Sport has the ability to bring people together in shared moments of joy and despair, and there are lessons in that for business. England’s topsy-turvy ‘super over’ Cricket World Cup final win was no different.
Not only does it represent a monumental turnaround of the team’s poor form at previous tournaments, the victory is the culmination of four years of hard work to change the culture of the squad and implement a new leadership style under coach Trevor Bayliss.
Although most organisations are aware of the benefits of diversity, it’s not uncommon to meet leadership teams who are, like the England cricket team through the years, predominantly white and privately educated. Today’s England team draws strength from an increasingly diverse range of cultures and backgrounds - something Captain Eoin Morgan picked up on in his post-match press conference.
Purpose is key
This diversity was united around a clear shared purpose. Winning the world cup was something that England had never been done before, which the players described as highly motivating. It inspired them to continually try harder and get better.
Create shared values
The mantra of ‘courage, unity and respect’, reflected in the three lions that adorn the England cap, represents a set of core values which helps to unite the team. These values are frequently referenced by Morgan and the players and appear to have helped the team to build relationships of trust.
The most successful CEOs I’ve met insist on values-based leadership, have open and transparent relationships with colleagues, and build trust and a positive culture around them.
Traditional command-and control leadership no longer works in a fast-moving and unpredictable world. The most effective modern leaders devolve responsibility across organisations so they can respond to ever-changing challenges with speed and agility.
Bayliss believes in encouraging the captain and the players to take responsibility and develop self-reliance. This approach was partly inspired by the footballing success of Manchester City, whose team psychologist advised the England cricket team.
City manager Pep Guardiola and former captain Vincent Kompany famously built a strong ‘team’ ethos, which the England cricket team was keen to emulate. Most commentators agree that England’s World Cup success is much more about the team than any one individual.
The stakes are high in international cricket and it is easy to become risk-averse. However, Bayliss and Morgan built a great sense of resilience across the team, encouraging them to forge ahead through hurdles such as injury and defeat.
Morgan has also highlighted the importance of positivity. When asked how he guided the team during the toughest moments of the World Cup final, he said he encouraged them to smile, laugh and enjoy the situation. There’s certainly a lesson in that.
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