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Looking for Leadership

Looking for leadership!

When I started work one of my early bosses (leaders) explained some basic principles of employment:

  • Showing up on time ready to work was important
  • If you took more time for breaks -the time had to be made up
  • There were two crimes for which demanded  instant dismissal:
    • Drunkenness on the job and
    • Dishonesty

It was obvious and straightforward. There was no grey.

In that time there were no meetings, teams were not mentioned in the workplace, culture as a business concept was fifteen years away, and political correctness was not even a figment of anyone’s imagination

The time window:  1968 – 1972 was a period of significant turbulence. The baby boomers had arrived:1968 was a liminal year:

  • Martin Luther King: assassinated
  • Robert Kennedy: assassinated
  • Kent State University riots
  • French student revolutions

1969 was Woodstock

Students in Australia (and the world) were in an uproar over Vietnam.

Drug use was in its infancy – Marihuana and LSD were the two most visible. (and of course alcohol!)

Cricket was still a wonderfully amateur game

The Sheffield Shield was the major cricket competition in Australia. Each year there was a touring side who stayed in Australia for the whole summer. They played each state plus 5 Tests between October and February.

There was no One Day Cricket

Cricket was Australia’s game – the Test matches went in a cycle:

Brisbane Sydney Melbourne Adelaide Melbourne. Melbourne and Sydney rotated the extra Test each tour. Perth did not have a Test until 1972, and it meant six tests.
It was a long balmy summer. Cricket consumed my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.

Then the changes came:

  • 1971 -Perth: an additional test match – a six test series
  • The first One Day International played in Melbourne, and then in the
  • Mid-seventies -The Packer revolution (see the movie)

It was a dramatic shift. There was a huge divide – the traditionalists v the new order

  • Coloured Clothes (pyjama cricket)
  • Day Night Cricket
  • Highly paid players

Traditions challenged!

There was still an aura about cricket – it was different in Australia – the phrase “it’s just not cricket’” made sense.

Fast forward 2018

Cricket is now an entertainment business, and players (playing the game) are the product. What was once a great sport has been reduced to an entertainment product.

I wonder what it feels like to wake up in the morning after a cricket misdemeanour and discover it is a national scandal!

It seems while some of the structures look the same, the whole culture is profoundly different and there are new structures which were unimaginable in the 70’s.

The business environment is radically different:

The media is demanding more product (and more entertainment product). The emergence of 20/20 product (game) is a lucrative response.

India has emerged as a commercial cricket hub – with players earning over $1M per season to play 20/20 outside of their normal national commitments.

Cricketers are now commercially more “astute” because they can be. Many earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. (some millions) For the ordinary Australian it is a “dream world”.

The values of the amateur game are now irrelevant in the entertainment business when it is now about entertainment and dollars.  These new  values appear to be:

  • Winning at all costs
  • Personal branding and making money.
  • Playing life extension
  • Entertainment

The recent explosion of rage is an expression of two things:

  1. A national symbol is trashed and
  2. Australian leaders again have failed the test.

Ball tampering is a relatively minor offence – I understand level two of four levels.

It’s the second offence -bringing the game into disrepute-  which is the “shocker” -breaching the integrity of the national game and trashing a National symbol.

We now know that Smith and Warner are out for 12 months and Bancroft for nine months. Is it a reasonable punishment? Based on my initial reaction which was extreme (ban for life)! I do think the discipline needs to be substantial. One year?

We also know they are remorseful and emotional and still under a lot of pressure.

However, it is cheating, and as Australians, we do think we have a mortgage on FAIRNESS! That’s how we want the world to see us – NOT anymore!   We are cheats and a laughing stock. Imagine on CNN whole segments on Australia cheating at cricket and a specific segment explaining to the world what ball tampering is!

So where do these young men learn this? Their colleagues and more senior players before them or other sports or the general milieu of the business environment in which we live?  Is fairness really a national value or is it an image we have of ourselves as we want to be seen? Is it an aspirational value?

