Lessons on leadership by a bloke called Boof

Here is how Darren Lehmann describes himself on his twitter profile, needless to say it is a classic understatement as to what I think he is;

“Very old, bald cricketer that loves watching the game. Enjoys having a beer with the general public and all the beautiful things that Australia has to offer.”

Arguably the coach behind the biggest turn around of any australian team in the last 12 months, and one where the change in team culture was never so clearly attributable to him personally as was the case with the Australian cricket team in the summer of 2013/2014.

People talk about leadership and culture being important and it happens so much it starts to lose all meaning and some of our other australian codes could do well to learn from it though repeat performance of this magnitude is inconceivable. This was special.

I think the story behind Darren Lehmann taking on the coaching role for the Australian Cricket team is such a great example of leadership in action and I have not seen such a marked turn around that I can recall ever.

After the press conferences you get a feel that he is moulding the players by simply bending their ear at the right time with the right message when they need to hear it. The results are on the score board and I am not the only one to notice this aspect of the interview either.

What is probably more curious is the fact that Darren (Boof) Lehmann appears to be such an ordinary bloke. He is not overly tall in person which surprised me because his reputation from watching him on TV as a player made me think he was bigger and people always (unfairly) refer to him as being unfit. Luckily for him when he is photographed next to me I help argue the case against. (Your welcome Darren).

His twitter profile is modest to say the least given what he has achieved in such a short time as coach of the Australian Cricket side.

You get a real idea of what a decent bloke he is in the 7.30 report interview by Sarah Ferguson (@fergusonnews) this week.

Sarah is a tough cookie when she interviews people (to be expected from a Gold Walkley winning journalist on loan from 4 Corners and I like that about her) but even so, you can still visibly see how happy she is to be interviewing Lehmann being an Australian cricket fan.

My favourite bit in the interview is the confused look on Darren’s face when he struggles to compute that Sarah is an Australian cricket fan from way back not withstanding she has an english accent.

The sceptical look on Darren Lehmann’s face was priceless and one I had personally seen before (refer cover photo and see below why) and I am not surprised he was uneasy. Lehmann hails from a playing time where wind ups and sledging were born, so you can see him gingerly navigating the first few minutes of the interview as he prepares himself for Sarah to catch him off guard but it never comes. This is not a political interview, this one is fun for her.

In fact, this moment in the interview was the inspiration for this post.

It reminded me of the same sceptical and confused look I got at the SCG test earlier this year when I asked Darren to be photographed with me moments before Australia was to secure the 5th Ashes test in Sydney and clean sweep of the series.

You see, in all my adulation, I had totally forgotten that I was wearing the MCCC tie that I had purchased from the members stand store at Lord’s when I visited in 2002. So even with my broad Australian accent, the confusion on Darren Lehmann’s face was eerily similar as he was waited for me to do something crazy in the photo. Fear not Darren – that is no my style! Maybe next time when I see him at the New Year test he will be more relaxed. By way of background, my MCCC tie gets worn at every SCG Ashes test (usually by one of my English Mates sporting it but if they are not available or unwilling then I do it myself). It is one of my most treasured keepsakes from my time living in England. I see it as a symbol of the highly competitive yet friendly bond that cricket brings between the two nations. Good times.

Getting back to Leadership or is it Lehmann-ship?

The magnitude in cricketing terms of resurrection of Australian Cricket can only be put into perspective when considering Australia had lost by 3-0 only months earlier. How Lehmann managed to juggle the clearly dysfunctional culture of the Australian side that toured and lost the ashes in England in mid 2013 to later clean sweep in December/January 2014 is amazing no matter how you look at it. Even better was the series victory against South Africa in South Africa that followed and this is quite rightly highlighted and acknowledged in the interview by Ferguson and Lehmann alike.

“You make your own luck”

This type of turnaround is more than luck or one player though I admit the australian pace attack with Mitchell Johnson firing rockets clearly helped a lot! Now I totally agree with Lehmann that you make your own luck but there is no doubt in my mind that his leading the charge to modify the team culture was pivotal for Australia to re-emerge in 2014 better for the lessons learned in England. I really like how candidly Lehmann speaks about the slight variations in his communication tone and type when he addresses each individual Australian player (e.g. Johnson versus Warner) about their respective game gives a rare insight into as well. If you are an australian cricket fan then this interview is worth watching for that alone. Now as they say, winners are grinners and what will the fan base be saying if Australia loses form or starts losing….

“Supporters won’t desert us if we continue to play entertaining cricket”

 I whole heartedly agree that if Lehmann, Clarke and the Australian team continue to play entertaining, aggressive cricket then win or lose they will have the support of the Australian public and I am certainly no exception. I just hope that next time I see Darren Lehmann in the crowd at the SCG New Years test that he remembers me. Would love to have one of those beers he has with his more reflective players pondering the beautiful things that Australia has to offer. Cheers for the best summer watching cricket I have had in a long while!

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