What can we learn about leadership from Andy Murray's recent amazing success?
"I think I have persevered. That's been it really, the story of my career", said a triumphant Murray after winning Wimbledon. His coach Ivan Lendl says his key contribution was to stop Murray getting demoralised when momentum goes against him. "Moving to a state of self-loathing when things go wrong is of little help", says Lendl, "if you keep improving steadily and you aren't distracted by setbacks, you're bound to win eventually".
And so I have reflected, what is the secret of leadership? It's not about doing a lot of work at one point in your career but about a commitment to incremental improvement year on year. Perhaps understanding one more thing about yourself that helps you to stay more grounded and effective, or learning a particular technique for handling situations you have found hitherto difficult. Or it could be you have used an emerging situation or set of circumstances to learn more about a particular aspect of leadership. Or you seek some detailed 360 feedback and resolve to act on the key messages. The key is to keep the learning momentum moving forwards.
And the other part of Lendl’s advice that is so important is how you deal with setbacks because there always will be some. If we see them as an essential part of learning and developing instead of a further reinforcement of our inadequacies, they can be woven into our leadership repertoires in a productive way. There has been much written about the link between success and failure. Whilst most of us want to avoid the kind of failure that has serious and significant ripple effects for others as well as ourselves, pursuing a strategy to avoid it altogether is neither useful nor achievable. Mishandling a situation or making a bad decision call, or not paying sufficient attention to a key stakeholder or issue can all be the starting point for learning how to do it differently next time. Once Lendl taught Murray both of these things, winning happened fast.
Warren Partners Leadership services offer one to one coaching at Board and Board designate level, Board and Senior Leadership team development and Transition coaching. For an initial conversation, contact Judith Nicol.