It's just not cricket...


If press reports are to be believed, a massive erosion of trust appears to be at the heart of a long-running dispute between cricketer Kevin Pietersen and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Added on 15 May 2015 by Roger Delves

Cricket stumps

The two parties appear to be unable to reconcile their differences, and as a result, it looks like Pietersen is definitely out of the picture for this Summer’s Ashes.

Problems between Pietersen and his ex-England cricket captain Andy Strauss are well documented and have been rumbling on for some time – but in the latest, very publicly played out spat, Strauss (recently promoted to ECB Director of Cricket) has effectively spelled the end of Pietersen’s international career by saying he won’t be selected because he doesn’t trust him.

This raises an interesting debate about the role of a leader in managing strong and diverse personalities within their organisation or team.

It’s clear that the relationship between Strauss and Pietersen has irrevocably broken down - but I would suggest that their relationship, and all the past history that comes with it, is not really the crux of the matter.

If the current England Captain and Vice Captain can accommodate Pietersen’s personality and if the team needs his ability, then he is worth his place.  Leadership and man management is about being able to keep disparate and strong personalities within the tent, even if part of the way to do that may be buy a bigger tent.

By making it about himself and Kevin Pietersen, Strauss risks condemning the Ashes eleven to thirteen -  in other words, going into play with the ghosts of both himself and Pietersen with them.  There can only be one winner when that happens – the men in baggy green (the Aussies, for those unfamiliar with cricket-speak).

The whole debacle also raises some interesting questions around the nature of trust.  It’s perhaps worth referencing here the ‘Trusted Adviser’ equation which comes from the work of David Meister.

He suggests that trust is a combination of our perception of another person’s credibility, reliability and willingness to be open – divided by our perception of that other person’s degree of self-interestedness.

The question here is whether using this criteria, Pietersen is being judged as a person or a cricketer?  Views about his credibility, reliability and so forth as a person will undoubtedly vary, according to ECB members previous experiences of working with him.

But if the question is does he deserve a place in the Ashes Eleven, then surely it is as a cricketer that he should be judged.  In this role he is certainly credible and reliable, he appears to be trying to be open about his desire to play and to commit to the team, and his self-interest seems to centre around a burning desire to succeed, which in turn would aid the team’s objective, which is to win.

So even if Strauss does not trust Pietersen as an individual, it seems to me he should trust him as a cricketer, just as he should trust England Captain Alistair Cook and Vice Captain Joe Root as leaders and cricketers to lead Pietersen.

Just as in the world of business, personal animosities and tensions cannot be allowed to have an impact on the wider objectives of the team.  The priority should simply be about putting together the best people to deliver the vision, making sure they understand and share the common objective, being confident that the leaders can lead and that the followers are prepared to follow.  Once that is done, shared commitment and shared success are great creators of energy, drive and even friendship in diverse and disparate teams.

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