What Leaders Can Learn From NZ’s Black Caps

The Cricket World Cup 2015 was a sporting event that will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of New Zealanders. 

The last seven weeks has been nothing short of epic. For the first time in history, the NZ Black Caps made it to the world cup final, with the entire country alongside them. 

[Tweet “Although the Black Caps didn’t win, they were anything but defeated.”] 

There are so many leadership lessons we can learn from sport in general, but the spirit in which the Black Caps played exemplified everything leadership should be. 

Here are 4 leadership lessons from the Black Caps:

1. Be gracious in defeat. Even when the opposition are not. This is the essence of true sportsmanship. And good leadership. Black Caps batsmen Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott and Daniel Vettori, were given aggressive send-offs by members of the opposing team in the final match, but they didn’t retaliate. 

As a leader, there are times when you are disappointed in yourself. There are moments when you feel as if you have let the team (and organisation) down. There are people who respond in an unsavoury way. Heck, they might even kick you while you’re down there. But always be dignified. Hold your head up high. Be gracious in defeat. That will live in your own and others’ memories long after the stuff-up.

2. Change when you need to. But think outside YOUR square. It wasn’t all that long ago the Black Caps were written off on the international stage. After some hurtful losses in 2013, they completely turned it around. How? Captain McCullum said they considered both internal AND external points of view when driving change – in particular, the NZ public and their fans. They balanced following their own intuition and self-knowledge with listening to external perspectives and loving their stakeholders in the process. They didn’t let their ego get in the way of positive change.

3. Practice your performance. When Elliot cracked a match saving six with just one ball to go in the historic semi-final win over South Africa, 40,000 people were in raptures in the stands. I doubt whether there was a quiet household in the country at that moment. 

How is it even possible to not only stay calm, but produce a match winning result, under such immense pressure? Performance practice is the answer.

Elite sportspeople practice how they play. In leadership, it’s also what you do and how you behave every day, day in and day out, in ordinary times. This type of performance practice is what leads to great leadership in times of crisis, when you’re centre stage (like Elliot was) or when the rubber hits the road.

[Tweet “Practice on being your best definition of a good leader every day you can.”]

4. Don’t give up. Not long ago, the Black Caps were in a dark place. Even though some fly-by-night fans deserted them and they suffered immense public criticism, they looked at themselves in the mirror. They tried different approaches and perhaps most importantly, they didn’t give up.

Behind any story of success, there are stories of tough times and dark days. Having a really, really bad day, bad week, bad year or bad season? Remember, “This too, shall pass.” Don’t give up on your dreams. Even if its getting through the next day, or even the next hour, just put one foot in front of the next. Don’t give up.

What other lessons and insights can we take from the Cricket World Cup 2015? I’d love to hear from you.


  1. Nick Jessett on March 31, 2015 at 6:05 am

    Hi Suzi,
    There is often more to be learned from seeming defeat than victory (as a fan of English sport we get a lot of practice) – success is a journey born from learning from experience. Great blog!

    • Suzi McAlpine on March 31, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Thanks Nick – I couldn’t agree more. So often the diamond is in the disappointment. Always great to hear from you, appreciate your support 🙂

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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