Kevin Pietersen is one of the greatest cricketers of his generation, a tremendous talent, very exciting and entertaining to watch.
However I always had the impression it was more about him than the team, and controversy has followed him wherever he has played, including the time he was censured for sending tweets to opposition teammates criticising his own captain.
Not only is that unprofessional, but it is definitely not in the best interest of your own team, you have now given your opponents something that they can use to undermine your team unity and give them an advantage.
This is not something that team players do. Team players work hard to help the overall contribution of the team be greater than the sum of the individual contributions.
Pietersens’ individual contribution was often big enough to overcome the negatives that he brought with him. However, when his formed dropped, then the situation was reversed, and the negatives significantly outweighed the positives which had an overall negative impact on the team.
Pietersen never seemed apologetic, often criticising others, and failing to see his own contribution to any failings within the team.
I did think, when England brought him back after his previous misdemeanours, that this was a mistake, for a couple of reason.
Firstly, you’re hoping that the players form will be good enough to outweigh the negatives and without a crystal ball thats always going to be a gamble, and secondly, you have now basically given the impression that one person is more important than the team.
The message to Pieterson is clear, “we need you so much, that we are prepared to put up with your behaviour”.
I am sure that the team management made it clear to Pietersen that they wouldn’t tolerate any more outbursts from him, but by inviting him back in, you’re sending conflicting messages, your words say one thing but your action say another.
From a leadership perspective this is a very difficult challenge, because Pietersen is not unique, there are many great talents who are difficult to manage, they can be outspoken, arrogant, egotistical, or just down right odd, and its these behaviours that actually help them to be great.
We need to find a way to integrate them into the team and make them team players, accentuating the positives and minimising the negatives, getting that great contribution out of them.
What we cannot do is put them above the team, as soon as we do that we have lost control, and we have put them in charge, which can have the effect of multiplying the impact of negatives.
We need to retain control. we need to be firm, we need to put the team first, and if we find that we cannot manage such personalities, then we should look to take action to address this.
One option could be to give up leadership of them team and hand it over to someone who can manage these prodigious talents, that would be the leader showing himself that there is no I in team, not even when the I in question is the leader.
Or more likely, it would be sacrificing the prodigious talent in return for team harmony.
These are not easy options to make, especially when you have public opinion to deal with. The public only sees the performance on the field, they don’t see the negatives which often go on behind closed doors, and they will be quick to criticise the leaders for their poor management capability.
We all love a maverick, but not necessarily if we are the ones who have to manage them.
Have you ever been in such a position or had to deal with such a talent, if so please let us know how you tried to deal with it.