From Bench to Boardroom

Have you ever wondered why so many stories of great leadership have their roots in the sports world rather than the boardroom? Why is it that we feel able to inspire on the field but fall back into a ‘corporate lethargy’ once it involves your salary?

The ability to influence others to do things that they might otherwise not believe they can do – or even want to do – is an essential skill for any leader. However it takes a willingness on their part to run the risk of failure or criticism and even unpopularity amongst colleagues, all of which is pretty uncomfortable.

As we enjoy the current run of success for the England football team at the World Cup, much emphasis has been placed on Gareth Southgate’s ability to create a relaxed team environment whilst no doubt being very clear about the task and challenges that lie ahead. His public statements encouraging the team to ‘enjoy the experience, and make their own history’ cleverly serve to both reduce expectations of the nation whilst placing the emphasis for success on the players themselves. Keeping a sensible perspective is vital when driving for success.

But above all, his key message has been all about unity, and through this he’s created a bond amongst the players where ego has no part. He is instilling a feeling of unwavering confidence that is evident on the field. Although I’m sure he was a bag of nerves during Tuesday’s penalty shoot out like the rest of us, he outwardly was the calmest person in the stadium – a very powerful visible message to his players that he had absolute confidence in them. What would it have said to them if, like the Colombian manager, he had his head in his hands and couldn’t watch? You have to be prepared to witness failure if you want to be a real leader. How many times have we heard commentators say that there is not the same panic at the back when the opposition move forward? That’s not arrogance. That’s trust in each other to do their job to the highest of their ability.

This unity though also requires a shared identity to be developed, and Southgate has cleverly focused on the similarities in their backgrounds and discouraged the usual cliques from forming. That means no egos and no Rooney. They have all worked their way up the hard way and that shared path is fundamental to England’s success.

And that extends to himself as the Manager. He’s been there. He’s had the experience and the disappointments. Who can forget him missing the penalty (ironically) in Euro 96 and subsequently appearing in a self-deprecating pizza ad.

The key is in getting back to basics, as he explained before the World Cup kicked off:

“We work hard for each other, we don’t carry anybody. They are all prepared to graft and dig in for each other. I know those are slightly old-fashioned qualities but we don’t have the right to stroll around a football pitch. We play with character and I love that about them.”

So let’s hope that the nay-sayers who claimed we wouldn’t get out of the group are as wrong as Alan Hansen when he claimed that Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United would “never win anything with kids” before they romped to the league title in 1996. Perhaps the Jules Rimet is shining down on Southgate and the lads this year? Let’s hope so.

Something to think about

Here are 3 things for you to ask yourself about your ability to Influence your teams:

  1. How sure are you that your team is on board with what you want to achieve? Is it your Vision or theirs? How can you test that?
  2. Are you really motivated by the task or objective? In what ways do you display this passion?
  3. When were you last really brave in challenging something in your business, or dealing with a difficult individual? How did you feel and was the outcome what you wanted or needed?

And a final thought until next time….

A leader is not ‘the special one’, but ‘the one who makes us special’ (Haslam and Reicher)

Come On England!!

Helen Cooper

Lead Consultant & Founder – Primaverita

Primaverita is a different type of business consultancy. We are a network of highly experienced independent trusted advisors who are experts in their areas, and have a real desire to share their knowledge and provide practical guidance to other businesses to help them grow. Visit to find out more.

By | 2018-07-08T18:14:26+01:00 July 6th, 2018|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Omekxbp 13th August 2020 at 3:37 am - Reply

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