Leaders who started young, and their journeys

Posted: December 21, 2008 in cricket, india, Leadership, Management

The splendid victory of South Africa against Australia set my mind thinking about their leader, Graeme Smith, and how he led from the front. And about his leadership career, as South Africa’s cricket captain.

When he took over as SA captain, he was young and almost brash. There were other seniors who were still in the team, and yet, they gave the reins of captaincy to this young cricketer, who had not been in international cricket for very long.

He came with new ideas. He rubbed the seniors like Jonty, Allan Donald, Pollock, Kluesner and others, the wrong way. He also did not win enough, amidst all this friction. There were talks of him being an incorrect choice, criticism of his hot temper, and what not.

But he learnt. And he learnt fast. And he was fundamentally the right choice, which the South African selectors pursued with. And the persistence paid off. As he became more acceptable as a leader among his teammates. And as he led from the front, with an aggressive, winning approach. And started delivering far better results. And today, he is considered one of the better captains in the cricket world.

A very different background is that of Ratan Tata. As a young entrant in the Tata fold, he took over reins of companies like Tata Textiles and Nelco, and had disastrous results.

Then, when he took over the group, after JRD Tata, he seemed to be going after senior pros like Russi Mody (Tata Steel), Ajit Kerkar (Indian Hotels) and Darbari Seth (Tata Chemicals). At that time, it looked like his insecurity to work with these giants, and he took the route of seeing them off. As later events proved, these people had created virtual fiefdoms, out of their companies, and the decisions to replace them, were extremely brave and bold ones, taken by Ratan Tata.

Over the years now, Ratan Tata has become a fanstastic leader of the group, driving them to unprecedented growth, with very high ambition, and proved to be a real champion.

Another young leader who has quickly worked his way up, and grown by leaps and bounds, has been Kumar Mangalam Birla. Never easy to follow an icon like Aditya Birla, and at a young age too. But he grabbed the opportunity well, and has created brilliant new growth opportunities for the group now.

Not so successful has been his cousin, Yash Birla, who was also thrust into the hot seat, at a very young age, on account of the sudden demise of Ashok Birla. Yash however, has found the good life more to his liking, and running the business, just one of the many things that he does in life.

Rajiv Gandhi was also thrust into the seat of power without much notice, due to the assassination of Indira Gandhi. As a young and unspoilt (by corruption and power) clean leader that time, he promised a lot. And his early years were akin to the Kennedy years, for the US. Held out a lot of promise and the youth of the nation, especially looked up to him, for providing a new direction of growth for the country. However the phase did not last too long, as he got caugh in the political web of deceit and corruption. So the hopes were belied. And ultimately, it all came to an early end, due to his also being assassinated.

Coming back to cricket, it appears as if Australia almost always have the right leader waiting in the wings. After Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor, it looked like Ponting had already been primed up, to take over the reins. And he led by strong example, and providing exemplary leadership, from the outset. And at this time, it appears clear that Michael Clarke is being groomed for the opportunity, and will be all set to take over when his time comes.

  1. anonymous says:

    You have left Dhoni from this list….he too is young and is a great leader in all regards…however his real test is still awaited….but a great debut as a leader…he is the flag bearer of Indian cricket in future….

  2. Nice post on young leaders. Interesting things happen when you put your money on someone young and untested, it changes the dynamics in more ways than one as most of us are not built to follow someone younger than us. It is also interesting to try and understand the person or persons that chose this leader. What drives them to pick someone like that – grooming or otherwise.

    About Ricky Ponting, a win against SA would have kept him set for that final hurrah for the Ashes in 2009, but Graeme Smith seems to have other plans.

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