The example of Steve Smith in the ball tampering episode exposed today is the clearest example in recent memory where a failure of leadership has led to rule breaking. Failures of leadership always lead to rule breaking, it is just at what point this gets exposed. This is the essence of normalised deviance, where team members break smaller rules, and progressively bigger ones as the rule breaking becomes normalised.
In our normal work, failures of leadership can manifest as a ‘blind eye’ towards behavior that is undesirable, but gets results. It can manifest as an unwillingness to have a hard conversation with a team member who needs correcting. Very rarely does it manifest as collusion between a leader and subordinates to break rules.
The former examples progressively lead to a greater propensity to break rules. Normalised Deviance is a slippery slope - as smaller rules are broken and no action is taken, rule breaking becomes the norm, and greater rules can be broken. In its earliest stages, leadership failures can occur simply through giving someone the ‘benefit of the doubt’. Eventually, as larger rules are broken, rule breakers are able to refer to precedent, and leaders are unable to simply stop their team members’ behaviors, as doing so will implicate themselves. Eventually, the rule breaking becomes so brazen that all are exposed.
This is why Cricket Australia should sack the entire Australian team’s leadership group. The exposure of today can not be a ‘one off’, and a culture of normalised Deviance around the rules needs to be identified. The magnitude of this incident suggests that the leadership is unable to rectify small breaches, resulting in a culture that seeks opportunities to flaunt the rules, and then attempt to hide the evidence.
For the good of our game and pride in our national team, the leadership group involved must go.