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Will the England Football Team Ever Win a Major Tournament Again?

 It’s been 50 years since England won its only tournament – the World Cup in 1966.
To remember it you would be about 65 today, the age of retirement – so as I sit on the train commuting each day I ask myself if anyone on the train going to work can actually remember when England won the world cup.
I hope that one day soon we will all the get the opportunity to experience this feeling – but I have my doubts!
Enter Gareth Southgate, the newly appointed manager for the England football team. This isn’t his first “managerial” role but it is a considerable step-up from his previous experiences of managing Middlesbrough and the England under-21 team and at 46 years old is one of the youngest England managers we’ve ever had.
In his first press conference as the new England manager he stated he wanted to be a friend first, leader second and entertainer third.
At a time when the England football team is performing at its lowest level for a long time (we were knocked out of the European Championships by Iceland, who have a population the size of the London borough of Ealing) I appreciate that things can’t really get any worse. But I did start to think I may be wrong when I heard these comments.
The transition into a leadership role is always a challenging experience, and DDI research (Leaders in Transition: Stepping Up, Not Off) reports it’s the most challenging transition you’ll ever make, harder than becoming a parent, dealing with divorce or coping with bereavement. In Gareth Southgate’s world, he also has to deal with the relentless focus and pressure from the English Media in a hungry nation who expect results.
My experience tells me that to be successful as a leader and especially during the early stages of a transition, your number one priority should be to be a leader first, friend second.
You must be a catalyst leader – someone who ignites action in others. This will be especially important for the new England manager, as the team undoubtedly has the talent, but rarely look interested.
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McCall (1994) has shown that to be successful as a leader there are 3 leadership differentiators that if embraced early will ensure success:
Be authentic – your actions mirror what you believe and feel, with no contradiction between what you say and what you do. You should interact with your team confidently, honestly and openly and show integrity through consistent and honest conversations to build trust. Some examples of authenticity include:
+ Do what’s right, even in difficult situations (like dropping the captain).
+ Admit mistakes.
+ Display confidence but avoid arrogance.
Bring out the best in people – great leaders know that own success relies on the success of their team. It takes a winning mentality and thinking to help others be the best they can be, and now more than ever does the England football team need this! Ring out the best in people, great leaders:
+ Unite others towards a common goal.
+ Encourage team mates/members to experiment.
+ Compliment people on their efforts.
Be receptive to feedback – the new England manager won’t need to worry about whether he will receive any feedback, but it’s what he does with it that will be key. A variable shown to predict leadership success is an individual’s “receptivity to feedback.” The fail forward concept should be adopted by all leaders, however is only successful if you are willing to seek and accept that feedback.
“Failing forward is when you continue to try new approaches and new solutions to solve an existing problem. You still may not achieve your desired results, but you’re still moving forward, learning, and making progress. Failure, on the other hand, is when you don’t get the desired results because you quit trying or you continue to do the same thing over and over again.”
Mary Lee Tracy
USA Olympic Gymnastics Coach
Have you recently made the transition to becoming a new leader?
Or considering an offer to do so?
What do you think will be the best approach for you?
Do you agree with Gareth Southgate’s view to be a friend first, leader second?
Based on my experiences to date, here are my top 3 tips when approaching this transition:
  1. Integrity is the key to the trust door – without trust you cannot lead.
  2. Find out what floats people’s boat (motivation) and use it.
  3. Set goals (no pun intended) that are realistic and achievable.
The transition to a leadership role is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. For me it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done and as I sit here writing this having recently stepped back into a non-leadership role – I do miss it.
Maybe I will be wrong (I sincerely hope so), and England will go onto great success under the leadership of Gareth Southgate. However, something tells me there is still a long way to go before I can talk to my fellow commuters about where were they the day England won the World Cup. For now, I’m England Til I Die.
You can find out more information on How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others in Your First Leadership Job book by Tacy M. Byham & Richard S. Wellins.
Posted: 04 Jan, 2017,
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