Leading from the front

Cricketing great Justin Langer tells Real Estate Business’ Jessica Darnbrough that the secret to good leadership is discipline, determination and courage

After 105 international cricket test matches and his more than 28,000 first class runs, most people would know Justin Langer as one of Australia’s greatest cricketers. What many people wouldn’t know about Langer is that he is also an accomplished business speaker, property enthusiast, author and martial arts aficianado. The cricketing legend has written five books to date, including bestsellers The Power of Passion and Seeing the Sunrise, a handbook for overcoming self-doubt. Langer is also a well versed public speaker and has a unique ability to convey, through drawing on his cricketing career, how passion, commitment, determination and professionalism play a big role in a business’ success. But while he’s notched up his fair share of successes following his professional sporting career, cricket is never too far from the 39 year-old’s mind.

Today, Langer plays a pivotal role as batting/mentoring coach to the Australian test cricket squad. He says one of his most important roles as assistant coach is to motivate the team.

“Motivation is critical to success,” he says.

“If you are not passionate and motivated, success will always elude you. Any good leader must be able to motivate their team.”

But motivation aside, Langer says there are also many other attributes a leader must possess.

“Great leaders lead by example. Whether you are the captain of a cricket team, or you are the managing director of a company, you need to do much more than talk the talk – you also need to walk the walk.”

Langer credits cricketing stalwart Steve Waugh with being one of the nation’s great leaders, embodying everything a ‘leader’ should be.

“Not only was he a good listener, he was also honest and had the courage to stand by his convictions. In addition to all these attributes however, a leader must also be able to mentalise well.”

“They visualise victory or success,” he says, “and inevitably achieve it.”

Courage and determination

While he says Steve Waugh is one of the greatest leaders of all time, Langer himself is no stranger to leadership. The Western Australian-born and raised cricketer captained the Western Australia Warriors until the end of the 2006/2007 season.

Today, he remains the highest run scorer in Western Australia, having scored 9,951 runs from 118 matches. Despite his on field success, Langer is the first to admit that he suffered from lingering feelings of self-doubt throughout his career – feelings that were perpetuated by the fact that he lost his position on the Australian squad after just three test games.
Despite representing his country on the international cricketing stage for 14 years and retiring with a batting average in the mid-forties, Langer always felt he was scrabbling for his spot on the side. While the reality was somewhat different, Langer confesses to constantly fighting the feeling of self-doubt.

“I always struggled with the idea that I wasn’t good enough,” he says.

Langer realised, however, that his feelings of self-doubt did not benefit him or improve his game. Instead, they only served to hinder him and his success on and off the field.

“I realised that only one person could truly control my destiny – me,” he says.

“I looked inside myself for the courage to keep striving towards my goals.”

With that determination, Langer racked up more test hundreds than national treasures Doug Walters, Ian Chappell, Mark Waugh and Bill Lawry, and even scored an eye-popping 1,481 runs in 2004.

The art of discipline

It wasn’t just courage that helped make Langer a household name and certified Australian sporting icon. The batsman’s passion and discipline also helped him gain notoriety.

“You have to have discipline,” he says.

“That is crucial in life and in sport. At the end of the day, the pain of discipline is nothing in comparison to the pain of disappointment.”

“If you are disciplined, you will ultimately be rewarded. Of course, you will still have bad days – but failure does not result in defeat. In cricket we have a saying: failure is never final, because there is always a second innings.”

Langer says being able to see the bigger picture has been the key to his success. Today, he encourages everybody to take things for what they are worth –
“Don’t put unnecessary importance on them,” he says

It is important for people to focus on success, rather than failure, he adds. He also believes all success should be rewarded.

“One of my biggest regrets is not rewarding each success or milestone,” he says.

In 2001, during a cricket tour of the West Indies, Langer vowed not to consume alcohol for the duration of the tour. The Australian team won each game and the series remains one of Langer’s best ever batting achievements.

“I’m a man of my word, so I didn’t have one drink to celebrate our win,” he says.
“I’m not a big drinker, but I do believe that each success or milestone should be rewarded in some way – and in cricket, we tend to celebrate with a congratulatory beverage.”

According to Langer, celebrating the small successes is just as important as celebrating those major milestones. He says everybody should set themselves short term goals and reward themselves once these goals have been met.

“You need to enjoy the little victories. If you don’t, and the big goals don’t materialise, you will never feel truly rewarded for all your effort.”

And Langer would know. On his hundredth test match, he was bowled out for a duck.

“If I hadn’t celebrated the miniature victories along the way, going out for a duck on my hundredth test match could have been debilitating.”

Instead, he remembers the event with fondness.

“Success is all about perception,” he says.

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