1 April 2020
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Cricket's 'sandpapergate' has produced one big positive!

One big positive that has come out of the tragedy, which is the ‘sandpaper-gate’ craziness in South Africa, is that many of us are thinking about the right things we have to teach our followers, be they our staff, our kids or our sporting team members.

As our ex-captain, Steve Smith, admitted he was responsible for failed leadership and one can only hope that he will do what has to be done to be forgiven. Then we can actually forgive the young guy, who can bat but who was clearly not ready for a job that many think is more important than being our Prime Minister!

I think it’s ironic that young Steve has been caught out as an ill-equipped leader at a time when the great leadership coach, John Maxwell, from Florida, USA, has been touring the country.

I’ve often talked about his insightful book, which is one of my favourites, called The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

I got to know John emceeing him around the country but I first met him in Dubai, where I was the MC for an international conference for Gloria Jean’s Coffees. Maxwell has dedicated his life to studying and teaching leadership and I knew I was in the company of greatness the first time I met this guy.

And listening to him I knew, like Steve Smith, I had so much to learn about leadership, and it makes me wonder what has been Cricket Australia’s input into making their national captain a truly great leader. Given what we’ve seen, I guess they have clearly failed to coach their captain on leadership, or else they have opted for a dud course!

Maxwell sums up leadership as “influence — plain and simple”. And while Steve clearly influenced young Cameron Bancroft, it seems logical, given what happened, that the latter’s influencer — his captain — in turn did not have great influencers in his role as the leader of our beloved national cricket team.

Clearly, as a result of this current witch-hunt into how this cheating episode of ball tampering happened, hard questions have to be asked of the coach, Darren Lehmann, who surprisingly but understandably retired on Thursday, and the heads of Cricket Australia.

One of those questions has to be: Are they great or merely average leaders or, worse still, poor leaders?

Maxwell believes there are Five Levels of Leadership and has written a book of the same title, so let me briefly explain them and then let’s try to see where Steve, the coach, and Cricket Australia rank on these five levels.

Level one is where people follow you because you pay them and you are their boss. It’s safe to say all our leaders are higher ranked leaders.

Level two is a pretty easy one to master and it’s when people follow you because they like you. 

Even the weakest person who is a really nice guy or gal can onboard some followers. These people like to like their boss and it can create a nice atmosphere but often, great things don’t happen because the leader lacks the qualities that take his or her followers to higher levels.

Level three finds people following you because of what you have achieved. Your great accomplishments run before you and Steve, Darren and even Cricket Australia get to level three without much dispute.

Then there’s level four and now we’re talking special people. Here, these leaders pass all of the previous lower levels — they pay, they’re likeable and they’ve achieved — but these level four leaders have followers because of what they have done for their followers.

These leaders train their team. They inspire them. They make their followers want to be better people, employees and, most importantly, great leaders in their own right.

This is where Steve and Darren have stumbled and in many ways if the coach is anchored at level three, it’s no surprise that his captain was willing to be party to an idea that would see him instruct a newcomer to Test cricket - in Cameron Bancroft - to go the sandpaper!

The next step up as a leader is to level five and this is where a stand out human being, who has mastered levels one to four, now is so respected and has brought along not only him- or herself as leaders, they have developed so many others who in turn have developed other leaders.

These leaders are called “Multipliers” and instead of leaving a path of destruction by creating ‘madmen or mad women’ bosses/managers, who ruin businesses, families or teams, they leave a positive legacy that becomes a gift that keeps on giving.

So can I name level five leaders so the likes of Steve Smith can eventually benchmark himself off? 

Sure can and here’s a list.

In cricket someone like Mark Taylor and Ian Chappell seemed to have it all. The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and even his assistant coach Wayne Smith are both rated as excellent coaches and along with the previous coach, Graham Henry, have created and sustained a culture that explains this teams historically unbelievable success rate.

Anyone keen to understand how level five leadership can create an outstanding culture in a team should read about how the All Blacks have been led to greatness at here.

Politically, the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Bob Hawke and John Howard got to level five. The calibre of the Hawke’s and Howard’s teams showed they could bring people on, even if they weren’t great at letting these developed leaders take over from them!

In business Gerry Harvey, Richard Branson and The Body Shop’s Anita Roddick, have not just been business builders but leaders who created other leaders, who in turn created more leaders. These people are genuine ‘multipliers’ and that’s the task ahead for Steve, Darren and Cricket Australia.

Let me finish up on Maxwell’s “The Law of Solid Ground.”

Here it is in a nutshell.

“Without trust, there can be no influence. Trust is built when a leader consistently demonstrates competence, connection and character. A sound character is key to building long-term trust, because it conveys consistency, potential, and builds respect.”

So the task at hand for our tragic trio, and in reality most of us, is to work on competence, connection and character and come to understand Maxwell’s first law  — The Law of the Lid.

“Your level of effectiveness and accomplishments is determined by your level of leadership. In fact, leadership has a multiplier effect on success – by raising your leadership ability, you can increase your overall effectiveness many times without increasing your success dedication.”

He says a business, a team or even a family who have a low level leader will have difficulty becoming a great performer. The calibre of the leader becomes the lid on progress.

“You better learn to lead if you want to be effective in life,” John told me and that’s the big positive we can take out of the leadership failures that has been Sandpaper-gate.


I wish Steve, Darren and Cricket Australia the best and getting every player a copy of John Maxwell’s book would be a damn great start!

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