The FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which began on 12th June 2014 and reaches its climax with the final being played on 13th July 2014, has enraptured much of the world, with breathtaking goals and exciting football. Are there leadership lessons that we can learn from this international spectacle?

worldcup2014Spain arrived in Brazil as the reigning World Champions, they left quickly after being eliminated after the second game. The Spanish 11 that started the World Cup included 7 players that featured in the 2010 final. They were comprehensively outplayed and beaten by the Dutch who had rebuilt their side and featured only 3 players from 2010. A leader often needs to make tough decisions and drop senior players from the management team. The manner in which this is done and the timing thereof set good leaders apart from the pack. Spain persisted to long with players that had passed their peak.

England and Italy, both countries with a strong football pedigree, yet they did not make it through the group stages. Strong traditions and pedigree may count for something, but they do not in their own right add to the score or ensure a win. In the changing world of work, tradition and pedigree do not guarantee success. Leaders who work for these organizations need to ensure that they reinvent themselves and do not solely rely on the company’s history or past.

The Netherlands were 1 nil down with 2 minutes to play in their first game of the knock out rounds, yet they won the game beating off a very competitive Mexican team. The game is played over 90 minutes plus referees optional extra time. The Dutch did not give up and reaped their fruits of their endeavors. Good leaders pace themselves to last for the full game. A change or tweak to the tactics may be considered, as when the Dutch substituted Robin van Persie and changed their playing structure. But they kept on playing the game and where rewarded with the win. Talented management will know when to make a tweak or change to take performance of the team to the next level, and will not be afraid to make bold decisions.

Individuals within the team can prove to be a game changer, but they should not be relied upon as the sole producer of performance. Portugal proved to be a one man team and when Ronaldo failed to reach the highs he is capable of, the team floundered. On the other hand, Argentina have Lionel Messi who has dazzled spectators with his skill and has consistently found the back of the net. But, Argentina have had a number of other players who have delivered quality performances that have kept the team in the game and helped deliver wins. Good leaders know how to get the very best out of a talented individual or star performer, whilst still keeping a strong team ethos intact. They do not build a team around just one individual but have quality personnel in key positions throughout the organization.

Individuals, no matter how talented they are, can also be the downfall of a team and bring shame to all. The shameful actions of Uruguay’s Louis Suarez, brought not only the game but also the team into disrepute. Good character and ethics will always trump performance. There is no substitute for trust. When a company, because of an individual, loses the trust of its clients, it finds itself in very trying circumstances. Leaders of caliber will understand that a company’s reputation of being trustworthy is worth far more than the potential achievements of any individual and will manage this dynamic effectively. Last, but by no means least the hosts Brazil, with massive fanatical home support were taken to the very brink of being knocked out, by lowly neighbours Chile. It was only a tense penalty shootout, after full time and extra time that had seen both teams very evenly matched, that saw Brazil triumph. But, a win is a win and to Brazil go the spoils and the right to progress further. A leader will always structure his team to go for the win, will take the win, even if it is a close one. Good leaders will learn from these close wins and use the experience to bond, blend and motivate the team to go further in the competition they find themselves in.

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