World Cup

RLL 39--Lessons from the World Cup (Knockout Rounds)

RLL 39--Lessons from the World Cup (Knockout Rounds)

Greetings again, fellow leaders! This week I wanted to share with you a few of thoughts that I've had after watching the first two knockout rounds of the World Cup, one inspired by England's performance, one by that of Russia, and one by that of France and Belgium.

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First, England has advanced to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990, and on the way they had to defeat Colombia in a shootout in the Round of 16. For those of you who don't know, England historically has been dreadful in shootouts, especially in major competitions (google "England shootout record" and the first article is about how they have literally the worst record in the world at these). This year, however, was different, and one of the major reasons is because of a decision by head coach Gareth Southgate to change the history and mentality of the England squad. His lesson was to "own the process", or in other words, to control what you can control. By doing this, he instilled a mental toughness in his side that allowed them to overcome not only their opponent but also the burden of England's history regarding shootouts. Control what you can control.

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Second, Russia has been the fairy tale underdog story in this tournament, going from a team that everyone expected to be very poor to coming within touching distance of the semifinals. Despite the pre-tournament predictions of failure, they have overcome what many considered a lack of skill and have drastically exceeded everyone's expectations. Two major reasons are because of their effort and because of the support they've gotten from their home crowds. Two quick things to be learned from this: one, passion and effort can make a huge difference, even if you may not be as "good" at something as your competitor. Sports history is filled with stories of teams overcoming long odds against superior opponents, and this Russian team has added to that list. The second thing here is: motivation and encouragement are crucial. Every game that Russia played in the tournament saw them supported by a loud, cheering, believing crowd of tens of thousands. That motivates players, and it inspires teams. So remember, "hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard," and also remember that encouragement and motivation go a long way.


Third, Belgium and France are two of the favorites left, and both of them have played better as the tournament has gone on. Early in the competition, though, neither team played terribly well, despite having been hyped ahead of time. The lesson here is also simple: potential, publicity, hype, press, etc, are all ok, but you still have to go out on the field and earn your success. Both of these teams learned that lesson (after a near-miss or two), and they are better because of it. We should remember it too.

To summarize: let us control what we can, let us remember the importance of motivation and effort, and no matter what (good or bad), let us not believe our own press. We're not as bad as some think we are when we struggle, and we're not as good as others say we are even when we succeed. As Romans 12 reminds us (verse 3), "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." Let us see ourselves realistically so that we may perform as well as we possibly can.

Have a great week, leaders, and be sure to come sign up to get your free copy of '(Extra)Ordinary Leadership: 10 Things Dad Taught Me Without Saying Anything' today! 

Also, be sure to share this article and spread the word about 'Inverted Leadership'! :-) Thanks!


RLL 38--Lessons from the World Cup (Group Stage)

RLL 38: Lessons from the World Cup (Group Stage)

Greetings, leaders, and I hope you're all enjoying the World Cup as much as I am! Every four years, the world slows down for a month to watch the biggest sporting event on earth. This year, 32 countries took part in the Group Stage of the tournament, from which 16 qualified for the knockout rounds. So far, the World Cup has been an eye-opening tournament, with shock results, good play, and the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology. Here are three quick lessons I've learned so far from watching the group stage of the World Cup.


1. "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." This is a cliche in the sports world, but like many cliches there is a large element of truth contained here. Many people considered Germany, the defending World Cup champions, to be one of the top teams most likely to win the tournament again this year. On paper, they have some of the most talented players in the world. And yet, their showing was disappointing: 3 games played, 1 win, 2 losses. Only 2 goal scored in 3 games. The players came into the tournament overconfident, and their played reflected that. As a result, they didn't even make it past the first round, completing their worst World Cup performance in 80 years. No matter how much talent you have, if you don't work hard you're likely to lose, especially when you compete with the world's best. True in sports, and true in life: hard work is the key.


2. "A 'sure thing' is rarely a sure thing." When it comes to international soccer, there are many examples of teams that we 'expect' to win certain games. However, this World Cup has shown us that, regardless of how confident we may be in certain teams and players, these 'sure things' don't always come off. Players like Messi, one of the greatest soccer players ever, sometimes don't perform at the level we've come to expect. Teams like France, despite having tremendous talent, are hit-or-miss (to be fair, France has improved since their first two games). The same is true in our leadership roles: some things we think we can rely on simply don't come off, for a variety of reasons. This is when we have to adjust, reevaluate, and regroup, before moving forward as best we can.

3. "Expect surprises." One thing that is always true is that there will be surprises at a World Cup. A player, a team, a referee's decision--something will unexpectedly happen that changes the course of a game and maybe even the whole tournament. In this World Cup, we've seen amazing performances by a teenage phenom (Mbappe, for France) and a superstar (Ronaldo, from Portugal) as well as by players less well-known (Hannes Halldorsson, the goalkeeper for Iceland, who is also a filmmaker). The thing to remember is that, no matter where we find ourselves, it will rarely go as we expect. As leaders, we must be flexible and willing to adapt to changes and unexpected situations.

I hope you've enjoyed the World Cup so far, and I look forward to sharing more lessons with you next week! In the meantime, if you haven't yet gotten your copy of my book Inverted Leadership: Lead Others Better By Forgetting About Yourself, be sure to go pick one up on Amazon, here:

Have a great week, and may God continue to bless you as you grow in leadership and humility!