A successful leader faces the same complex and challenging situations as everyone else, but he doesn’t just drift along and allow circumstances to chart his path. Instead, he chooses where he wants to go and finds a way to get there. This is the challenge that is facing the new president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
In his agenda for change, Dave Cameron has promised to reverse the fortunes of West Indies team and start a new growth curve for West Indies cricket. But this is exactly the agenda that his predecessors put forward at the beginning of their terms and failed to implement because of disruptive forces within the Board and poor execution strategies. Arrogance, bad habits, old excuses, poor management of relationships, and outmoded values, traditions and structures also contributed to their failure. These are some of the forces that Cameron will have to overcome if he is to chart a new path for West Indies cricket. In life and in sport performing better is often more about unlearning or removing bad habits, narrow thinking, disruptive forces and outmoded values and traditions than learning or adding new ones.
Good leadership starts with self-leadership. But some boards and administrators do not share that belief and find it difficult to start new growth curves because they don’t see themselves as part of the problem. Transformation of the West Indies team will be difficult. But it can become easier if the administrators start with themselves, change their attitudes, promote the right values and set the right examples. Repetition of the Board’s values is very important; everyone in the organisation should know them. But talking about them is not good enough. The president and his board members must show by example what the Board really stands for. The Board must lead and motivate.
How important are leadership and motivation in the revival of West Indies cricket? In war, an army needs good management and administration to function, but it cannot win battles without innovative leadership at every level throughout its ranks. No one has as yet found how to administer or manage people into battle. They must be motivated to fight. The same applies to sport. In sport the battle is fought with balls, bats and clubs but it is the motivation, spirit, and character of the man who leads and the men who follow that take the team to victory.
Our administrators are often too rigid in their thinking and attitudes and consequently find themselves trapped in tiny thinking boxes, unable to see opportunities that are staring them in the face. When these inflexible administrators are taken out of their comfort zone by new challenges and new pressures they instinctively revert to the safety of their old ways of thinking, behaving and conducting business. Their entrapment reminds me of an old Muslim Sufi parable: “An old man was walking home one dark night when he saw a young friend on his hands and knees searching for something under a streetlight. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked his friend. ‘I dropped the key to my house.’ ‘I’ll help you look,’ said the old man. After a few minutes of frustrated searching, the old man asked, ‘Where exactly were you when you dropped the key?’ His friend pointed toward the darkness. ‘Over there.’ ‘Then why are you looking for it here?’ asked the old man. ‘Because this is where the light is,’ the young man replied.”
These administrators are like that young man. They search for the keys to success in the illuminated area because that is where their survival, thinking, experience and understanding of cricket lie. But the keys to success will not be found there. They will be found outside the confines of their comfort zone – in the dark, not the light of their narrow thinking and limited knowledge.
Former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson in his report to the Board made a similar point about the keys to success and encouraged the Board to think innovatively and conduct its business in a more effective way. But the Board dismissed his suggestions and recommendations.
They stuck to the status quo and continued on their merry way. They were not even prepared to shine a light into the darkness of their knowledge and experience to see what might be hidden there.
I believe that Cameron’s first important priority should be to get his team members, particularly the academics on the Board, to empty their cups. Academic intelligence and sports intelligence are very different things. If he cannot persuade his members to do so he will, I am afraid, finish his term as just another failed president.
Cameron has a daunting task ahead of him because leadership in today’s complex and rapidly changing world is not easy. It is a difficult and demanding job. If it were easy there would be plenty of good leaders around. But even in simple and stable conditions many things are needed to create a clear vision, an intelligent strategy to achieve that vision, good motivation and successful teamwork.
There are three questions that Mr. Cameron and his team should constantly ask themselves and answer as honestly as they can. First, where are we going, what do we want to become and why? Second, what are our priorities, values and beliefs? Improvement of cricket must be one of the Board’s most important priorities. Beliefs and values are to organisations what roots are to trees. Without roots, trees fall when they are shaken by strong winds. Without the right priorities and values the organisation’s performance falls apart when it is hit by the powerful winds of competition and pressure. And third, what is our action plan? How do we organise and execute? Plans and policies amount to nothing if they are not executed correctly.
I would like to recommend to Cameron a leadership model that can be built on four interdependent pillars. The first pillar is self-mastery – competence, self-belief, self-discipline, self-motivation, and honesty with self. The second pillar is team synergy - teamwork, good communication, harmonious relationships and cooperation and coordination of effort. The third pillar is continuous learning. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. When presidents and boards stop learning, they stop! The fourth pillar is sustainable development. This includes such things as accountability, trust, respect for each other and respect for the game
Finally, I would also recommend that the president ponder and act upon these wise words from Albert Einstein: “The world that we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level that they were created.”
Rudi Webster, former West Indies manager and performance enhancer is the author of a new book Think like a Champion that will be released in India in a few weeks during this year’s Indian Premier League