An enthralling French win on Sunday night brought another exciting World Cup to a close. In its wake, it leaves celebrations, tears, heroes, and an almost endless amount of post-Cup punditry.
Some memorable moments from the tournament also lend some lessons for us as leaders in the community:
1. A team that relies too much on its star player will always be weaker than a collection of players who share the burden of work – and ultimately, the glory. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are considered the top two soccer players in the world, playing for Argentina and Portugal respectively. Both countries were eliminated early in the competition by well organized, hard-working teams.
Lesson: A strong leader recognizes the talents of all of their team members and organizes roles accordingly. You are only as strong as your weakest link – not your star.
2. Soccer is not ‘just a game’. A 2012 tragedy where 74 fans died at a match left Egyptians heartbroken and disinterested in soccer until this year – when they qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990. They didn’t advance far, but with a strong couple of goals by Mo Salah, pride in the Egyptian soccer team has been restored again. For a more extreme example of inspiring passion, look at Mexico. Its population celebrated its victory over Germany with such intensity that it registered the equivalent of a small earthquake on the Richter Scale.
Lesson: Look for the connection that inspires passion, loyalty, and dedication amongst your team and your audience.
3. There’s a glass ceiling in soccer reporting too – but a few talented women are breaking through. This World Cup, several outlets in England enthusiastically announced that for the first time in history, female pundits would share the soundstage with men. Veteran female soccer players-turned-commentators Alex Scott and Eni Aluko have faced a backlash – and some frankly ridiculous criticism – but their knowledge and skilled evaluation of the game have shone through.
Lesson: There will be moments where people will say ‘you can’t’. Let your preparation and ability shine through – and do it anyway.
4. In another story from ‘across the pond’ – many England fans felt their national side had become stale, as older, well-worn club coaches were appointed time after time, only to achieve mediocrity. This time around, Junior Team Manager and former player Gareth Southgate was tapped to move up – and he brought with him fresh eyes and a young, fearless team. He was scorned by many who doubted his ability and choices. But his approach led the team farther in the competition than they have been in decades. Their quarter-final loss to Croatia was disappointing, but fans have renewed hope and faith that any tactical immaturity in the new team will be shed by 2022.
Lesson: When results are stale, shake up the status quo with fresh eyes and legs. Just remember to temper the shake-up with experienced leadership.
5. Japan had a moderately good showing in this year’s World Cup, making it to the last 16, but fell short in a last-minute defeat to Belgium. Leaving the pitch bitterly disappointed, their next actions belied their despair. Several outlets posted a photo of Japan’s locker room after they’d left the arena. The photos showed a spotless, immaculately cleaned locker room with a simple note, in the host’s language, which read simply, “Thank You.”
Lesson: A good performance is expected. Good character and grace are remarkable. Show good character, even when you lose, and you will astonish your peers, your competitors, and your fans.
6. Last but not least, the winning team gave us a very ‘un-French’ lesson in conservative strategy. The French are well known for flair and style, and their sports tactics are typically no different. Coach Didier Deschamps faced criticism from his country for a game plan that was built on a solid defense with less emphasis on flamboyant showmanship from his offensive stars. His stable plan, sans panache, resulted in triumph for Les Bleus.
Lesson: A reliable, conservative plan that looks at the whole may not turn excited heads – but the win it yields is well worth your patience.
What were your favorite moments of the 2018 World Cup? Did you have any interesting takeaways from ‘the beautiful game’? Get in touch and let us know!