Proteas

Gary Kirsten singles out Graeme Smith and MS Dhoni as the best leaders he's worked with

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Graeme Smith of South Africa and his teammates celebrate with the ICC Mace after becoming the number 1 test side during day 5 of the 3rd Investec Test Match between England and South Africa at Lords Cricket Ground on August 20, 2012 in London, England.
Graeme Smith of South Africa and his teammates celebrate with the ICC Mace after becoming the number 1 test side during day 5 of the 3rd Investec Test Match between England and South Africa at Lords Cricket Ground on August 20, 2012 in London, England.
Tom Shaw
  • Gary Kirsten extolled former SA and India captains Graeme Smith and MS Dhoni's contrasting but impactful leadership qualities.
  • Kirsten called them the best leaders he has ever worked with in the sporting realm.
  • The former opening batter coached both nations and led India to World Cup success on home soil in 2011.

Former Proteas and India head coach Gary Kirsten singled out ex-captains of those respective countries Graeme Smith and MS Dhoni as the two best leaders he has ever worked with in sport.

Kirsten played under various captains during his time as an opening batter for South Africa, including the late Hansie Cronje, and later coached India to the Cricket World Cup trophy in 2011 and the No 1 Test mace.

He then had a two-year spell coaching his country from 2011 to 2013, during which SA also became the world No 1 Test team.

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Kirsten was speaking to Forbes India on leadership, where he extolled Smith and Dhoni's contrasting but impactful leadership qualities.

"The two best sporting leaders I've worked with as a coach were MS Dhoni and Graeme Smith," Kirsten said.

"You couldn't have two individuals further apart in their personalities and with very different leadership styles.

"Graeme was a great orator. He could motivate and move people on the platform.

"MS Dhoni is very quiet; not a big orator. He moves and influences people by his example."

Smith is the Cricket South Africa (CSA) director of cricket, however, his contract ran out at the end of March.

There is still no clarity over his position, which was advertised, and his disciplinary matter with the cricket governing body.

Smith is also rated as one of SA's best captains after his team's successes in England, India and Australia during his time at the helm.

However, it looks increasingly likely that his contribution to South African cricket will be put on hold if he does not continue in his current role at CSA.

Kirsten said there were a lot of different leadership styles but said one could not expect to be a leader purely on "career competence" or being the best performer in the group.

"I think there's a lot of different leadership styles and I think it is a learned behaviour," said Kirsten, who was appointed head coach of Ahmedabad-based Indian Premier League team, Gujarat Titans.

"You can become a better leader. We all have leadership qualities. [But], for me, one of the dangers of leadership is to think that you can lead by title or by competence - career competence.

"'I am the most qualified in the group, so I should be the leader. Or, I'm the best batsman in the team, so I should be the leader.'

"I think there's a danger attached to that. Leadership by instruction is not good because, basically, it's: 'I know more than you do, and I'm going to tell you what to do.'

"Leadership requires an enormous amount of self-discovery and growth to be able to become a good leader." 

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