Sourav Ganguly and many other international cricketers have frowned upon the idea of multiple captains but for Australian sports gurus like Ric Charlesworth and John Buchanan, a group of leaders in a team is pretty much the way forward.
Hockey legend Charlesworth, who pioneered the concept of multiple leaders when he spearheaded the Australian women’s hockey team to glory twice at the Olympics in 1996 and 2000, has backed Buchanan and his theory of more than one captain for the Kolkata Knight Riders, saying “hierarchies (in a team) hardly fetch the best results.”
“I believe hierarchical leadership is an anachronism in this time. I do not think it gets the best results,” Charlesworth told TOI. “In my opinion, the best teams have a critical mass of leaders who take responsibility for what happens, make decisions and solve problems. The more the better.”
The gist of the theory, which goes by the moniker of ‘flat leadership’ in management psychology, is that all athletes have to be part of the leadership process. “Flat leadership helps and requires all athletes to be engaged in the process and so challenges them to help the team do well. Otherwise, they become social loafers waiting for others to do things,” says Charlesworth.
The Aussie veteran hasn’t merely expounded this theory in hockey alone. Having served as the high performance manager of New Zealand Cricket until 2007, Charlesworth tried to introduce the concept among the Stephen Fleming-led Kiwis but “for various reasons it did not go forward.”
Stressing on the concept’s importance in cricket, Charlesworth, who played the game for Western Australia in the 1970s, says: “Perhaps the release of pressure would be good for players. Captaincy in cricket can be very demanding. No doubt John Buchanan has thought it through. When I played for Western Australia, we had many players contributing to our decisions. I assume Kolkata has many influential players with something to offer. But finally, it is not the answer to performing… what is needed most is skill.”
As the coach of the Australian men’s national hockey team, Charlesworth, says he will continue to work with the idea of a leadership group. “It has been practised for years and we will work in this way.”
Charlesworth’s predecessor in the men’s hockey team, Barry Dancer, who embraced the concept as wholeheartedly as many other coaches during his time, had this to say: “It stems from the fundamental argument that one leader can sometimes generate followers or no followers. We do not want followers. We need players responsible for their own actions and who are proactive. This increases productivity.”