MSD’s leadership had been original. If you compare ‘Dhoni-The-Person’ and ‘Dhoni-The-Leader’, it aligns perfectly. That’s the best thing about a leader that s/he does not try to be a different self when s/he wears the leader hat. The core should be intact as you can bring out your best when you are acting as yourself and not as someone else. You are what you are and refine yourself to get better.
Look at Dhoni — he led stars like Sachin, Dravid, Harbhajan, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer (and even Sourav) immediately after being the captain. From my personal experience I can tell this is so very difficult. I moved to management role as a career move and as a part of the team reorganization, my manager started reporting to me. I could feel what Dhoni must have gone through when these stalwarts played under him. In Indian culture, seniority plays a big role and to manage seniors is not trivial and mainly when we are talking about a bunch of superstars together. And he did it exceptionally well, after the debacle and low morale under Greg Chappell, he found a formula to bring back teams moral and winning ways. He backed his players and knew their strength and used it very effectively.
Below are just a few lessons learned from MSD:
Don’t let the situation take control of your mind:
This is highly critical in crisis situations and unprecedented time just like what we are going through at this point. Gray Kristen once said “I will go to the war with Dhoni by my side” — That summaries it. Such a cool personality undeterred by any situation and focusing on his goal like Arjun’s ‘Matsya Vedh’. He is such a calm personality, rightly termed as “Captain Cool”. You must have seen him numerous times how calm he was after a match whether team wins or loses, always emotionally isolated from the results, a balanced personality to the core.
Having enormous patience, takes the match to the last over ball by ball and finishes it off, undoubtedly the ‘Best Finisher’ of the game of cricket that the world has ever produced. It’s about patience and not getting bogged down with pressure. It’s about working continuously on the strategy at hand, do one thing at a time and move to the next while the final goal is always in mind. When there had been a huge score to chase, what he had done is divide the target into multiple phases and attacked one target at a time. When immediate target is achieved, go for the next one until finishing it off in style — Example of ‘focused-patience’ .
Process is important not the result:
Dhoni has often talked about how the process is more important than the result, the result is just a by-product of the process. He believed in that and guided the team accordingly through out his career. I believe if you have done the things right, have done your preparation and gone through hard work, results are bound to come. So better to focus on the process part which will lead to the result.
Team comes first:
If you had seen numerous trophies that he had own as a captain, during presentation ceremony, he just hands over the trophy to the team and stepped aside. Always gives the credit to the team — he knows a captain is as good as his team. No hunger for limelight. Just doing his job — These kinds of gestures brings in a lot of respect for him. But it should come naturally which is in Dhoni’s case.
Know your team:
Some might think Dhoni is shy or introvert. But Dhoni’s style of functioning was to quietly do his things without saying much. He knows the strength of each player of his team and tactically uses them. You might have seen in many games how he rotated his bowers which might seem little unconventional, but if you analyse why he took a particular step, you will realize his deep knowledge of his player and the situation that made him take the decision.
Confidence on your ability:
Remember how many times he had taken the match to the end, planned perfectly with right kind of risk and finished it off with just a few balls or no balls to spare. I remember many a time me being a big cricket lover had gone through uncomfortable situation and becoming restless when MDS had ducked a ball with a big asking run rate. I did not understand why he had to do that. Not just me, most does not understand. Sometimes commentators had talked about it openly not able to understand The ‘Dhoni-Logic’ and ‘Dhoni-Mindset’ at that time. But finally, he had scored the runs and won matches. Which shows the immense Confidence on his ability to finish games.
Believe in your instinct & go with your gut:
When MSD gave the ball to Joginder Singh during 2007 T20 World cup final, I am not sure how many hearts would have pounded vigorously and how many of us would have thought it was not the right move. As a captain, one would have gone with a safer option with an established bowler, but you know what he did, and rest is history. And this is not the only time, if you see the long 16 years career of his, you will find similar examples again and again and it has proved right most of the time. The numerous DRS decision, which he had got right most of the times. So, it is not a fluke, he is able to think what others can’t even imagine. Take unconventional steps (people even called him a ‘Gambler’) to achieve results.
Be aggressive when needed:
One does not need to be aggressive all the time as aggression consumes energy. You got to preserve energy and use it when needed. Dhoni has done it throughout his career. Keeping his best for the last when it is indeed required. No need to be a Hero all the time when it can be achieved without any visible heroism.
Make your work your passion:
A new father Dhoni once said, ‘I am on national duties so everything else can wait’. The dedication and passion he has is amazing. Without that, it is not easy to achieve what he did coming from a place in Jharkhand.
As they once said:
Michael Hussey said “I am really gifted to play under the leadership of MSD”
Virat Kohli said “I don’t think one can question MS’ leadership”
Kapil Dev said “Dhoni is my hero …”
Sachin Tendulkar said “Dhoni is the best captain I have played under”
These are great lessons and can be used in any domain, any scenario and any circumstances. Salute Captain Cool.