People & Leadership

From cricket to charity: Isa Guha’s powerful leadership lessons for female charity founders

Cricket legend Isa Guha shares her secrets to success when it comes to running a charity.

“I see lots of similarities between sport and business” says cricket commentator and former England Test Match star Isa Guha.

“The ability to work with the team to reach a certain goal… You want people to have fun. That’s the beauty and challenge of life in general—isn’t it?”

From the cricket pitch to the bustling world of non-profits, the parallels between sports and business resonate deeply, especially for women often playing on uneven fields. Isa offers a unique perspective on female charity founders’ challenges and triumphs.

As she charts her journey, Isa touches upon the importance of resilience, the significance of staying rooted in one’s “why”, and the often-underestimated power of kindness.

Inspired by her mum to inspire young people

Isa embarked on a fulfilling journey from the cricket pitch to the world of charity work by starting up an inspirational non-profit organisation called “Take her Lead”.

She explains: “We all take our lead from someone, and for me, it was my mum. I wanted to do something in her honour. Her philosophy drives what we’re doing around mentoring young people and allowing them to succeed in cricket.”

Isa describes the charity’s goal as creating a more inclusive environment for women and girls in cricket through empowering, amplifying, and connecting across the community. “Women’s cricket is in a great place at the top level, and we’ve moved so far in such a short time,” she explains. “But there is still much to do at grassroots and other pathways. The ambition was to ensure we were supporting in areas that needed it.”

Reflecting on women’s leadership challenges in sports and business, Isa admits: “You’re constantly measuring yourself based on your targets. And you want to create the best possible culture through good leadership.”

Here are her invaluable lessons that she would pass on to other female founders.

Be resilient

“You’ve got to be resilient,” says Isa. “You might have many ideas and ambitions for what you want to achieve, but rarely does it happen perfectly and how you want it. You will have knockbacks, setbacks, and challenges. It’s about finding ways to provide solutions so you can flourish and thrive.”

Just like batting in a cricket match, business is unpredictable. The in-swingers and out-swingers will come, but it’s how you play them that matters.

Stay true to your why

Building a charity from the ground up is no easy feat. It requires an unwavering commitment to your mission, a clear understanding of your goals, and a willingness to weather the inevitable highs and lows of the journey. Isa says you must do a lot of listening, “understanding why you started it in the first place.”

Never underestimate the importance of kindness

Kindness and compassion are non-negotiable behaviours for the people Isa works with. She explains: “There are a lot of pressures, with everyone having their own thing going on. A bit of kindness now and then is helpful.”

Boost your people’s strengths

“Encourage people to embrace their individuality,” Isa explains. Catering to employee needs and showing empathy enhances employee satisfaction and drives better results.

Isa advises leaders, however, to “keep boosting people’s strengths but also recognise where there are areas for improvement.” Identify where their strengths are and how you can work together to try and level them up.

Your tribe matters

In setting up your charity, Isa says: “You need a good support network around you. Drill down to what your needs are first and foremost.” They are the ones who believe in your mission, provide guidance and encouragement, and stand by your side through ups and downs.

Don’t wear all the hats

This is a common challenge that can slow down many founders. “I think a challenge we’ve had to overcome, as a startup, is feeling like we need to do everything,” Isa explains.

“I think sometimes you need to take a step back and recognise the challenges and solutions, but also set strategies to what is achievable in a year or three years.”

Time is a gift, be ready to give it

“Be prepared to give up a lot of time,” Isa says firmly, on her advice after setting up her charity. You’ll need to put in the effort to make a meaningful impact and achieve your goals.

Picture your success

“Visualisation is important in everything you do.” Isa says that she and fellow England cricketer Katherine Sciver-Brunt listened to metal music to gee themselves up when she was actively playing.

“Visualisation was important for me, so before the game, I’d always think about how I wanted to bowl—what was my best delivery. I was visualising that happening.” This process involves mentally creating vivid images of your desired outcomes and experiences. It’s a technique used by athletes, performers, and successful individuals across various fields.

By envisioning your goals and the steps needed to achieve them, you can tap into the power of the mind to turn your dreams into reality.

How to knock it out of the park

From the cricket field to empowering female-led non-profits, Isa Guha insights testify that the essence of success in any sphere is passion, resilience, and a touch of kindness.

Whether taking your first step into entrepreneurship or sport, remember to keep your “why” close.

Every boundary broken, every challenge overcome, is a win for you, your charity, and those you are supporting.