Management Lessons from Dhoni for UPA

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Management  lessons from Dhoni have universal appeal and can be used by corporates and even  the UPA, to reflect on existing structures and strategies, says Sanjeev Nayyar.

Indian  cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's boys have done the country proud. As  Dhoni lifted the ICC Cricket World Cup, I thought of another Indian captain  (and Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh and the unenviable position he finds  himself in today.

The  globally respected economist is surrounded by scams, tainted CVC issue,  billions of rupees stashed away in foreign banks, allegations of buying votes,  etc. The United Progressive Alliance-II could author, How to kill your  country's national airline.

Management  lessons from Dhoni have universal appeal and can be used by corporates to  reflect on existing structures and strategies. In order that readers relate to  them easily the article draws a parallel between the World Cup, on the one  hand, and Manmohan Singh/Sonia Gandhi on the other

Every  team can have only one captain

Team India is led by  Mahendra Singh Dhoni. It is clear that the entire team has thrown its weight  behind him.

Team UPA  has two captains. One holds the constitutional post of prime minister and other  is the Congress party President. The structure is like that of the Church and  State which existed in Europe.

Any  management practitioner will tell you that a team with two captains cannot  realise its true potential. A leading MNC appointed two managing directors for  its businesses, but soon realised the need to have only one MD.

Over the  last seven years, we have seen UPA captains play the game differently. Manmohan  Singh wants to buy peace with Pakistan  by making unilateral concessions, while Sonia Gandhi realises the  anti-Pakistani sentiment amongst the electorate.

So an  announcement from the Prime Minister's Office usually gets countered by the  party. Two, the PMO and the National Advisory Council have different views on  economic matters.

2. The  captain must accept responsibility for the team's performance

Mahendra  Singh Dhoni never sought to deflect criticism for India's poor showing by blaming  individual players: the buck stopped with him. In spite of being under  tremendous pressure, he came across as a man in control. He was forever seen to  be thinking and acting for 'Team India'. 

Conversely,  Manmohan Singh chooses to keep maunvrat (silence) till the problem  escalates. After that, he deflects the issue by taking the allegation  personally: 'I am clean'. Next, 'What can I do since I relied on a colleague or  facts were withheld?' There is a sense of helplessness in Manmohan Singh's  voice.

As UPA's  captain two, Sonia Gandhi has not accepted responsibility for the worst scams  in India's  history.

3. If  you have the conviction, stick your neck out

Indian  pace bowler Ashish Nehra had not done well in earlier games but had performed  well against Pakistan  in the World Cup semi-finals. Critics wanted Ashwin to play but Dhoni insisted  on Nehra who reposed the captain's faith by bowling superbly.

Dhoni does  not allow old ways of thinking to prevent him from taking unconventional  decisions, knowing very well that only some might work.

The one  time that Manmohan Singh showed admirable conviction was in getting the Indo-US  Nuclear deal passed by Parliament. The same attitude was lacking in the run-up  to the Commonwealth Games.

Sonia  Gandhi rarely speaks out on matters concerning India except during elections. She  prefers status quo to change!

Dhoni, on  the other hand, accepts mistakes and shares vulnerability publicly. This makes  him human and has endeared him to the common man.

4.  Accept the pair of opposites

Any public  figure will vouch that the public can garland you on one day and throw stones  the very next. Dhoni has learnt this bitter truth early in life.

A TV  reporter asked him of the scene outside his Ranchi  house if India  won the World Cup. He said there would be big celebrations; yet in the same  tone told viewers (without any anguish) of the protests outside his house when India played  badly a few years ago.

People  take a lifetime to understand and accept that life is full of opposites (joy  and sorrow, winning and losing, pleasure and pain), but Dhoni has understood  this at age 29.

Team UPA  might find this philosophy of the Bhagvad Gita too difficult to  digest.

5.  Winning is about teamwork and motivating your colleagues

In the  post-match conference after India  had won the World Cup on April 2, former India captain-turned-TV-commentator  Ravi Shastri asked Dhoni why he chose to bat ahead of the man in form,  all-rounder Yuvraj Singh.

Dhoni said  that after he was convinced of the idea, he spoke to coach Gary Kirsten and the  seniors before going ahead.

He  understands the importance of drawing from seniors' experience and wisdom. This  way they feel valued, he invites their blessings and thus builds teamwork.

A person  who has innate confidence in himself tends to have a collaborative approach.

When Nehra  dropped a catch in the semi-finals Dhoni did not admonish him but asked to let  go. This motivated Nehra whose performance was outstanding.

Unlike in  the past, Dhoni did not allow regional quota system to influence team  selection. Only performance mattered!

6. Keep  cool, and be focused and determined

Throughout  the last three World Cup matches (including the final), one saw a cool and  composed Dhoni even though he expressed anger for Piyush Chawla in an earlier  match.

Playing in  front of home crowds and being watched by millions can make the best wilt under  pressure.

When Australia and Pakistan were batting in a flurry,  Dhoni was calm and focussed on the game at hand. There were no impulsive  bowling or fielding changes.

I am sure  you noticed the determination in his eyes when Dhoni hit the World Cup winning  six: it was as if he were stating, 'I will not rest till we have won the Cup'.

Taking  your work to a logical conclusion is another quality. Dhoni always spoke with  respect about others teams and criticised his co-players in a very nice way.

Opening  batsman Gautam Gambhir's missing out on scoring a memorable century in a World  Cup final game was entirely his fault, said Dhoni.

Dhoni  heard criticism, probably reflected on it, but converted it into positive  energy and let performance speak. He is a quiet worker.

Every  Indian needs to imbibe these qualities from the nation's cricket team captain.

7.  Humility and lack of flamboyance

The  post-final period saw a display of emotions by many players. Dhoni hugged and  congratulated many but underplayed his presence, was inconspicuous after a  while. There was no display of showmanship or blowing his own trumpet. He  displayed exemplary maturity.

Perhaps,  the humility comes from his simple background. Dhoni's father worked as a lower  division clerk with Mecon, Ranchi.  M S Dhoni has risen on the basis of sheer hard work and performance. In spite  of being the captain of the high profile Indian team, Dhoni speaks with no  airs, and shows no arrogance or attitude.

When  Manmohan Singh won the 2008 trust vote the V for Victory sign was  flaunted and smacked of arrogance. Every Indian must emulate Dhoni's handling  of success.

8. India's next PM  should be from the hinterland

I am  reasonably sure (no offense meant) that an Indian captain brought up in a metro  city might not have conducted himself so exemplarily.

Seeing a  boy from Ranchi, who hails from Kumaon  Uttaranchal, lead Team India  successfully I wonder whether leaders from India's  hinterland can relate to India  better?

After all,  the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh (Raman Singh), Gujarat (Narendra Modi) and Bihar (Nitish Kumar) are from similar backgrounds and  doing outstanding work in their states.

While the  rest of India  criticises the Public Distribution System, the less hyped about Raman Singh  government in Chhattisgarh has revolutionised the system to reduce leakages,  and had made it work.

Can the  cash-rich Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Dhoni help the  Indian hockey team win the next World Cup? Hockey is after all our national  sport

The author is a Mumbai  based Managing Consultant and Life Coach