Captain or Coach: Leadership Lessons from the Cricket Bench

As you lead in the various aspects of your life, I invite you to consider if you act more as a team captain or coach. 
In India, cricket is far and away the most popular professional sport. In my two weeks there, I was drawn in and enjoyed following the game. I even made it to the stadium in Bangalore for the Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Pune Warriors match – thanks to Alok for arranging it, and Shiva and Pramod for coming along. I watched player Chris Gayle break a few world records and make headline news, even.
One thing that struck me is how the teams are led. The team captain, one of the players, is the first and foremost leader. They are interviewed before and after the game, they creat batting order, and make gams time decisions, both during play and from the sidelines. The coach is rarely, if ever, heard from. In my two weeks of watching cricket on TV, I saw few interviews with assistant coaches, not one head coach, and countless interviews and analysts discussions about the performance of the captains.
Contrast this to baseball or American football, where the coach is the primary lineup and sideline decision maker. The captain is usually one of the better players, playing the game with the team. The coach does not play. They each bring a different perspective to the decision making process.
This got me thinking about different types and styles of leaders in general. There are leaders who are playing with the team, make decisions from the inside, and can jump in at any point and take over for a player – the captain. There are also leaders who make decisions from the sideline, are available to advise players during gameplay, and see the game from an outside perspective.
Is one better than the other? There was a recent trend in management thinking that every manager should be able to do the work the players do (captains). I don’t believe this to be the case, and I haven’t heard it much lately. It is not the case for me – all the people who work for me are far more technically capable than I am.
I know there are quite a few Ilantians (what we working at ILANTUS call each other) reading my blog. For those of you that are, I see myself as coach and Pramod as captain. I think it’s a leadership partnership that works well.
I do not think it’s better to be either captain or coach. They each have their value. I do think it’s helpful to consider which you are.

Leave a Reply