What HR can learn from Kane Williamson

Kane Williamson shakes hands with Eoin Morgan after the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.   | Photo Credit: Gareth Copley-IDI

With its inconceivable denouement, the 2019 ICC World Cup finals will be remembered for a long time to come. Even the super-over could not separate the winner from the loser. It required a further dip into the “rules bowl” to choose the winner — it seemed like a cruel twist of fate at the end, but a rule is a rule, and had to be applied dispassionately. But the most incredible feature of the match was not its nail-biting denouement, but how the New Zealand captain Kane Williamson spoke up for the system with its rules, even though one of those had proved heart-breaking for him and his team. By speaking with admirable restraint, Williamson seemed to be guided by an internal compass that helped him choose the right response.

“The rules were there at the start. No one probably thought they would have to resort to some of that stuff. But yeah, very tough to swallow.” Williamson would show admirable graciousness by stating that “England had a very good game plan and deserved the victory”. With that response, Williamson went up several notches in the world’s estimation as a leader. And two professionals working in the corporate space believe he was demonstrating a cardinal leadership quality that is extremely valuable in the corporate world — the ability to be gracious in failure, even when the failure comes across as undeserved. They believe his response showed what equanimity can do for leadership — they earn the leader the respect of rivals and team-mates.

Here is what they have to say:

‘A benchmark’

“Williamson's response marks a benchmark in leadership, and it applies to the corporate world. The response showed emotional maturity. Last year, we started a Future Leadership Programme, after carrying out a competency mapping exercise. As part of it, we identified positions that would need to be filled now and in the future. We shortlisted 32 employees at various levels who could step into these roles. A training programme was launched, and it involved special sessions once a month, and the progress of the leaders-in-the-pipeline was assessed during the training period and also after they had settled into their new roles. We noticed that those who displayed the right attitude delivered the best in their new leadership roles. These were the ones who avoided fruitless blame games, and instead stayed calm in challenging situations, and focussed on winnowing out factors that led to those difficulties.”

K.C. Kumar, executive director, Star Health And Allied Insurance Company Limited

‘It was surreal’

“We got so involved in the match that we lost our balance when New Zealand seemed to have been hit by a stroke of exceptional ill-luck. By the equanimity in his response, Williamson seemed like the outsider in all of this. It sounded surreal. We learn from Williamson that the respect is always reserved for the guy who chooses his response well in failure, and has the long-term goals in mind. With the right attitude, a setback will get neutralised, certainly in the long term, if not immediately. There is another example from the world of sport: Pete Sampras would be rarely seen on the court discussing a decision with the umpire. He would focus harder on the next point and seek to neutralise the disadvantage. The principle applies to corporate leadership. Those who are admired widely as a leader and last long in a leadership role are mostly those who naturally choose a positive response in failure and quickly move on to what is ahead of them.”

— M. Keshav, a learning & development professional working in the corporate domain

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 10:45:23 PM |

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