Inspirational leaders are not always the best

8 01 2009

The England Test cricket captain Kevin Pietersen has resigned (or been sacked) and so has the team coach Peter Moores. The intricacies of the problem are filling many column inches of newspaper as well as news websites but come down to major conflict between the two men and one of them seriously overstepping his responsibilities. So far, apart from me, there are no comments on leadership blogs.

The role of captain in a test cricket side is pivotal during the five days of play. Contrary to almost other sports the captain makes all the decisions about the nature of the game, the tactics, the various phases of play and the whole of the character of the team emanates from him and he, ultimately is responsible for the result, not a manager/coach. The captain is both leader and manager and as an active participant on the field it is essential that he is proficient at both roles, as well as his sporting roles, whatever they may be.

Outwith the actual five days of the game (I can see American eyes rolling!) the captain is the mouthpiece and figurehead of the team. He is part of a group that select the team from the squad but the role of coaching lies outwith his domain.pietersen-moores

Mr Pietersen is variously described as charismatic, enigmatic, arrogant and ignorant. There is no doubt he is an immensely talented test batsman and as is often the case with such characters their persona is similarly “eclectic” shall we say? Some wonder even if such is required to fulfill this particular role.

Where did Pietersen go wrong? That is difficult to know but essentially he overstepped the boundaries of accepted behaviour by publicly questioning the ability of the appointed team coach Moores. He hoped, wrongly it appeared, that the rest of his team would follow and support him in this extreme and hitherto radical step. He was wrong in hoping for that support and wrong in his public expression of the problem. His error ultimately led to losing the position whether by self or Board decision also is a subject of conjecture. Sadly, Mr Moores has gone too,  his position being untenable.

I think there are various lessons we can learn as leaders from this debacle:

  • Strong opinions, even potentially correct ones, cannot always be publicly expressed.
  • Informal support is not the same as formal support.
  • Inspirational and charismatic leaders are not always right.

What do you think?

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