The sporting world has been rocked by Australian cricket captain Steve Smith’s confession of being complicit in ball tampering.No surprise then that he and his vice-captain have stood down for the remainder of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.After all, cricket supporters...
The sporting world has been rocked by Australian cricket captain Steve Smith’s confession of being complicit in ball tampering.
No surprise then that he and his vice-captain have stood down for the remainder of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
After all, cricket supporters and former players from across the globe expressed dismay, disappointment and outward shock at the deceitful actions of the elite sporting leader and led the charge which forced Smith to stand down.
On the back foot and confessing to being complicit, Smith announced that his integrity, the team’s integrity, and the leadership group’s integrity have all come into question.
Few would argue against Smith’s assertions.
Adding fuel to the fire is Smith’s admission that the ball-tampering strategy was concocted by an unnamed leadership group.
How could it be that a group of elite cricketers colluded to hatch a scheme designed to compromise the very spirit of competition?
Well, in a results-oriented world of competition, with an exceptionally pronounced emphasis on being the winner there are many situations in which sports leaders, employees and players are faced with situations in which they are challenged to maintain their personal integrity and values in light of pressure to produce what internal and external stakeholders consider the desired results — a win.
The Smith incident is a classic case of his own compromised personal integrity, and that of others, in an attempt to produce a win.
Integrity, or being honest and fair, is one of the most highly rated leadership qualities in many global communities.
Yet the reality is that we live in a world where integrity isn’t talked about nearly enough and it appears to be compromised by many on a daily basis.
“Surely Steve Smith didn’t need to stand down? Didn’t he deserve a second chance? There was, after all, huge pressure on himself, the leadership team and players to achieve better results.”
Consider the employee who has run out of paid leave and phones in sick because they have an important family commitment to attend.
Take the job applicant who exaggerates their achievements on paper to secure an interview because they so desperately need a job.
Think of the salesperson who over-promises and under delivers, all in the name of making their quota for the month and receiving a cash incentive.
Consider the entrepreneur who overstates a project’s projected earnings to lure investors and make a quick buck.
And what about the customer service agent who disguises an error because they are concerned that a client will go elsewhere.
These are all examples of compromised integrity in everyday life in a world where “the end justifies the means” mentality appears to prevail.
So when elite sporting leaders compromise sporting values and the spirit of competition, why the huge outrage, and the immediate calls to stand down or quit the role permanently?
Surely Steve Smith didn’t need to stand down? Didn’t he deserve a second chance? There was, after all, huge pressure on himself, the leadership team and players to achieve better results.
Cricketers, after all, make mistakes too.
The difference lies in the nature of the role that Smith fulfils in his organisation — that of leader.
As leader, the value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be quantified.
A leader can have a compelling vision, outstanding strategy, exceptional communication skills, and a talented team to work with but if there is no trust, they will never get across the line to produce the desired results.
Many would go as far as to say that trust is at the very heart of survival as a leader. When mistrust enters the leadership equation, the rot sets in, placing a leader in an untenable situation to do their job effectively — to lead others.
For a leader, building a reputation of trust and integrity can take a lifetime, but that same reputation can be smashed in seconds.
No one would argue that Smith has many of the attributes of a great leader but he has lost that one quality that is central to and underpins leading others — integrity.
The question that remains now is not whether Smith can continue to be Australian captain beyond the third Test but exactly how long it will be before he is removed from his cricket leadership role on a permanent basis.
Professor Gary Martin is chief executive of Australian Institute of Management WA (AIM WA).