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Sunday, 16 September 2012

So You Are a Great Leader? Then You Must be a Great Coach as Well!

It has been a summer to remember if you are even marginally interested in sport.  Starting with Rory McIlroy winning another major, the US PGA title, then the sensational Tour de France, the Olympics, the equally wonderful Paralympics and finally Andy Murray after his Olympic gold, did it at last and won his first and very deserved Grand Slam event at the US Open in New York.

Ironically, the only two sports which have not been noticeably successful, cricket and football, (Lancashire and Blackburn Rovers both relegated) are supposed  to be the most popular for spectators in the UK.  Tell that to the 80,000 screaming fans crammed into the stadium at 10.00am in the morning for the Paralympics.

Now I have severe withdrawal symptoms and the TV stands alone and dark with only exciting stuff like soaps and Real Deal available.

It was fascinating to hear in many of the post event interviews how almost without exception the athletes mentioned the impact that their coach had in their success.
Coaches like David Brailsford with Team GB Cycling and Ivan Lendl with Andy Murray, in very differing ways, have without doubt had an enormous and positive influence on their charges.
Oddly, and as far as I can discover, Lendl is one of the few coaches who have been major and successful players in their own right.  More often the coach is someone who loves the sport, was unable to reach top class as a performer, and became instead a coach and an influence.
Remember the story, possibly apocryphal, of the coach to the multiple Olympic gold swimmer, Mark Spitz, who apparently not only couldn’t swim but had a morbid fear of water.
Undoubtedly, his contribution to the success of Mark Spitz was what he was able to implant between his ears rather than in the pool where, technically, Spitz didn’t really need much assistance.
It would be logical conjecture to assume that Ivan Lendl had much the same effect on Andy Murray with the added bonus of being able to offer his opinions as to the way he was playing the game.  Murray’s steady rise to the top via runner up at Wimbledon, gold at the Olympics and now the US Open, dates from the time that he appointed Lendl as his coach.
So sport can and perhaps should be a metaphor for business.  It has been said by a wise commentator that one of the primary roles of the leader is that of coach; to transmit experience and expertise to the followers.
It isn’t a matter motivation; it is arrogant to think that we can motivate anyone; the best that we can achieve is to offer people an environment in which they can motivate themselves should they so desire.
If anyone is a leader in a business, at whatever level, then they need to understand the importance of coaching their team and helping them to achieve the very best they can be, like those wonderful Paralympians.  What a great objective in life that is.
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