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Monday 9 December 2019
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Leadership lessons from football

Nicole Dyer-Griffith writes a weekly column for the Business Day.

As we approach the close of qualifying for our World Cup 2018 campaign, there are several areas that require deep introspection, reflection and consideration. And before we begin the usual blame game where fingers are pointed in each and every direction at the cause of our barriers to optimal performance, further, without a real and considered moment spent on debriefing and understanding the root causes, we will be doomed to repeating the errors of history. This week’s article seeks to utilise our national football experience as a lesson in the dire need for transformational leadership on all fronts.

It is important to appreciate that ascribing blame does little to build a suitable platform from which to develop new strategy. Our national consciousness requires a shift in thinking to encourage innovation and creativity, in terms of asking questions for which we do not have the answers [Judith E. Glaser]. By extension, this speaks to the development of a wave of creative and innovative investment strategies that remove us away from linear thinking that results in the ‘more of the same’. A simple example - what is stopping us from developing a professionally managed, youth development programme for our footballing community? What is hindering the development of a team of Under 10 boys and girls that feeds straight into the youth national football teams, where they are completely in synchronicity with each other on every level?

We are all aware of the newsfeeds filled with the various reported incidents both on and off the field of play, including boat rides, disciplinary measures, suspensions for curfew breeches, non-conformance to coach stipulations, wilful defiance… and the list goes on, many times resulting in player suspension and fines. This is the easiest method of discipline, but is it effective? And how does it impact the team’s overall morale and game readiness.

One of the key factors of transformational leadership is that of Idealised Influence. Small business.chron.com states this factor of transformational leadership requires the leader to assume the responsibility of a role model and display a charismatic personality that influences others to want to become more like the leader.

Idealised influence can be most expressed through a transformational leader's willingness to take risks and follow a core set of values, convictions and ethical principles in the actions he takes. It is through this concept of idealised influence that the leader builds trust with his followers and the followers, in turn, develop confidence in their leader. Are the leaders, coaches, management, associations all affiliated with the group of players operating in this role?

Another very important factor is individualized consideration. Small business.chron.com says each follower or group member has specific needs and desires. For example, some are motivated by money while others by change and excitement. The individualised consideration element of transformational leadership recognises these needs. The leader must be able to recognise or determine – through eavesdropping or observation – what motivates each individual. Through one-on-one coaching and mentoring, the transformational leader provides opportunities for customised training sessions for each team member. These activities allow team members to grow and become fulfilled in their positions.

In our scenario, do we take the time to understand each player’s potential? Do we develop individualised plans for their personal and professional growth? Do we understand their challenges, their limitations, their weaknesses their strengths? Or do we simply continue to require a group of young men, who hardly train together except for sporadic two-week intervals in camp, to miraculously develop the synergies required to face teams that understand that each player is unique and requires a unique development trajectory?

This factor of individualised consideration is equally important to the development of the team both on and off the field of play, as it not only provides the management, administration and coaches with a sound knowledge and understanding of the player, but it also provides good appreciation of the players’ background, history, and requirements to be pushed to an optimal level of performance.

This type of understanding, coupled with the equally important emotional and psychological support will present the best opportunity for optimal performance – both on and off the field of play, and most certainly would minimise the repeat of scenarios we saw, where a player took almost three minutes to be subbed while the team was behind in the game: an act performed not once, but twice.

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