Great Captains Need Not Be Star Players

Star players need not make great captains and great captains need not be star players. The skills required are different.

Mike Brearley, Clive Lloyd, MS Dhoni, & Saurav Ganguly were not the greatest players in their teams but great captains, no doubt. On the flip side, you had Sachin Tendulkar, Ian Botham, Viv Richards, & Richard Hadlee – great players but not captaincy material.

Top performers are not necessarily great people leaders. They have been promoted because they have done a good job earlier but not on their leadership ability. But most organizations promote the best artists, then leave them alone to understand how it is to lead a team, without the tools and skills. 

This transition from a team member to a leader is different. A super doer to a super leader takes a lot; the difference between success and failure.

What Makes Good Leaders/ Captains

  • Receptive to feedback and taking action on it 

Captains should take feedback from others and react constructively by making changes to themselves. This is an ongoing process and it never stops.

  • Focus on team building

All captains must take care of the development of others. While individuals can focus on their development, great captains help others learn and develop. They know how to give feedback that is customized to the person.

  • Common goal 

A captain gets the team to focus on a coordinated team goal. This ensures that the team is focused. It keeps them motivated and helps them achieve the best they can to achieve these goals. 

  • Communicating well

One of the most important skills for captains is their ability to present their ideas to others compellingly and engagingly. Effective communication with others is not a strength with individual contributors.

  • Having good interpersonal skills

A necessity for leaders. One of the fundamental problems which individuals face is poor interpersonal skills.

  • Make the team above anything else

While highly productive individuals can be relatively selfish, captains must place the team above themselves.

  • Tough decisions

Captains make hard choices and sacrifices to improve the team. 

  • Earn the respect of the team

The ability to show respect, empathy and care for those who follow you comes from the fact that you are a great leader. Earning respect is essential to having a successful relationship with someone while showing that you care about their performance. 

Being empathetic allows the captain to use the individual’s emotions to connect in a way that allows the person to understand what it means to be in their situation. Combining these three qualities can make a great leader/ captain  

  • Know the team

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each individual to manage team results effectively is essential to success. Leaders have a great vision and use available resources to solve problems. They take risks and make difficult decisions because sometimes they can make mistakes.

  • Know that people are the key to success

Great leaders understand that the team ultimately determines the success or failure of a company. They surround themselves with people who can function as a team and are confident and competent. You will then have the ability to lead the team towards a well-defined vision, clearly communicate short and long-term goals, instil trust and trust among the team members, and influence the overall effort through character rather than authority. In the end, a great leader creates and nurtures other leaders.

  • Articulate a clear vision

A great leader has a clear vision, brave, integrity, honesty, humility and a clear focus. He is a strategist & team player. Great captains help members achieve their goals, and have no fear in getting people better than themselves and proud of their achievements.

E.g. Ganguly realized that a lack of clarity in the mind of the leader confuses the ranks. He knew his goals and brought decisiveness and transparency to his decisions. People are automatically drawn to a decisive leader who shows the way and knows what to do and why. Instead of a leader not voicing his opinion, is unclear what to do and he appears confused.

  • Push people to be their best

Great leaders have clear goals and are great at articulating their beliefs. They strive to be a leader who encourages people to be the best they can be and still make people feel safe because it all starts with the heart. Build a team that is accountable and designed to get results

  • Serve a greater cause

Great leadership is defined by a regular combination of personal humility and an unmatched willingness to push others to serve a purpose bigger than themselves. Great leaders are very ambitious, but not for themselves. They are ambitious for the team and have the desire to do whatever is necessary for this greater purpose.

  • Do not lead by force

Great leaders don’t lead by forcing people to follow. On the other hand, great leaders motivate people. They encourage others to follow them. They set the example that few leaders do today

  • Tactical understanding of the situation

The captain requires strong knowledge of the game, including the technical aspects. As the game progresses, tactics change and the leader must react dynamically to changing situations. This requires an intuitive understanding of the situation, pleasure and interest in tactics. Enjoying changing situations allows leaders to deal with them more effectively than stress.

In response to situations, great leaders are resourceful and careful, moving between attack and defence.

  • Man-management 

Brearley had an extraordinary ability to have the whole group play as a team. He brought out the best in people. He often brought warring factions and rock star players together with an extraordinary ability to play as a team. He motivated and brought in the best from talented players like Boycott and Ian Botham.

  • Winning mindset

This is the greatest contribution to leadership. Brearley used to investigate what is going through the mind of a failed player and what made a successful player. Deep-seated fear was often the reason for defeats, lack of initiative, and complacency, all of which lead to poor performance. 

  • Dealing with fear 

Fear has its roots in childhood. It takes reassurance – it is in some ways reminiscent of how the fears of childhood are repeatedly handled by parents and caregivers. Fear can lead to a lack of self-confidence, self-doubt and defeatism. Recognizing and healthily dealing with them leads to building self-confidence and a winning mindset.

  • Developing empathy to achieve shared goals

Empathy is an important factor in working towards common goals. It enables the captain to understand the feelings of others. In team situations, there are many instances where the player says- “I’m doing my part” – even if the whole team loses. Empathy holds teams together through deeply shared experiences. True empathy is the opposite of a blame culture.

Some great players are not great captains because they don’t understand the struggle. 

  • Intuitive understanding of people

Empathy enables an intuitive understanding of others. Intuition helps to build a close bond between the leader and the team. The team member has a strong emotional investment when he or she feels “deeply and effortlessly understood” at an intuitive level.

  • Resourcefulness

Clever leaders always offer alternative solutions and creative ways. His deep understanding of the talent and strengths of his team allowed Ganguly to use his players creatively. This outwitted and shocked his opponents and boosted the confidence of his players.

  • Clear-headedness

Lack of clarity in a leader’s mind leads to confusion within the ranks. The captain needs to be clear about the goals and bring decisiveness and transparency to his decisions. People usually like decisive leaders who are clear on the action plan, how and why it is being done than a leader who doesn’t speak his or her mind, is unclear about what needs to be done and appears clueless and confused.

  • Captain on and off the field

He has to manage people, many of whom may be difficult to manage. E.g. Brearley had to bear both Ian Botham and Geoffrey Boycott and inspired both to deliver their best, and he took a group of individuals and forged a team out of them.• He cannot always be ‘one of the boys’

He cannot always be “one of the boys”. He has to criticize individuals or even entire groups and say things or insist on activities they don’t like. He had to fire the older players from the team and give them the news. He must be prepared to recommend that some employees be laid off.

With a good leader, any team can be made to work – make the best of what he has and gets the best out of the team under different circumstances. 

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