Sunday, 5 July 2009

Dealing with Competition - a leadership case study

I've just watched a fantastic Wimbledon men's singles final where Roger Federer somehow managed to come back from a set down and 6-2 down in the second-set tie-break - with his opponent Andy Roddick thus holding 4 set points for a 2-0 lead.... to win 6 consecutive tension-filled points to make it a set apiece. He then took the third and it all looked over.... but Roddick came back to make it 2-all. The epic final set ended at 16-14 Federer and it set me to thinking: How much of effective leadership in business really comes down to granite determination to succeed? To willpower? To a refusal to give in even when defeat seems inevitable?

Neither man deserved to 'lose' in that amazing final set and it turned, as did the whole match, on a handful of crucial points. Cast your mind back to the same event last year and a similarly epic battle between Federer and Nadal - on that occasion Federer was finally 'beaten'. That must have been so hard to take - especially losing to the 'young pretender' who was expected to dominate from then on. Yet since that day Federer has recovered to win the French open and complete the grand slam of majors and now taken a record 15th major and 6th Wimbledon.

So many leadership lessons here; about self-belief, about giving your absolute all in service of a worthy vision, about accepting defeats and setbacks without allowing it to dent your determination or supress your expectations, and about constantly developing yourself to be the best you can be - an endless journey of lifelong learning.

Some cynics might say that Federer was able to prevail due to the absence of Nadal in both recent major tournaments. To them I say this; it is easy to belittle the achievements of others - to make excuses as to why someone else has achieved things you have not - many do so in order to allow themselves permission not to try too hard or recognise their own shortcomings. True leaders are better than this. But they also take full advantage of unexpected opportunities and the weaknesses of opponents!

I salute Roger Federer as a true champion. And I expect Andy Roddick to recognise that he has what it takes to improve his performance by the 0.1% necessary to win his second major and others beyond. Onward and upward.

It's what we do.

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