective look on the interview and at the leadership lessons to be gained from Sir Alex and his leadership story.