It could be argued that Flower had earnt the opportunity to put right the wrongs of Australia. That having led England to the coveted position of number one in the world, he knows what it takes to build a successful team.
But something has gone badly wrong Down Under. On his watch England have significantly under-performed. Players have openly admitted to a lowering of standards off the field.
One of the main roles of a leader is that of Surveillance. In other words to be vigilant upon the small details that impact upon performance.
Thus timekeeping, attitudes, mood, intensity, player relationships, team spirit and a host of other details should all be closely observed by the team leader for signs of dropping of standards. Or if the team leader can’t see them himself, his number two should be his eyes and ears. Quickly alerting the leader to changes in mood, morale etc.
So when a dropping of standards is observed, the leaders job is either to act immediately, or simply observe and wait to see if the things improve of their own accord.
Good surveillance is about being able to stand back. To take time out from doing and being ‘busy’. But some leaders are scared of doing this, in case it makes them look like they are not working hard! Stepping out of the bubble is a critical, and mis-understood leadership skill.
So, failure to act, will mean that a new lower standard can quickly hold sway. People, who have got away with something once, will come back to see if they can get away with it again. Quickly a new, weak, off the field habit can inhabit the team dynamics leading to poor habits on the pitch.
The under-pressure to get results leader, far too pre-occupied with outcomes, fails to notice the critical small details that impact on performance. People can’t seem to put their finger on what is going wrong. Because they have stopped looking at the right things.
High-performance leadership can be demanding. It can eat away at mental clarity. The leader needs strong people around them who can tell it like it is. Not yes men, who play safe and daren’t say difficult things, so as not to cause offence.
Those leadership demands can lead to burn out and battle fatigue, that means the leader can no longer see the obvious. The problems can be right under their nose, but their ability to observe and act has become negated by overbearing pressure.
Andy Flower can be proud of his achievements with England. But it’s likely that he will look back on this shambolic tour of Australia with some regret. He was let down by his under-performing players for sure. But on his watch, high standards slipped. And that, ultimately, is the responsibility of the team leader.