Decoding Dhoni’s Leadership Style: Lessons For Entrepreneurs

Today India’s favourite leader is undoubtedly the captain of our cricket team, M.S. Dhoni. Dhoni is an exemplar of leadership who has helped lift the World Cup Trophy for India after 28 years! He has clearly proven his grit in the short span of seven years in the Indian cricket team. He was made the captain in 2007 where he led his team to victory in T20 match series. T20 series was the first of its kind which was introduced by ICC in 2007. Dhoni won the T20 trophy when he had no precedence to it where he could rely on any past proven strategies. Moreover, it was his first time ever as a captain! Surely there are entrepreneurial leadership skills that Dhoni exhibits.

What can Entrepreneurs learn from his leadership style?

There are many aspects in the team that Dhoni has had to address. He had to manage team-mates who were senior to him in terms of age and experience. He had to build a congenial atmosphere so as not to disturb the egos of his senior team players. He had to build confidence among his team members so that they can trust his decisions and put in their best to achieve their goals. He had to continuously revise his strategies for every match depending upon the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent team.

This situation is so much like what you may most probably face as an entrepreneur while building your own team of employees. You will have to understand how to address the soft issues of human capital management when you are going to recruit people with higher experience than yours. You will also have to understand their strengths and weaknesses and utilize them as and when necessary.

As your start-up grows you need to expand the team and delegate tasks. But to make sure that the employees are motivated and put in their best effort to achieve common goals, your leadership has to be strong. Once you start recruiting, you will have to consider your employees as a team and hone your skills towards team leadership. As an entrepreneur, your team leadership qualities need to be in place. Some of the team leadership traits which are exemplified by Dhoni and that you could implement are:

Lead from the front and shoulder the responsibility during crises

When Dhoni played after the fall of third wicket, it was clearly visible that this strategy was to shoulder the responsibility himself during the immense pressure. He took the pressure off the team members and did not buckle under pressure. India had already lost three key wickets. He helped increase the score and create a psychological pressure on the opponent team by keeping the later key wickets in hand. Instead of expecting other team players to perform under the stress, he himself took on the crisis head-on and batted at the fourth position. He proved to be a leader who commands by example. The remarkable equilibrium that Dhoni had demonstrated in such an overheated atmosphere is one quality to awe-inspire an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur you should not let the unfavourable situations stress you. If you get stressed the negative emotions spawned because of it will percolate very fast in the company. You will also very quickly lose the trust of your employees. And leadership without trust usually does not lead to achieving goals. It is very important to have the endurance and clear thinking during crisis situations, which will be many for a start-up.

Motivate to bring out the best from your team

Ability to motivate your team members is also extremely critical for you as an entrepreneur. It is not only during the crisis situations that you need to keep the morale of your employees high, but in the day-to-day activities too you need to keep the motivation levels high. This is because usually the start-ups have very few perks and luxuries to offer to their employees [teams] as compared to the bigger and more established organizations. It is difficult to cut down on many comforts when you know that you can get better somewhere else. So you should identify the key motivating factors with every employee carefully and you must nurture these factors so as to maintain good motivation level in your start-up. At the same time it is equally important for you as an entrepreneur to keep the team focused on the ultimate goals and not let them get carried away by smaller achieved goals. You have to make sure that the employees do not get distracted. This key behaviour was seen in Dhoni’s leadership when India won the crucial semi-finals against Pakistan: The match which the media called as the mother of all clashes. Among all the frenzy of celebrations, Dhoni cautioned his team that that was not the goal and that they still needed to play good cricket to win the World Cup the ultimate goal.

See what others do not see and accept mistakes

Many of Dhoni’s decisions are questioned, whether it is the shuffling of batsmen or choosing the bowlers. But every time the team has faced a crisis, Dhoni has made spot decisions which have paid-off. This is clear from the series of victories that came in India’s lap during Dhoni’s captaincy. India won the maiden ICC World Twenty20 series in 2007, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2008 as well as IPL 2010 by Chennai Super Kings. It is Dhoni’s keen ability to judge the situation in real time and take spot decisions best suitable for the situation. He has the ability to turn the weaknesses of his players into their strengths. Some of his decisions could be risky but Dhoni dares to take those risks. As an entrepreneur you must understand the situations and be able to take risks if you are convinced. Such risks may or may not pay off. But at the same time have the grace to accept the mistakes and learn from them. Dhoni has always accepted his mistakes even if the team has won a match. This type of leadership builds the trust within the team and it is only the superb team work which has helped win the World Cup. And for an entrepreneur, there is nothing better than the superb team leadership to achieve short-term and long-term goals.

Mridula VelagapudiAbout Mridula: Mridula is a freelance writer. She writes on Entrepreneurship and has worked for a start-up in the past. To know more check out her profile at LinkedIn/Mridula Velagapudi

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