Pulling up stumps: What the Australian cricket saga can teach us about leadership

Australian sports fans were shocked when three Australian cricketers were caught up in a ball tampering scandal, leading to the downfall of the Australian cricket captain and his deputy.

The public watched while the story unfolded with the Australian cricket captain initially stating that he and the “leadership group” had instructed another player to tamper with the ball. There was much discussion about how the culture of the Australian cricket team had gone sour and how the team had strayed so far from the path that it would resort to cheating.

Following an investigation by Cricket Australia, the “leadership group” was subsequently revealed to comprise the captain and vice-captain of the Australian team, with the investigation also finding that it was the vice-captain who had devised the scheme to use sandpaper to alter the surface of the ball. All three players involved were charged with breaching the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct and had sanctions imposed.

From that initial press conference to the players’ acceptance of the sanctions imposed, here is what the Australia cricket saga can teach us about leadership and how important it is for businesses to get leadership right from the start.

Leaders are your culture warriors

We have often discussed in our webinars and blogs the importance of developing and maintaining a good workplace culture and values. Central to achieving this is the development and selection of leaders that exemplify and embrace the organisation’s core values.

Hire for fit not favour

Recruitment will be a significant part of building and maintaining workplace culture and values so it is important to recruit employees who will adhere to and promote the values of the business. The best organisations, corporate or sports, will recruit or select primarily based on the character of a person.

Promotion based on tenure

Often employers elect to promote employees who have been with the business because of a perception that they have “served their time” even though the employee will not be the best person for the job or have the leadership or management skills that are needed.

Failing Leadership

As leaders play a central role in fostering and reinforcing organisational culture and values, it is important that they buy-in to the values and understand their role and responsibilities in setting the standard for other employees.

Action should be taken when leaders do not conform with the organisation’s values – unfortunately for Cricket Australia it appears that their inaction has resulted in a much-publicised scandal that has had significant consequences for everyone involved from loss of personal and corporate sponsorships and personal and corporate reputational damage.

Avoid the star performer with no social skills

When thinking about who your organisation’s next leaders might be, it should be remembered that not all employees are suitable for leadership or management positions. Employers often make the mistake of promoting employees who are the most talented or the highest income generators. However, those employees are not necessarily the best leaders of people. Placing these types of individuals into leadership positions can be disastrous and unsettling for a team’s culture.

Who will be your organisation’s best leaders should focus on who, first and foremost, you believe best represents your organisation’s standards and values and, who understands the importance of your organisation’s culture to the overall success of your organisation.

Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.


02 9256 7500 | sydney@workplacelaw.com.au


Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog.

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