Once in awhile, there comes a story which is so incredible that it defies logic and makes us believe in miracles. Such stories have the power to change the entire landscape of things, but more
Once in awhile, there comes a story which is so incredible that it defies logic and makes us believe in miracles. Such stories have the power to change the entire landscape of things, but more than that give people hope that nothing is impossible. Sports has this power of inspiring people to dare to dream irrespective of their social status, religion, caste, education, profession, etc. This is such a story which is equally inspiring and magical and we as professionals can take immense lessons from and possibly implement the learning’s to achieve greatness.
Anybody who follows English Premier League Football will know what I am up to. The 2015-2016 season was dubbed as a normal season where top teams like the Manchester United’s and Chelsea’s were predicted to dominate. The English league is usually considered as the toughest and best league in the world due to its brutal nature. It is strong, physical and demanding. One needs to have endurance, fitness, agility, desire, talent, and perseverance to win in such a fierce environment. Only the ones which have the mind-set of winning usually survive in the league. And that is why throughout its history, there have been very few surprise winners in this league.
Just to put into perspective, since its inception in 1992 in the current format, there were only 5 different winners till 2015 (in 24 years). A closer look at this trend reveals that a team which has the biggest budget with big-name players and top manager (coach) has a higher chance of winning than smaller teams. These big teams tend to have a wider global reach with immense revenues and sponsorship deals clubbed with a large fan following. They tend to have larger stadiums all of which contributes to their enormous financial clout. This is the case in every field where the wealthy and powerful tend to have a better hit rate than smaller players. Now one might say that is completely acceptable and very few can argue against this opinion. But it’s always good to have disrupters challenging the status quo. And this is exactly what happened in English football during the 2015-16 season.
I bet very few must have heard about Leicester City as a football club. This is a club which was languishing in the third tier of English football 3 years ago and was fighting for their place in the premier league. Worse still, their manager who was highly regarded and much loved left the club at the start of the 2015-16 season. He was like a popular CEO who in spite of having great potential himself, took the responsibility of the club’s inability to grow and resigned. He had laid a foundation which, if rightly built on had the potential of becoming something good. The team he left had a bunch of players who hardly were household names. His replacement had his task cut out of bringing the best out of these unknown players. And though he was not new to the English league, this challenge was something different and he was aware of the task that lay ahead.
So he laid out a simple plan. One game at a time. Stick to what works best for the team. Understand the limitations and work with a limited talent pool (squad). Identify the best 11 players and the formation that works and ensure great backup in case first-team players got injured. Devise a strategy and stick to it no matter who the opponent was. And most importantly, play with passion commitment and hard work. With this plan in place, the team set out game after game defying odds and performing at a level which was deemed alien considering the limited resources they had (both talent and finance wise). And with this attitude… Leicester City lost just thrice winning 23 times and drawing 12 of their 38 games. This propelled them to a historic English premier league crown which at one stage had bets as high as 5000:1 on them winning the league. Mind boggling isn’t it?
So wondering where am I going with this? How is a football team’s success story relevant to a corporate environment?
A person with a keen eye will have immediately realized the striking similarities with Leicester as a club and any mid-level organizations. Imagine a manager is like a CEO, the players as employees and the club as the company. The recipe for success when you don’t have huge resources is to believe in what you have. Believe in your people and believe in their capabilities. It is not necessary to have the best talent in the world at your disposal to succeed, but rather learning to work around the shortfalls and bringing the best out of every individual. Each individual needs to feel valued in the organization and this comes with trusting the abilities in that person. Knowing that each person is capable of doing something special if given the right opportunities, direction and vision is key to success. At the same time, individuals need to align with organizations goals and should believe in themselves. They should show passion, commitment and hard work to overcome any shortfalls. As humans, we are susceptible to doubt and ignorance and rely deeply on inspiration. These human traits stand true no matter which profession one belongs to. One needs to be inspired to achieve greater things and this inspiration although mostly internal, requires an external push for it to truly become something special. And this is where great leadership stands out. Leicester’s manager not only laid out a perfect plan but inspired his team day in day out. He never criticized his players for failure, but rather took it on himself and moved on showing immense leadership skills and vision. Leaders who show vision while understanding the humane side of things, who show compassion at the same time demand excellence and who continuously inspire people with their actions are true leaders. An average leader with individual potential can transform into a great leader by simply adopting these qualities. This helps the entire team to rise above mediocrity and achieve greatness.
Keys to Success:
- Consistency in the personnel, planning, strategy, and execution.
- Keeping things simple.
- Staying true to your potential.
- Extracting the maximum out of each team member by focusing on an individual’s strengths.
- Having a great backup to ensure gaps are filled as and when required.
- Fitness levels made Leicester harder to beat: Keeping the team fresh with regular activities is must.
- Effective training to bring the team up to speed.
- An average manager with excellent man-management skills, strategic mindset, and vision can take teams to greater heights.
- Every individual in the team needs to know his or her role. Stick to the plan and do your job with dedication and commitment.
- And remembering that History is the past… but one has to dream of creating history.
Simply put, everybody can achieve something special if they use the keys to unlock success. And who knows, with this wisdom, ordinary people will do extraordinary things that will forever be etched in the pages of history books.