Leadership Lessons from FIFA World CUP 2018

Leadership Lessons from FIFA World CUP 2018

The FIFA World Cup 2018 has been a phenomenal success. It has already caused its own share of heartbreaks and upsets with top contenders like Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Portugal, and Spain back in the hut, creating major ripples back home and elsewhere in the footballing world. It is now being touted as the most open World Cup with some less heralded names like Croatia, Belgium, and England hogging all the limelight. We will come to know the winner on 15th of July, but there is every chance that we’ll have a new World Champion this time.     

The FIFA World Cup is a unique spectacle unmatched in its reach and it stirs up emotions that very few non-footballing events can recreate. The players carry the load of their country’s expectations on their shoulders with passionate fans serving as both avid supporters and harshest critics. Messi is the prime example of a genius carrying the aspirations and expectations of an entire nation on his fragile shoulders. But the World Cup is not an event that should be watched, enjoyed, and critiqued in isolation. It’s a living laboratory that provides us valuable insights into various aspects of leadership and management. The downfall of various powerhouses in this year’s World Cup can serve as fascinating case studies for things that could go wrong while leading a team.

Some of the key takeaways from this year’s World Cup:

Develop Effective Communication

It comes down to the manager and leaders in the team to make sure that the strategies and plans are effectively rolled out and communicated to everyone in the team. The seniors and leaders in the team should take the onus on themselves to lead from the front and ensure that everyone in the team is aware of his place in the larger scheme of things. This was amply demonstrated by Harry Kane and others in England’s match against Tunisia, which England won by scoring in the dying seconds of the match.

Foster Camaraderie and Team Spirit

True leaders are those who promote camaraderie and team spirit within the team rather than glorifying individuals. This helps the team to achieve greater heights well beyond their capabilities. Russia’s victory over Spain demonstrated what buoyant team spirit and camaraderie can achieve even when the odds are heavily stacked against you.

Fuel Passion and Desire  

It’s the responsibility of a leader to encourage his teammates and fuel passion and desire in them to achieve greater heights. If you fail to do so, then you risk fostering mediocrity which will have its say in the long run. Germany’s demise in this year’s World Cup is a telling example of the lack of drive and passion in the aging superstars who failed to meet the expectations of a nation that prides in its rich footballing history. The lumbering figure of Thomas Muller on the pitch epitomized Germany's plight in this World Cup. The opposite holds true for England’s young team, which under the leadership of Gareth Southgate, has morphed into a competent outfit full of passion and desire. Their victory over Colombia on penalties saw them bury the ghost of the past and write a new chapter in their footballing history. They were on cruise control against the gritty Swedes in the quarter-final. They have reached the semi-final of the World Cup after a long wait of 38 years and there's every chance that they might go further.

Give Credit Where It’s Due

If a leader is open in his appreciation of his teammates and demonstrates an open and respectful approach towards his team members, it will encourage them to want to perform even better. It therefore comes as a surprise that many leaders are quick to find faults within their teams, thereby fostering resentment, which ultimately leads to poor performance. Rumors of alleged revolt in the Argentine camp against their manager Jorge Sampaoli after their humiliating defeat to Croatia brought to fore the delicate nature of the relationship that a leader shares with his team. The disagreement in the Argentine team spilled onto the pitch which ultimately led to their exit from the World Cup.    

Inculcate Pride in the Team

The team that is proud to wear its country’s jersey and is willing to give everything for it, is bound to go long in a tournament like the World Cup. It’s the duty of a leader to inculcate a sense of pride among the team members who are representing the country. Same applies for any organization. If the employees are proud of their work, the company’s history, values and goals, they will perform their best work and never be shy to go that extra mile.  

So, the World Cup has now reached the semi-finals stage and it will reach a feverish pitch this week, culminating with the crowning of the new World Champion on July 15. While we live and relive each moment with our favorite stars and teams, the tournament has already thrown up future stars and leaders like Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, and Isco who are ready to take on the mantle from the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar and add another chapter to the footballing folklore.  




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