Your role as a leader is also to be one step ahead of your team and ensure that you prevent a culture and environment that spirals out of control. Catastrophes and scandals can, most of the time, be prevented by developing a cultural environment that cultivates growth, harmony, team work, prosperity and enjoyment.
“Culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the leader.”
A successful leader will have their finger on the pulse and gently tighten the leash when the team or a team member begins to stray. They have a unique ability to sense divergence and be able to pivot the team back towards convergence.
Quite often successful people, teams or organisations find their feet become too big for the shoes they fill. In sport – success breeds success – but it also breeds a sense of invincibility that if not managed well, can spiral out of control.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t gather people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
ANTOINE DE SAlNT-EXUPERY
A recent example of this is the Australian Cricket Team, where over a period of time had pushed the boundaries on what is and isn’t acceptable in the sport of cricket. They had become arrogant, over-confident and had developed belief that they were somewhat untouchable. Constant sledging, that became extremely personal, aggressive antagonistic behaviour and a focus on winning at all costs lead to the demise of the team.
A decision by David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft to tamper the cricket ball during a recent test against South Africa, led to all three receiving length playing bans, captaincy bans and major financial implications that had never been seen in the sport before. The results of their actions have become a priority in the public eye with fans and media first wanting blood and then a feeling of sympathy when the discipline announced was a devastating blow to the players involved.
“Are you willing to take responsibility for your team’s culture or do you treat it like the weather – something that happens to you!”
What we have witnessed is not dissimilar to drugs in sport. Ball tampering can have a major performance enhancing effect on the result of a game. Ball tampering has been a part of cricket for a very long time, possibly since the beginning of the sport. When Steve Smith said that it was a big mistake and the first time Australia had ever tampered the ball, it was highly likely a big white lie, and therefore is it any different to the Lance Armstrong case in cycling? When cricket players tamper the ball, like taking drugs in sport, you are committing a form of fraud. Defrauding the spectators, players and fans of a legal result, and in many cases the fans money to attend and prizemoney that the other team could have won.
James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia, dealt with the situation in a very swift and professional manner, which may have saved his job. As a result of the players being disciplined, Darren Lehman resigned as the Australian coach, accepting that he was responsible for the overall culture of the team, which had spiraled down a very slippery slope.
“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
Sutherland gets a second chance to prove his leadership credentials as he is in charge of ensuring the overall culture of Australian Cricket returns to a positive environment that aligns to the “spirit of the game”. He may have dodged a big fall from grace, as the quote says “the fish always rots from the head”. He now has to pull off a reactive approach to rewriting the culture of the Australian Cricket team for the better of the game and restore the pride of the Australian public and faith of the cricket community.
As a leader you need to be a student of human behaviour and team dynamics. You need to be constantly observing and understanding where your team culture is trending. The team culture is established by the behaviours you, as the leader, cultivate through leading by example, motivation, inspiration, reward, recognition and also setting clear boundaries. Values that reflect the team need to be agreed on, adhered to and aligned to every decision that is made. Anyone veering off track needs to be quickly brought back in to line or moved on to ensure that there are no further negative effects and the long-term culture is destined for success.
“High performing team members generalize their attitude to team performance. They see the big picture and how they fit into it. They feel responsible for their performance, for others performance and for team performance. They become leaders.”
We, as leaders, are the moral and ethical police who control the destiny of our team, company or organisation. It shouldn’t be left to the fans, clients or a legal jurisdiction to bring it to our attention. Be a step ahead of the game to ensure that when the wind blows you can withstand the strain.
Remember that if you do not develop your culture, it will develop itself. Culture doesn’t happen by accident and if it does, you are taking an irresponsible risk.