Soccer, Leadership and the Pony Express

It’s finally over. The World Cup, soccer’s Super Bowl, is done.
Germany wins. Now, back to real sports on television (kidding, kidding…).
Though, obvious by my snide comment, soccer isn’t “my
thing,” it clearly has a world following. Mostly because other countries don’t
have baseball, football–the real one :)–or basketball to watch during
off-seasons, but no matter… millions watch soccer.
So, what can we learn from watching those games (assuming
you did watch them)? Well, aside from “don’t bet on the home team” (7-1 Brazil…
seriously??), there are some leadership lessons buried within that
larger-than-a-football-field arena…
1.  Winning
is not a one-man game
. Soccer has stars, to be sure, but the players don’t have
the luxury of quarters or periods. They go flat out for 45 minutes at a time.
At any given time, one or more players are “flat-out,” while others are just
“running hard,” the soccer version of on-field resting. 11 players on the field
for each team, and it takes all 11 to win. The German team wasn’t a collection
of bought-and-paid-for stars (think Miami Heat), but a well-honed team of
players who needed each other (synergy) to succeed.
2.  Short-term
actions, long-term view
. There are 54 total matches played during the World
Cup. Germany eventually won the World Cup by beating Argentina (the long-term
goal), but had to win six matches (games) before that just for the opportunity.
Strategy is necessary, of course, as are long-term goals. But it’s execution of
the tactical that takes us to the end. In short, both are necessary for
3.  Stopping
the reverse pony-express.
Long-term development of talent leads to long-term
business success. A close friend of mine derides organizations for what he
calls the “reverse pony-express syndrome,” whereby we ride a horse until it
nearly drops, swap riders, and start again on the same horse. Germany is a
great example of not doing that. As a true team, they relied on the collective
versus one standout player; so much so that the MVP was actually awarded to a
losing player. We don’t need the best individuals to get the best results, we
need folks who play well together and look out for the common good.
So, I may not be a soccer aficionado, and I may have screwed
up some jargon above due to my ignorance (forgive me, European colleagues and
friends), but the lessons are solid nonetheless, proving that even in the
mind-numbingly boring, we can derive pearls of wisdom.
Did I mention I prefer real football?
But that’s just me…

Kevin Berchelmann

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