Rahul Dravid: A Role Model for Great Leadership

Rahul Dravid is one of India’s most successful sports persons. He is regarded as one of the greatest batsman, the game of cricket has ever produced. Rock solid defence, impeccable technique and incomparable commitment were his signature strengths. What Paolo Maldini was to soccer and Hakeem Olajuwon was to the NBA, Dravid was to cricket.

As captain, coach, and mentor, he has brought many laurels to Indian cricket. He’s been in the news recently as coach for the amazing World Cup Cricket victory of the India Under-19 team. Here’s what makes this soft-spoken, gentleman cricketer such a powerful leadership influence:


In India, cricketers are celebrated and worshipped as demigods. The heady mix of success can really get to the head. They can easily start to believe that they are invincible. But, Dravid is a rare example who often (and openly) recognized areas that were not his strength. As a top-order batsman who always batted at no. 3, Dravid actually batted at no. 8 in his last match. This was for the Rajasthan Royals in Indian Premier League or IPL in 2013. His view? “…my focus was to ensure that we won. With a target of 200, we were chasing 10 – 11 runs an over. This wasn’t my strength. And, certainly not at the age of 40. That’s why we decided to push the other guys up…”

It was his last match in any form of cricket. Millions were watching on TV and thousands in the stadium. And yet, he employed tactics from a place of deep, self-awareness unclouded by ego.

Building a Team Culture of Respect  

When asked by an interviewer, what role Paddy Upton was playing for his team in the IPL, Rahul shared how he was “a big believer in creating the right environment that allows people to grow.” Especially on a platform like the IPL which involves, junior, senior, foreign, experienced (and less experienced) players, he said it was crucial to have:

  1. good synergy
  2. constant, open communication
  3. knowledge sharing

He reiterated that this wasn’t something that the captain and coach alone could create. And this had to percolate down from the owners, management, and other coaching staff as well.

Emotional Regulation

In today’s international cricket, scenes of wild celebration, glaring and overt aggression are common. When we look back on Dravid’s career, we seldom find evidence to any of these, both on or off the field. There were no angry outbursts or screaming celebrations.

Even in the recently concluded victory of the India Under-19 team, Dravid asked the boys “to cherish the moment but be respectful of their opponents.” His trademark included controlled aggression, respect for the opposing team, and polite celebrations of victory. In an interview, he did confess to “letting himself go” a couple of times in the privacy of the dressing room. It was in sheer frustration for a bad shot or for throwing away his wicket cheaply. But those were rare exceptions in a 25-year career.

Sharing Credit Generously 

Harsha Bhogle once joked and said how, as a cricket lover, it’s never easy to decide who is more elegant to watch: Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman? Dravid didn’t bat an eyelid when he said: “I think VVS is. By a country mile.” Dravid is a cricket legend himself. But, he spoke generously on his privilege of having played with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, and Azharuddin etc. during his career.

When the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced rewards for the winning India Under-19 team and the coach, he expressed disappointment at the huge disparity in compensation. He said: “It’s embarrassing at times because I tend to get a lot of attention and focus, but it is really about the support staff and the quality of people who we’ve had. I don’t want to mention names but everyone in the support staff has put in a great effort. We do the best for the kids,”

Today, cricketers earn millions through brand endorsements and BCCI rewards, the likes of Dravid are far and few, in between. His leadership is the stuff that legends are made of and can be implemented – not just in sport but also in the board rooms of corporate organizations.

Dravid as Leader, Coach and Mentor

Once, Harsha Bhogle was discussing life after retirement for Dravid. He asked why Dravid chose to play lower division cricket after a phenomenal career in international cricket. After all, he has amassed those runs facing some of the fastest bowlers and the toughest spinners in cricket history.

In classic Dravid style, his response was: “…When I was young, I grew up playing against the likes of G R Vishwanath, Roger Binny, Sudhakar Rao. It was a huge thrill for me. I learned so much from them. So, I thought I should give back to my club. I should offer the same opportunity to the youngsters of today. And, I enjoy working with these kids and mentoring them…”

Which sports icon inspires you?

As former captain, coach, and mentor, Dravid’s life and career are great examples of how leaders can work towards:

  1. Becoming more Self-aware
  2. Build a team culture of respect
  3. Manage Emotional regulation
  4. Share credit generously
  5. Invest in coaching and mentoring younger, less experienced ‘players’

So, who is your great role model in the world of sport?

Anitha Aswath | Coach, Consultant, BloggerAnitha Aswath is a Senior Leadership Coach, Team Consultant, and Global Facilitator. She has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and is trained by The Marcus Buckingham Company in StandOut and Strengths Coaching for Business Leaders. She is currently pursuing Brain-Based Coaching Certification from the NeuroLeadership Institute. An avid photographer, blogger, aviation enthusiast, Anitha is also a student of Indian Classical Music of the Hindustani style.

In an illustrious career spanning 20 years, she has served organizations like General Electric, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Target, and Cisco in regional and global capacities. As a Leadership Coach, she works with clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of leaders and their teams.


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