Now the World Cup is over (at least for me as an England fan), it’s time to share my leadership observations. Sport provides a terrific arena to observe examples of both good and bad leadership. We’ve had plenty in Qatar, and I’m not going to mention the merits of holding an event there, and how it came to be. That would be a whole other post. Here are my top five leadership lessons from the World Cup
#1 Play as a team
This one sounds pretty obvious. In what is a team sport how else could you play? Well, there are teams and then there are teams. Just because eleven players where the same jerseys, it doesn’t make them a team. I am referring to a group of ‘all stars’ who are more concerned about themselves than the collective team. Witness how well true teams have performed. These are teams like Australia and Morocco who have few, if any, well known players. They work for each other and are committed to a shared goal. The difference is clear.
#2 Play the long game
Sport is different than business leadership in that you receive instant results. You win, draw or lose. Some coaches constantly change their approach, trying to find the magic style. Contrast that with the Croatia team who just made the semi-finals and who made the final four years ago. They are playing the long game. They know they won’t get great results each game, but over the long run being consistent has served them well. The key is matching your plan to your available assets.
#3 Don’t lose sight of the goal
The goal of the game is to score more goals than your opponent. These days we are given countless statistics about possession, shots, tackles, etc, etc. At the end of the day, success is about scoring more goals. Some teams seem to pride themselves on winning other games like most possession. It may look nice but how well is it working for you?
#4 Change the plan
Playing the long game is important, and on a micro scale so is making small tactical adjustments. In this tournament, many teams have used the half-time break to change their tactics. Teams have the benefit of a coach who is watching rather than playing the game. Who is watching the game and making adjustments in the business world? Or are we all too busy?
#5 Don’t Assign blame, take responsibility
After Portugal lost to Morocco, one of the Portugal players blamed the referee. He said they didn’t allow the game to flow and worst still accused them of bias. This same player missed the best chance of the game to score only a few minutes earlier. By blaming, we give ourselves no opportunity to learn, and how limiting is that?
What leadership insights do you have from watching the World Cup?