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Sunday, 14 July 2013

It’s a Summer of Sport and It’s a Metaphor for Leadership!


At long last it seems like summer has arrived and there is a very difficult decision to make; do I work in the office, bask in the unaccustomed sunshine or do I retreat inside to watch the vast array of sport coverage on TV? 

There was no discussion last weekend, of course, and we all (17.9 million of us) played every ball with Andy and cheered him for the worthy winner that he was. 

As far as possible I jumped from Wimbledon to ITV4 to watch another great sporting occasion, the Tour de France and again a Briton was carrying the flag or at least wearing the race leader’s maillot jaune, the yellow jersey. 

Apart from the excitement and the pleasure of watching, albeit with a touch of envy, there are so many lessons to be learnt for business leaders. 

In all the excitement of Andy’s great achievement, and remember that he won in straight sets against the world number one, the role of Ivan Lendl, his coach, has not been exactly overemphasised. 

Since Lendl joined the Murray team Andy’s performance has noticeably changed and for the better.  A couple of years ago he seemed at times overburdened by the responsibility of being the only truly talented British male tennis player.  Unforced errors led to internal rants and a visible dropping of the shoulders. 

Since Lendl has been his coach, Andy’s whole demeanour has changed.  He is more mature in his approach, more controlled in his reactions, playing each point on its merits, and with a visible steely determination to win.  Add to that the significant and demonstrable change in his fitness levels all show the effect that the coach has had on his performance. 

Lendl has been a great champion in his own right but he says that when Andy is on court he plays the shots and there is nothing that the coach can do.  What he can and definitely does do is to instill in his charge a determination and will to win, and that shows in the change in the Wimbledon champion. 

Reverting to the Tour de France, there is a marked difference in that it is very much a team exercise while in tennis, like golf, you are on your own when in action.  Cycling in the Tour demands great leadership both on the road and in the dressing room and the Sky Team has Sir David Brailsford behind them. 

The Tour is an exercise (and I really mean exercise) in tactics right throughout every stage.  Each member of each team has a specific job to do whether it is protecting the team leader, climber, lead out or sprinter and the objective is to ensure that the leader wears the yellow jersey right through to Paris. 

Both sports offer important metaphors for business.  They emphasise the need for enlightened and active coaching either on the job or behind the scenes, and furthermore, they show what can be achieved with great leadership and equally great team spirit. 

The key is to know your objectives and then to make sure that you achieve them, either on your own or with a dedicated team.
 
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