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September 13, 2019 Friday 10:30:37 AM IST

Nice Guy Who Finished Second


Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots had a scene wherein the principal admonishes the three protagonists and states that ‘no one bothers for the one who finishes second'. While the above claim cannot be debated, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson has surely garneredpraise worldwide despite being the leader of a side who finished second in the recently-concluded ICC World Cup 2019 final. It came to the thinnest of margins to decide the new world champions in ODI cricket. Even the super over couldn't separate the winners from the loser. Decision makers have to delve deep into the ‘rules bowl’ to decide the winner. It was a story of 'so close, yet so far' for Williamson. Nonetheless, not for once did he complain or show tantrums over the highly-debatable ICC rules. Despite the no ball that denied him cricketing history, the Kiwi skipper didn’t play the martyr and spoke not one word out of bitterness. He received a standing ovation from the journalists for his class act. Commentator Ravi Shastri praised Kane Williamson for carrying himself with ‘dignity and grace’ during the controversy surrounding England’s dubious victory.

Kane Williamson proved to the world that cricket is not merely about runs/wickets but about how you play and how you carry yourself while playing. Showing a finger to the opponent could be fashionable but it can only be a temporary fad like tattoos and distressed jeans. Kane Williamson may have lost the coveted title but the New Zealand captain is a winner by a landslide. Williamson's response created a benchmark in leadership, and it is applicable to the corporate world. The response displayed emotional maturity. Here are three leadership lessons we can learn from the conduct of Kane Williamson during World cup 2019.

Directed by internal compass

By responding with commendable restraint, Williamson seemed to be directed by an internal compass that helped him select the right response. Williamson showed support for the system with its rules, even though one of those had let him and his team heart broken. "Rules are there at the beginning. No one possibly thought we would have to resort to some of that stuff. But yeah, very tough to swallow". Many leaders make the mistake of being 'bullish' about everything and end up foolish by stretching themselves thin in adverse situations. Kane Williamson’sassessment about the pitch and ground conditions was pretty accurate and calculated the right totals to aim for and the right lengths to bowl. Most of the pundits on TV wondered if the number of runs New Zealand was working towards would be enough but Kane proved that they were the right goals to aim for given the pitch conditions. It is fashionable nowadays to display aggression in words and animated gestures - at least that's what the television crews want to attract more eyeballs. Even though Kane Williamson was positive and aggressive, he never displayed it. While it is important for a leader to be bold and aggressive it is even more important for a good leader to read the situation and adjust team objectives accordingly. Intent and aggression form a state of the mind and a leader need not express it except in key actions.

Gracious in failure

Excellence is a gift of its own and success is important to show the world how good you are but everybody can't win all the time however excellent they may be. Sports teaches us this lesson every day. None more than the heart-breaking final of the world cup that threw up a tie even in the tie-breaker.  The New Zealand team punched much above their weight and excelled in all aspects of the game. They were quite successful in defying the odds and making it to the final, putting up a decent score and choking the top rated one day team with accurate bowling and electrifying fielding. All through the game, till the last ball Kane's team did not give up but through a quirk of fate lost the game though they won our hearts with their sportsmanship.Williamson showed admirable graciousness by stating that "England had a very good game plan and deserved victory". With that statement, Williamson went many notches up in the world's estimation as a leader. He was demonstrating a cardinal leadership quality that is extremely valuable in the corporate world - the ability to be gracious in failure, even when the failure comes across as underserved. Kane Williamson and his team proved the point that even when you lose you can win the hearts of people.

Leading from the front

Kane Williamson was voted as the player of the tournament even though he didn't score the most runs, didn't have the tournament's top score or have the highest batting average. But he led from the front throughout the tournament leading his team's batting on tough surfaces and tough situations.  While teams such as India and England had super stars with hefty pay packets, New Zealand punched much above its weight thanks to the excellent motivation and marshalling of resources by Kane Williamson. He never seemed to be overawed by the strong opposition on the biggest stage of cricket. He strongly believed his team can bag the title and he had the right plans to mobilize his team's talents. His star batsmen like Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor didn't perform as expected, but Kane took the responsibility on his shoulders and showed why he is such a highly regarded player. It is important to be a hands-on leader ready to chip in when it is required rather than just being a 'minder' of the team.

In a competitive world where leaders are expected to fight for every inch, display emotions, Williamson sticks to the old school of leadership who thrives on dignified silence. His grace and composure are enough for individuals to make an exception and not forget the 'man who finished second'. Right?

Dr. Manu Melwin Joy

The writer is an Assistant Professor at School of Management Studies, CUSAT

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