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A Leader who owned defeat – A perfect example of Accountability – Michael Clarke

The Ashes Cricket Cup is the ultimate for any Englishmen and Australian. Their pride is won or lost based on the fortunes of the Ashes Cricket series. Australia had whitewashed the English the last time around in Australia – a 5 nil victory over the English on Aussie soil about 18 months ago. It was payback time for the English and sure it was a payback in style.

The English reclaimed the Ashes after defeating the Aussies by an innings defeat Michael Clarke, Australia’s 43rd Test captain and fourth highest Test run-scorer has announced his retirement from international cricket after the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval later this month and after Australia slumped to an innings-and-78-run defeat to England 40 minutes into the third morning of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.

He claimed accountability for his defeat. He said

“As captain of the team my performances have been nowhere near the level and the standard they need to be an Australian cricketer and to be captain. The boys have worked hard, I don’t blame anyone in that change room. As a team we haven’t performed as well as we needed to  beat England, and as captain I certainly haven’t led from the front. I felt my performances weren’t as good as I wanted them to be.

You never want to walk away. My performances over the past 12 months have not been acceptable to me. Test cricket is about the Ashes. We tried our best, I certainly tried my best but we got outplayed. I certainly don’t want to jump ship and leave the boys now,I pride myself on leading from the front so (my form has) been disappointing.

One-day cricket is about the World Cup, test cricket is about the Ashes. We got outplayed, we got beaten. It’s time for the next generation of players, the next captain, to have his opportunity to try to build the team again and get them ready for the next Ashes series.”

It certainly came a shock to many cricket lovers. Just four months back he led Australia to another World Cup Victory after a tough tournament. Australia was back at Nos.1 in the world ranking.  No doubt his personal fitness and form had seen a dip over the last 9 Test Matches and last one year. Many felt that it is a temporary slump in form and he would bounce back (remember he had scored a scintillating century after Phil Huges death) a few months back.

One bad series and a prestigious one, he decided to step down. He owned responsibility for his defeat and admitted that he couldn’t lead from the front and wanted the next generation to take over and shape Cricket Australia’s future. What a moral high ground, what an example of Leadership & Accountability. May be that’s the way Australian Cricket and public wants and there is zero tolerance to failure.

Compare that with India, Mahendra Singh Dhoni lost series after series whitewashed, brownwashed but continued unabatedly with his Captaincy thanks to Chennai Super Kings connection & his BCCI boss Srinivasan. Duncan Fletcher continued for years after all his strings of defeats. Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi continue to dominate and lead a failing Congress Party after its most disastrous defeat in history.

Well that is why India is where it is and can never claim to take on world super power status. It will always be a Developing Country.

In today’s world too many people avoid accountability for their actions. When things go wrong they find someone or something else to blame. Look around you…I’m sure you’ll see examples. 

Too often, we have seen Leaders confusing between Responsibility & Accountability. Responsibility is when you are the one to deliver the result. Accountability is when you own the ultimate result – pass or fail.

Accountability is the guiding principle that defines how we make commitments to one another, how we measure and report our progress how we interact when things go wrong, and how much ownership we take to get things done. It is, in essence, the nerve center that runs throughout every part of the society /organization . 

Too often leaders of organizations take the credit when things go well, but they find ways to avoid responsibility when they fail. Accountability is too important for leaders to avoid. They need to be conscious of their every decision with the intent that no matter what the outcome, they will take responsibility for the results.

For those of you who are history freaks, you know that President Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk that read: “The Buck Stops Here.” It meant he accepted accountability for all the decisions of his administration. Truman’s stand exists in organizations today but, unfortunately, as the exception rather than the rule. 

Accountability goes beyond individual actions and decisions. Accountable leaders assume ownership for the performance of their teams – just like Truman assumed accountability for the performance of his administration.  

An accountable leader takes responsibility. Taking responsibility can be frightening but it beats the alternative which is having it forced upon you.

Michael Clarke was a fitting example of an accountable leader and wish every Leader in all walks of life, worth his salt follows his foot step….

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RanjanLRamesh Ranjan is the Founder & Chief Editor of Human Engineers,  an organization being formed to help Organization’s to make the most of its People” and co-creating value thro’  People”

He is a certified CEO / Leadership Coach, Mentor for Startups, Blogger & a Speaker. In a career spanning nearly 3 decades, he has been Head of HR and held leadership positions in India & globally in organisations like Schneider Electric India, American Power Conversion (APC), Chevron Texaco/Caltex India, Praxair India, Co Systems India, Indian Herbs & ITI.

He was the Honorary Secretary of the National HRD Network, Bangalore Chapter – 2000-2002, Cluster Lead – NHRD Bangalore Chapter (Whitefield & ORR) in 2014 and currently the Vice President – NHRD Bangalore Chapter. He was the member of the India HR Council of the AMCHAM, New Delhi, Panelist on the Roundtable of HR Directors of Petroleum Companies, ISP Mumbai and Member of the India HR Council of Conference Board.

He strongly believes that HR is not for faint hearted professionals. He believes that “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going” and can be reached at rameshranjan@humanengineers.com

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