Pietersen Personality


Kevin Pietersen’s career as an England batsman is over.

It’s an announcement that resonates well beyond the Cricketing constituency, possibly even within business. Certainly, there will be quite a few people thinking, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

In simple terms, the Pietersen saga seems to be this: he is a huge talent in his chosen sport. World class, even. But he cannot get on with those around him.

The history of sport is littered with similar cases of exceptionally talented performers who rubbed teammates (and their public) up the wrong way. And not just in sport. That is almost to be expected. Brilliance, by definition, sets an individual apart from the rest.

Remember Cassius Clay? He was vilified at first. Mother Teresa wasn’t easy to get on with. Willy Birmingham worked wonders on behalf of the Dublin homeless, yet he was always at odds with the regular world.

Star players do things differently, as well as better than the others. Often they have a different mindset, contemptuous of ‘average’ performance, obsessed with improvement, driven to win.  Such people are mavericks — resisting the dictates of the group, unwilling even to fit in.

Today, as they read about Pietersen, they must be drawing a parallel with themselves, examining why they do not fit in, wondering (yet again) why their own brilliance has not made them popular or sought after by their teammates or colleagues.

I wonder if there is a current culture of intolerance towards mavericks. If so, that would be a pity, because mavericks push the boundaries back, set new standards, break the old mould. They challenge conventional thinking and demonstrate what higher achievements are possible.

In business, mavericks are essential.  But so too are team players. The challenge facing business leaders is how to give mavericks their heads without disrupting the group ethic. In the present economic climate, many a maverick will choose to go it alone, free to set their own agenda but missing out on what could be achieved with the resources of an organisation.

Interestingly, some of them join social media groups, where once again they go through the whole process of not fitting in, choosing to dip in and out, quarrelling with the cliques, perhaps questioning their own social skills.

The Pietersen personality is more widespread than you might suspect. And while I hold no brief for that cricketer, I would urge managers in business and in sport to develop an understanding of the maverick mentality, and learn how to incorporate brilliance into the team.

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