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Sport Psychology and Successful Leadership in Action

Andy Flower An Integrative leader

Integrative thinkers don’t mind a messy problem. In fact, they welcome complexity, because that’s where the best answers come from.”
(Roger Martin, 2007; Cited Harvard Business Review Winter 2008).

We are in interesting, challenging and exciting times and no more so than in sport. It is refreshing to notice and convey the leadership skills of both Andy Flower (England Cricket Team Director) and Alan Shearer (Manager of Newcastle United Manager) both taking over in messy and uncertain circumstances and prevailing as well as creating a change in belief, culture and attitude amongst players and the team.

Andy Flower is an example of a successful leader, previously a successful captain. Flower thinks and approaches situations differently than the unsuccessful leader and portrays integrative thinking. He is an example of an integrative thinker! Flower conveys the qualities of a successful leader, this is shown by his decision making and ability to gain and maintain the upmost respect from his team (players and support staff). The strengths in Andy Flower’s leadership skills are conveyed in his ability to make tough decisions and at times sometimes unpopular decisions, however, taking the individual and unique situation and players into account; reflecting upon the correct solution whilst maintaining calm, and confidence within the team and England squad.  Flower has and is creating a mentally tough environment as well as a culture of understanding and communication; the strength of communication and the understanding of  relationships and awareness of individuals can be seen in the Flower and Strauss partnership.  A strong bond exists between the Captain and Team Director.

What this means is that Andy Flower can hold two opposing ideas in his mind at once and at the same time (Martin, 2007).  Therefore, rather than deciding or choosing A or B, Flower forge’s and creates an innovative ‘third way’ of thinking that contains elements of each and further develops and improves on each. Both Flower and Shearer convey and exhibit the ability of the new ‘habit of thought’, creating new solutions “the power of simultaneous vision from different standpoints’ (Martin, 2007) in difficult and challenging environments and unstable cultures.

Andy Flower is creating new habits and behaviours in the players and within the team by enabling and instilling belief and allowing the players to be themselves, as well as creating a sense of unity and collective belief within the team. Recognising individual strengths and listening to individual player needs as Flower did, when requested by Bopara to have specific practice and to address his own individual needs,  this resulted and affected the overall team performance in a positive way. Shearer by choosing and enabling his subs to come on and play a vital role in securing victory against Middlesbrough last night and encouraging a winning mentality and collective belief. Not to mention making perceived risky decisions which can be viewed again as an integrative thinker and successful leader; under pressure Shearer viewed the problem as a whole, examined the parts how they fit together and how decisions affect one another and then creatively and resolved the tension and deadlock by generating innovative and some may suggest risky substitutions. However, the creative way of thinking by Shearer and the new ‘third way of thinking’ enabled and instilled belief in the team which enabled Newcastle to win a key relegation battle last night.

Finally, the same of the integrative and ‘third way of thinking’ can be said of Flower who has made some innovative and some may say brave decisions in playing Onions and Bopara which was and is indeed a masterstroke as is the selection of Napier and Foster for the 20/20. The leadership of Flower is refreshing whereby he is creating a culture within the team and system who believe in themselves, each other and developing accountability, responsibility, honesty and a winning mentality; by recognising magnificent performances and utilizing his integrative thinking will indeed be a time whereby English cricket will and are experiencing a truly remarkable and humbling leader.

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