Leadership, MBA

What made Steve Waugh such a great leader

By Ducere Global Business School on July, 3 2017
Ducere Global Business School

A believer in the virtues of getting out of your comfort zone. 
Each country has something important in their culture that can be described as being part of their national identity. For France, we think about fashion, art and food, the USA, it is the glitz of Hollywood. For Australia, it’s sport. We love cricket because it’s ingrained in our psyche and embedded in our cultural make-up. In fact, it is often said that the Australian test captain occupies the second-most important position after the Prime Minister in Australia.

Steve Waugh captained Australia in 57 Tests for 41 Test wins, the highest winning percentage in history. Under his leadership, Australia entrenched their position as the best cricket nation on earth, in both the long form and short form.

So we thought we would apply the leadership principles of Ducere and the University of Canberra’s MBA – Innovation and Leadership to Steve Waugh to determine what makes him such a great leader?

A leader for the people

Justin Langer, the Australian cricket legend, wrote fondly of Waugh: “Steve was a leader for the people – he instilled confidence and made you believe because he himself believed anything was possible. Steve often challenged the group to be its own captain, to think for yourself and on your feet. He would convince you that every step you take on the field should be in a forward direction. So you make up your own minds.”

It is not easy to define but it is real the effect of Waugh's stature on his team-mates. "One of the key aspects of captaincy is the effect that the leader's presence has on the performance of his players," says John Inverarity. "And a lot of players do seem to do better for Waugh's presence in the side, so he ranks highly by that measure. They feel supported by him, inspired by him, want to be like him."


Getting out of your comfort zone

Waugh, a believer in the virtues of getting out of your comfort zone, trying to learn from others. He immersed himself in the environment, accepted the situation for what it is and then adjusted himself.

As his fame grew, and he was compelled to become a public figure, he became as famous for exchanging words with Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela as he did with Curtly Ambrose, putting his reputation to use in a variety of philanthropic works on the subcontinent.


Taking risks

For Waugh it was all about his ability to instil into the team the self-belief that would embolden them to take risks.

"I tried to get across to the team that no matter what the status of the game or how your form was, if you believed you were good enough to win you were a big chance to do that – so we would always try to play for a win firstly."
– Steve Waugh


Making a difference

Waugh helps to raise funds for a leper children's colony, Udayan, in Kolkata. He encouraged his players to learn about and enjoy the countries they visited and played in.

When Waugh retired from Test cricket, Gideon Haigh wrote in The Guardian: “This (interest in foreign cultures) began as a method of optimising performance. ‘Teams get into trouble overseas when all they do is sit around in their hotel rooms,’ Waugh has said. ‘You’ve got to enjoy touring or it’s going to become a chore. I really think that’s been the secret of my success away from Australia, that I’ve learned to go out and enjoy the places I’ve been, which means that you’re not so focused on how homesick you are or what your form is like.’”

Waugh was named Australian of the Year in 2004, in recognition of both his sporting achievements and charity work.


What makes a good business leader?

After analysis of Steve Waugh’s career and leadership skills it is clear he served as an example of integrity and loyalty to the people he represented, both to the public and within the team. The skills he applied are certainly transferable to the business world. Waugh was someone who:

  • Took responsibility
  • Develop interpersonal skills
  • Worked toward building cohesive teams
  • Listened well
  • Was an active and direct problem solver
  • Created standards for performance
  • Recognised and rewarded generously
  • Conveyed enthusiasm
  • Taught relevant skills
  • Made strong decisions and was accountable
Ducere and the University of Canberra MBA – Innovation and Leadership will expand your career prospects, complete three projects with real commercial impact alongside our course delivery partners – KPMG, NAB, Telstra, Federal Treasury, Save the Children and more.

From digital literacy to advanced leadership, and entrepreneurship techniques, you’ll gain the skills to adapt, innovate and deliver.  With flexible and self-directed online study, to real-world business projects and dynamic industry events, our Bachelor and MBA have been designed to meet the needs of the modern learner.


A truely unique MBA that provides practical and industry-relevant skills. Learn more.