Reading the game, trusting her instincts, and developing the right tactics are the aspects of captaining Australia’s national cricket side that come most naturally to Meg Lanning.
It’s the other side of things, like ensuring she’s getting the best out of her teammates and balancing the weight of each person’s strengths and weaknesses, that becomes a bit more challenging.
As Lanning tells Kate Mills in the latest episode of The Leadership Lessons, it’s important to get the interpersonal relationships right, when leading a team.
“The on-field stuff in cricket comes more naturally to me. A lot of that is based on instincts and reading the game, and you get better at that with experience, and the more you play,” she said.
“The key to being able to bring everyone together and trying to get everybody’s strengths and weaknesses to work together is a big challenge.
“I’ve learnt over time to try and get to know people really well on a personal level and try and build that trust and the relationship. If you can do that, it really does help things to flow onto the field.”
Lanning came into the captaincy of Australia’s national cricket team without any prior leadership experience. She was only 21 years old when she took the reigns, and it all happened in a moment she didn’t quite expect – at first, she was only filling in for an injured Jodie Fields.
The situation meant she was thrown into the deep end right away, despite the fact she’d never really sought out the leadership.
Although she was charged with making the important calls on and off the field, Lanning said her inexperience actually meant she could just go with the flow.
“I was definitely learning on the job a fair bit, and I had no idea what I was doing,” she said.
“In a lot of ways, it just allowed me to try new things and work it out as I went, in terms of the way I wanted to be a leader.
“There was a lot of learning very quickly, but in the end, it allowed me to go with the flow a fair bit.”
Fast forward through an eight-year period as captain of Australia, Lanning now prides herself on being a collaborative leader, who actively listens to her team, taking their thoughts on board.
“For me, it’s trying to be really personable and understanding other people, and trying to see things from their perspective,” she said.
“I’m willing to listen a fair bit and get other people’s ideas of how things might work the best, because when people feel like they’ve had input and got some control over where the team’s going and how it’s running, you can get a lot more buy in from everybody.”
Despite the many highs the Australian Women’s Cricket team has experienced in recent years (the ICC T20 World Cup in March 2020, played in front of 86,000 people at the MCG sticks out as a prime example), it’s not all been easy going.
In the podcast, Lanning reminisces on a period in 2017, when Australia headed in to a 50 over World Cup as outright favourites.
“On paper, we were probably the best team in the world, but we were pretty comprehensively beaten in the semi-final by India,” Lanning explains.
“It was a bit of shock at the time and it really did hit us pretty hard. Once we reflected on that, we probably realised as a team and as a leadership group, that we probably weren’t getting the best out of ourselves.
“That was a hard moment, but also a bit of turning point for our group. From that moment on, we changed the way we approached things. We came up with a new set of values and the way we wanted our team to operate.”
The team’s commitment to turning things around from that point has paid off in spades. Twice in a row, they have been ranked the national team that Australian sports fans feel most the most emotionally connected to. This achievement also speaks volumes of the progress Cricket Australia has made to prioritise and develop the national women’s side. Lanning agrees.
“I think cricket’s been leading the way in terms of how much they support the game of cricket, both men and women,” she said.
“The more we talk about it and the more that young girls and boys can see their heroes and their idols on the path that they perhaps want to be on, I think that’s going to continue to push that message.”
You can listen to this episode of The Leadership Lessons on your favourite podcast app.
The Leadership Lessons podcast series, hosted by Kate Mills, is a set of interviews with brilliant female leaders across industries, sharing their perspective on the critical decade ahead.
The Leadership Lessons is supported by Salesforce.