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The leader has got to walk the talk: John Buchanan

Calcutta: John Buchanan, widely regarded as the most successful of coaches, made a presentation before the members of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club on Friday evening, some hours before he left for hometown Brisbane via Singapore.

The following are excerpts from the important points made during his presentation:

Leadership

I generally see the role of a leader as most important… Be it the captain of a cricket team, or a CEO of an organisation, or the captain of a golf club. That person has the vision… I see the role as the way the game is played. That is how it has worked for me… Taking the game to another level. We took steps to change the game, but don’t think in the end, we managed anything. The Australian team obviously had some very good players whose five-day skills were better than anyone else in the world. And they can do that consistently.

Changing the game

During practice today we got on to the topic of the Bodyline series and Douglas Jardine. He was the father of Bodyline and it was designed by him to regain the Ashes. To me, Jardine is one of the people who over time changed the game. He actually introduced a system that was within the rules, and nobody before had put in place. It curbed Don Bradman’s run-scoring abilities… Of course the administrators stepped in to say that you could no longer do that. It’s unfair and so the regulators put specific rules in place… Jardine was one of those who changed the game, a visionary.

Leadership qualities

Basically the leader has got to walk the talk. If you want your organisation to perform in a particular way, you must do exactly the same. The example that comes to mind is the 2001 Ashes series in England and the way he played The Oval Test despite a torn calf muscle. He was only 80 per cent fit, but he played to prove a point to the English team and his own teammates.

Secondly, all players should be leaders. Cricket is basically a one ball game. Be it bowling, batting or fielding you have to be a leader at what you do... Because an individual cannot rely upon a captain or a coach to help him at that moment when you’ve to take responsibility and deliver.

Thirdly, the art is to move on with the times… Bring in computers and technology... Be up to date with the system.

Achieving success

An important part of the process is to celebrate success. That was an important part of Australian cricket team’s achievements. It’s essential that we understand the things that we are doing right…

Next thing is creating the learning environment. We should always give them the opportunity to learn like children. To be a little bit risk taking and courageous in terms of decision making. One of the traits of Australian side is to take a risk and to back yourself even if you get it wrong. Get out there and have a go…. Remember you always learn from your mistakes. If an individual makes wrong decisions constantly, we should then try and work with him.

Then it’s about talent. Any successful team cannot work without identifying the right people. The Australian cricket team has many skilful players. The richness and depth of talent is very important. I’ve often been asked about my differences with Shane Warne. But you actually need to have people who question! Such questioning helps in learning and creating a robust environment within the side. That’s healthy. What’s unhealthy is when such things become a pestering issue within the side.

Another important aspect is tradition… Like the baggy green that has become synonymous with Australian cricket sides.

The Preparation… Getting ready for a Test match is so important. So that when you actually go into a contest you have a clear mind whether you are batting, bowling or fielding…

Courage... The courage to make decisions, the courage to back your own skills, the courage to back your own judgement. The courage to stand up when required.

Family. The cricket team is an integral family. In fact the players spend more time with the team than with their own families. We operate as a family. We create the environment to achieve success. It’s important to be happy with what we’ve got and not unhappy with what we haven’t got.

Measuring success

To me the results are not the most important thing… To me it’s about how we achieve success. The three Ps — patience, partnership and pressure — can be regarded as the most important tool.

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