Management Lessons from CEO Dhoni


MUMBAI: What Mahendra Singh Dhoni as CEO of the Indian cricket team did to ensure the country won the World Cup will be etched as learnings for leaders across all walks of life. Captains of India Inc, leading business schools and HR leaders have taken note of Dhoni’s style of management.

Experimentative, innovative and risk-taking are some of the characteristics being attributed to him. So what really is Dhoni’s management style? “He sets stretch goals and works determinedly to achieve them by getting the best out of his team,” says Adi Godrej, chairman, Godrej Group, who has also taken on a new role as chairman of The Indian School of Business.

Dhoni is being described as ‘a true leader’ who did not hesitate to push himself up the batting order in the final, when the team needed him the most. “He led the attack from the front and was not afraid to make this change. He knew well that had he failed, he would have been severely criticized but yet he fearlessly took up the challenge at a critical time in the Indian innings,” says Harsh Goenka, chairman, RPG Group.

Santrupt Misra, HR head, Aditya Birla Group, on the other hand, lauded Dhoni for being experimentative-that is innovative and, at the same time, prepared to face the consequences. “He’s inclusive, but at the same time when the moment of truth comes, he doesn’t hesitate to take decisions.”

And what does one learn from Dhoni’s leadership skills? “Take measured risks and back your team to deliver,” said Gunit Chadha, CEO, Deutsche Bank India. “A leader should maintain his calm. He should know his business well and take appropriate decisions in changing contexts,” said Misra.

One could see how these characteristics came to the fore when, in a crisis situation during the World Cup (India had lost two crucial wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag in the early overs), Dhoni kept his cool and led India to victory. “Dhoni has been consistent match after match. He has stuck his neck out and accepted his mistakes,” said Deepti Bhatnagar, faculty, Organisational Behaviour, IIM-Ahmedabad. What’s more, the captain succeeded in building a team where young people can come up with their opinions. “In a situation where a much younger player like Virat Kohli can give his opinion towards a senior player like Sachin without inhibitions itself speaks volumes about the team culture,” said Bhatnagar.

Nehra’s comeback against Pakistan is another good example of how Dhoni’s faith in him paid off. As co-authors Bill Conaty and Ram Charan have said in their book, ‘The Talent Masters – Why smart leaders put people before numbers’: “You can liberate your capacity and courage as a leader if you continually plumb the depth of your inner core. Only by doing this can you understand the role it plays in the changing complexities of your job.” Dhoni has proved to be a smart leader.



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