A quick scan of the environment in recent years highlights a general lack of confidence in our significant Institutions and their leadership:

  • Royal Commissions into Unions and Banks, Institutions (esp. the Catholic Church) concerning child abuse
  • Politicians who seem to struggle with the most basic ethical issues – expenses plus integrity issues in their personal lives. Steve Smith’s initial response was remarkably like a recent Australian politician who when caught out suggested he was still the best person to lead the party.
  • Business Executives whose remuneration payments have stretched the credibility of the system or whose personal behaviour has been personally and professionally unethical.
  • The media industry has not distinguished itself ethically in recent times
  • In Social Welfare, there are those who believe they are entitled to their privileges and therefore wrought the system

In many of these examples, there is leadership failure overt or covert.

The whole issue of leadership and integrity is at the heart of this uproar. Australians expect more. Our leaders “have no clothes” again!

Steve Smith is a lightning rod for the disillusionment of ordinary Australians. In recent times we have seen it with other leaders – a massive surge of anger looking for a “sacrifice”!

It is the same anger which is directed at other leaders who breach trust. Cardinal Pell in relation to child abuse, politicians in relation to expenses. The rage is not so directed at business leaders who breach trust because much less is expected. (I am not sure why?)

Patrick Smith in the Australian sees it this way:

“But that paucity of leadership has gradually rotted just about every team in every sport. The way our federal and state politicians act points to a few tracks of redemption but none are reliable and certainly, none trod by our pollies.

Watch the so-called leaders of this nation and you will see only this: a group of gluttonous men and women who flip and flop, not on principles but the search for power, vanity and self-importance. Two days in the news.

All this is creating a very ordinary nation. Timid, without vision but prepared to get what they want with no consideration of the ramifications. That is the Australian cricket team –  perfectly shaded representatives of modern Australia.

It is time for us to set the future parameters, to uphold standards the politicians are too scared of just in case it might lock them out of power. In this, we could all lead the way, demand change and seek honesty from those who represent us in politics or in a sport.”

In an earlier Blog, I have written about change and disruption. It can be a very painful process. Whether we describe it as grieving or transition, there are stages.

  • The letting go stage
  • The wilderness stage and
  • The new beginnings stage

Australia is in this process and struggling to come to terms with a loss. (of self-respect?)

When the leaders of our iconic institutions are found “without clothes” (and it is happening more frequently), to have our Australian Cricket Captain admit cheating so that Australia is the laughing stock of the world, is a bitter pill.

Such is the status of the position, Australian Cricket Captains have been named Australian of the Year three times.  Of the 14 sportspeople who have been named Australian – 3 are Australian cricket Captains:

  • Alan Border 1989
  • Mark Taylor 1999
  • Steve Waugh 2004

I assume this award is about leadership and integrity – a model for all Australians.

Our current players have grown up in a world where cricket was a TV entertainment product and they aspired to be in the privileged few who played in the “entertainment bubble”. The fact that it was once a sport with an ethical code where issues like honesty, playing by the rules, respecting your opponents, is a cultural relic of another era. As it is no longer sport, it is no longer sacred.

However, for many Australians, it is still sacred. Our symbols, our reputation is trashed. There is rage!

As I mentioned earlier in this Blog, I always understood that one could be instantly dismissed for drunkenness or dishonesty (stealing). Surely in a sport at the highest level, there are grounds for dismissal. Tampering with the ball?

The healing process has started. There is contrition from each of the protagonists. There is a redemption story to come. Coincidently it is Easter. No one prepared them for this.

In all their time preparing to represent Australia I wonder if any time is spent reflecting on the traditions and culture they are representing.  There is much talk about culture in successful sporting teams (and in business) and much of it is just words.  Ultimately, culture is how you behave every day and it is manifest in every decision you make. Leadership and integrity are crucial in all this.  It is easy for us to be enraged and critique both the players and the Australian Cricket Board. Australians are very practised critics.

What if all of this rage and disappointment is a reflection of the ‘shadow” in the Australian psyche. Confronting it is difficult. “We have no clothes”.  The reality of the current leadership in Australia business, Institutional and political just might be a reflection of us as Australians. Not the image we want to see. This is a journey inward.

On the Australian Sports Commission website some years ago, I found the following.  Maybe it’s a place to start. They are very basic questions.

Quick tools to help make an ethical choice

  • Consider how your decision would affect those involved?
  • Is the decision respectful, honest, responsible, fair, and safe?
  • What would you do if everyone you loved and respected knew what you were going to do?
  • Would you be proud of your decision/action?
  • What would your role model or someone you admired do in the same situation?
  • As a potential or actual role model to others, what decision would you want them to follow?
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Ben Kehoe