Leadership & Culture, Performance | Jan 14, 2021
The Australia men’s cricket Head Coach on his greatest strengths, areas for improvement, and lunch with Sir Alex Ferguson.

“I’ve also often said, at the end of my coaching career, I’ll judge myself not on how many titles I win but how many wedding and christening invitations I get,” says Justin Langer of his playing group.

By John Portch

“Because if I do that it’s not just about being popular, it means I’ve had an effect on their life; they know I care for them.”

Langer is the cover star of our latest Performance journal, where he reflects on how his time with the national team has shaped his coaching style.

In this taster, he reflects on his qualities as a leader and the characteristics he feels define good leadership and teamwork.

What do you regard as your biggest strength?

I’m loyal – that can be regarded as a strength and a weakness! I’ve got a very good work ethic and I am very honest. I believe honest conversation speaks everything in life. If you look a person in the eyes and you tell them the truth, at least you can sleep well at night. It’s when you try and bullshit and sugar coat things that you get in trouble and, sadly, that’s what a lot of people do because they’re not willing to have the honest and tough conversations.

What strength do you admire most in others?

Honesty, work ethic and vision, I would say. I’ve got an old saying that I pick character over cover drives any day of the week. What I mean by that is there’s so much talent out there but I’m going to go with the person with strong integrity and strong character every day of the week over someone with perhaps a little more talent but with less of a character. I will back them every day of the week because under pressure they’ll come good for you.

What is the key to strong teamwork?

All of the above. Mateship, looking after each other. We’ve got a philosophy in the team: ‘we over me’; always considering what’s best for the team and not what’s best for me because, if you do that, that’s how things get splintered. You need to be caring and look out for each other. I’m supposed to be the tough guy but my No1 principle is that you have to care for people and show them love; that’s incredibly important. I watched The Playbook documentary [on Netflix] on José Mourinho. I had this preconception of him but what seemed to come through was how much he actually cared for his players and it’s no wonder he’s been so successful.

I had lunch with Sir Alex Ferguson before the Old Trafford Test in 2019 and one it was one of the great moments in my life. I got the same impression; he really cared for his people and I think that’s what the great coaches do. If your players know you care for them, gosh, they’ll run through brick walls for you. That’s my experience of the leaders I love and admire the most. They care for you, and that often means they can be the hardest on you at times because they’re telling you the truth and you might need to be a bit grounded every now and again. What I’ve learned in life is mentors who are have been the toughest on me are the people I respect, admire and love and they’re still my best mates or my best friends. Obviously our business is winning games of cricket, but if I get those wedding and christening invites, I’ll know it’s more than just winning and losing games of cricket.

How will you look to get stronger in your role?

Great question. I’m a shocking loser and what happens when I lose is that I get really introverted and I am aware of it. I come out of it a lot quicker now. By the time I wake up the next day I’m usually ready to go, but I talk about trying to be a Zen coach, trying to stay as calm as possible. My area of improvement now is trying to keep in perspective the days when you lose. We’re all going to lose and it hurts when you do. There’s some magic and merit in that, but on the days where we lose I want to try and keep a bit better perspective than I do.

More from Justin Langer and the world of high performance

Performance 22 is available for download now and, along with Langer, features coaches and athletes reflecting on a challenging 2020, as well as a range of performance insights from the WNBA champions the Seattle Storm, GB Hockey, and McLaren F1.

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