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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Now We Have a True Test of Leadership

Oxford University's Said Business School staged a conference recently on "The Future of Leadership." A survey of Oxford MBA students found that a hefty majority of them thought that there was a major vacuum in leadership today. More than three-quarters (76%) said this was the case in politics and society generally and 82% thought it was the case in international relations. Interestingly, business emerged as having stronger leadership, with 41% identifying it as having a leadership vacuum. One explanation advanced for this was that business rewards good leadership far better than other fields.

The consensus of the conference was that good leaders needed to have moral courage; they needed to be prepared to take risks; and they needed passion.

It may be the case that political parties should encourage and help some of their bright young things learn about leadership. The unseemly haggling that has gone on in the U.K. in recent days as the three main parties tried to cobble together a coalition has not shown political leadership at its finest. With the public already disenchanted with politicians, perceptions will not have been enhanced by the horse-trading that has taken place in the quest for power.

Now, however, the country has a new prime minister in David Cameron. He faces a looming financial crisis on a frightening scale. This is a true test of leadership. Unless he moves hard and fast against the deficit, the markets will pass a very early judgment on his leadership and it will not be flattering. It will also be irreparable.


Insights on Coaching Olympic Athletes

This is an interesting reflection from Dr Paul Schempp of the University of Georgia:

‘I recently invited US Olympic Swim Coach, Jack Bauerle, to share his insights and experiences on coaching with one of my classes at the University of Georgia. In addition to coaching our US Women’s Swim team at the Beijing Olympics, as the head swim coach here at Georgia Jack’s teams have won 4 NCAA National Championships and a host of other honours and championships. In his 30 years of coaching elite athletes, he has not only amassed an amazing record of success, but has also built a wealth of knowledge, skill and experience in coaching.

As Jack spoke, several themes permeated his message. The first and one that resonated with our research on experts was his conclusion when describing an athlete’s accomplishment. He would, for example, detail the training regiment and personal struggles a particular athlete overcame to claim an Olympic medal. And regardless of the athlete or the accomplishment, he concluded the same way: “No one worked harder.” He never said “No one was more talented” or “No one was luckier.” He said: “No one worked harder.”

Former Dallas Cowboys star, Roger Staubach, put it another way: “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.”

Jack is as enthusiastic and focused on his coaching when he walks into our building for a pre-season practice in early summer as he is eight months later as he prepares his teams for the National Championships. Jack knows that every practice counts—from the first to the last. As a coach, it is all about preparing your athletes, and then letting them do what they do best.

In Beijing, Jack did not directly witness a single one of his athletes win a medal. And his athletes won more medals than any other Women’s Olympic Swim Team in the history of the Games. Why? Because while each swimmer was in the water fighting their way to victory, Jack was in another part of the venue preparing the next athlete for their competition. The second theme I heard in Jack’s remarks was we can only expect great results when we have given our best efforts to being as prepared as we can be to succeed.

As we closed the lecture, I asked Jack if he had any advice for these students who were in the early stages in shaping a career. This is where the third and final theme became clear. He told the students to “follow your passion, not a paycheck.” The famed football coach, Joe Gibbs, said “People who enjoy doing what they do invariably do it well.” Jack loves what he does, and does it unquestionably well. But more importantly, people who follow their passion are happy in what they do. And at the end of the day, isn’t happy where we all want to be? Thanks Jack.’