On Saturdays during the British ‘summer’ months, I am a First Team Cricket team captain for a side that plays in the Berkshire Premier Division. Now, I have played for this team since the age of 13, playing in the colts team, through to the adults, midweek squad, Sunday sides, the seconds and then on to the firsts.
However, now a ‘grown’ man, I am the first team captain! Leading this team has made me consider the very basics of leadership. I wonder, if being a leader, is a generic ability. Whether it can be learnt? Taught? I am thinking whether if you are a good leader you can lead in any situation?
Now, if you run a simple google search for ‘Different types of Leaders’ you will have up to 84, 000,000 returns. The images section will hit you with a variety of ideas to say the least.
So, I began to read and consider, what kind of leader am I, at school and at cricket?
Control. Power. How much and how little one should do.
‘Authoritarian Traits: sets goals individually, engages primarily in one-way and downward communication, controls discussion with followers, and dominate interaction.’ (Ref.)
Now, I would like to think I am not this type of leader, however considering this further, at times I am. I do simply tell my class what to do. How to do it. On occasions I have to engage in conversation with some colleagues where instruction are needed without a discussion. Essentially, telling them what to do.
At cricket, I have to order? my team mates where they should go and field, when they can bowl, what number they will bat. I also simply tell them whether they will even play for the team. I dictate the time we meet, the fielding drills and the prematch warm ups. I control the team talk, before, during and after the game. Silence and attention is needed. Is this because decisions need to be made quickly? Is it because, cricket as a sport, has always been about reacting, or responding or expecting a response to a particular situation. I don’t like how this sounds, however, its productive, its effective, it works? This doesn’t mean, I scream and shout orders, it simply means, what I say, needs to happen.
Work wise, increased levels of autocracy could lead to high staff turnover, a demoralised staff, and resentment. I have definitely seen this in schools when there are autocratic leaders. However, in cricket, where I am fundamentally, autocratic, I have too many players to give a game to each week. They want to play, be a part of the team and be captained by me? This type of leadership, doesn’t seem to damage to bond, environment and outcome of our team.
This has really got me thinking about leadership and sport, is all leadership in sport authoritarian?
Collective decision making. Satisfaction. Enjoyment. This style of leadership is the idea that all team members are involved in core elements of the work. Decisions are made together and as a result the team is brimming with enjoyment and therefore their work ‘productivity’ increases. There is a real sense of social-equality. Currently leading over 35 individuals in my work place, I find this style of leadership extremely important. Allowing colleagues to feel involved in any change process is integral to maintaining a good team.
I am definitely democratic when it comes to promoting the ethos and culture of the school and ensuring there is ‘buy in’ to make things happen. This style of leadership does not mean that ultimately everybody comes up with an outcome together. As it requires me, the leader to select who to involve, when and how. This style of leadership needs imagination and creativity too!
Upon reflection, I do this in my cricket team a lot. Before, during and after the games, I speak with my players, my team mates and ask them where they feel comfortable batting, bowling and fielding, I come to a decision with them, making them feel as if it is a democratic change. I offer guidance and suggestions based on my knowledge, experience and feelings. I am honest with them and my level of competency is relevant to their responses.
This style of leadership involves, ‘I don’t care how you get it done, just make it happen!’ Or, here is the objective and expected outcome, get it done. Where essentially, the leader sets the vision and then removes any obstacles in their colleagues way to ensure it can happen. Is this the difference between leadership and management? This style of leadership requires trust and avoids micro-management. It promotes authority with your colleagues and creates a sense of collective action.
This works when you have highly skilled colleagues, experienced, broad/fair minded colleagues. This style however, will not work where there is no ‘check ins’ or ‘feedback.’ I know I have this leadership styles with some of my teams, some of them are more ‘experienced’ in their areas than me. Therefore, allowing them to take the reigns and push forward student outcomes if vital.
Does this happen in cricket? I don’t think so, despite, high skilled, experienced team mates that I trust? Well, maybe it does; for example I need my opening bowler to get wickets. How he does it to a certain extent is up to him. I set the field based on his thinking, however, if it isn’t working, despite his protests, as the captain, I have and do over rule his views. This is expected, at times resented, but seen as my job, as the leader of the team. It would be damaging to my team if I simply went with the wishes of the individual which are not working. I, as the captain, the leader need to be able to ultimately, control the situation. Same as in school?
This leadership style focuses on the concept on rewards and punishments.
Contingent Reward: Provides rewards, materialistic or psychological, for effort and recognizes good performance.
Are these our thank you cards/emails/treats? Are these the gestures of appreciation passed to our teams when times are tough? Or things are going well? Is this staff well being?
Management-by-Exception allows the leader to maintain the status quo. The leader intervenes when subordinates do not meet acceptable performance levels and initiates corrective action to improve performance. Management by exception helps reduce the workload of managers being that they are only called-in when workers deviate from course. (Ref.)
Are these target setting, performance management, capabilities? Is this checking that staff/colleagues/team mates are doing what they should?
To a certain extent we have to have every element of ‘leadership style’ in our ‘bank’, to be a successful leader. However, what rewards do I offer my cricket team? As an individual, none. Or is it buying the Man of the Match a drink at the end of the game, is it sending them a text telling them how well they have done. Or is it updating the website with a congratulatory message? I think there are the rewards. The management by exception is, unless you perform, you run the risk of being dropped to the seconds. Which happens. I have to drop players, I need them to be on their ‘A game!’ However, in school, being ‘dropped’ is a lot more serious…
Transactional leadership is affected by emotions, studies have shown when emotions are low, the transactional leader will have the most effect. This is particularly true in cricket, when we are doing well, the intrinsic motivation of success is the driver. Productivity is high, due to success. However, if we are at the bottom of the table, emotions run high. Decisions are affected by these emotions. Now, consider this in a school setting. If you school is doing well, Ofsted have ‘verified’ this, outcomes for students are strong. (Like my current school.) Then emotions will be low. And the end product secure. However, if your school is undergoing change, and turmoil, this style of leadership will be extremely difficult.
Buzz words alert:
Within all these styles certain personality traits need to be considered. Integrity, emotional intelligence, vision, self awareness, creative, supportive, humble and authenticity. There must be elements of bureaucracy where rules and regulations are followed and adhered to strictly. Teams that need flexibility and innovation will be limited by this stye.
There should be an abundance of charisma. However, this could be seen as a double edged sword. If for the team, it can be useful, uplifting and help bring people along. If for personal gains and coupled with a feeling that the leader can do no wrong, it can be extremely damaging.
Then the characteristic of being a servant to your team is needed at times. Where you fight their corner, you cover them from ‘rain’ and let them bask when the sun is out. You are there, but not in the front, when not required. This is a damaging personality trait if quick decisions and outcomes are being driven from your own leaders, at times.
So, essentially, my leadership at work is very different from my leadership in my cricket team. Or is it? One thing I do know, is that I have learnt to lead from the way I have been led, so always remember that when you are leading others.
I also know, I must read more, I must continue to learn more. I have written this blog, solely on my current experience and I am confident, that as I continue my journey into leadership, I will become more effective for my teams, the students and my self. Hopefully.
I also know to be a great leader, I need to do as I ask, and be extremely effective at what I am expecting.
(There are other styles of leadership to read further about, such as narcissistic leadership. Also click here for further reading.)