Secrets of Success in Leadership (from Sky)

I watched this programme from Sky in July when it launched. It is based on interviews with a wide range of successful sports leaders.

I suppose we should start off with what does success mean to you? I was adequate at sports but nowhere near the skill level of the interviewees here. I have been a leader but probably preferred to be a number 2, out of the limelight. What are you looking to be?

Interestingly enough, at the end of this 2-hour documentary, the achievements for these very successful leaders weren’t about how many cups or championships they had won but was more to do with them being remembered as a good person, being important to their family and friends, giving back, and the impact and support they gave to others. All quite refreshing really.

Over the last six months, having watched the documentary twice, I have attempted to write down key learnings which can be applied in any sport or business. Hopefully this will have some key learning points for you to. I know when I was a leader I learnt more as a leader in hard times and as a person in the difficult periods of my life.

A lot seemed to hinge on the values inherited from parents, or possibly teachers, and in some cases the trauma of losing a parent. What sacrifices were made, how driven and supportive were the family, what was the work ethic handed down to these future leaders – talents, attitude, state of mind, hard work and in some cases luck. Encouraged to play sport with invaluable parent/ grandparent support.

What are you looking for in your team? People with personality, strength of character, desire, determination and perseverance. Driven people aren’t always easy to manage. How do you build a family feel to the team and cope with those exceptional players/employees who don’t quite fit the mould? How do you get different teams to work together whilst building the infrastructure?

Often difficult decisions need to be made. An individual can’t be bigger than the team. The maverick needs to have the trust of the team. When it doesn’t work out, being truthful and dealing with situations is very important. Passengers need to be dealt with. An environment needs to be built for everybody to thrive. It is always difficult to balance talent and bad behaviour which needs to be tackled. Loyalty, integrity and truthfulness need to be cornerstones of the culture.

Good planning, you don’t know what is round the corner, take advantage of every moment, do things differently, being ahead of the curve. Aspire for the future, camaraderie, smile on their faces, having happy players, no controversy – have it out. Professional family, mistakes OK, learn from them, protect the players with the leader taking the flack, taking the pressure off the team.


Stick to your word, trust authenticity, good listening skills seemed to recur the most from these interviews. With out these skills the belief in the team or organisations cannot possibly follow. The leader needs to have respect built over a long period of time showing consistency.

  • Attitude, 
  • open state of mind and attention to detail seems to be a prerequisite. 
  • Keep getting better through learning, getting the best out of people,
  • being the best that they could be. Empathy,
  • listen to understand,
  • care for your team and help them play.

Dealing with the fear of failure

  • being professional,
  • disciplined, 
  • no complacency, 
  • risk taking,
  • taking the pressure off the team member at key pressure times also seems so important.

How do these leaders deal with the fear of failure when the pressure can be so great and the gap between success and failure being so small? How to take the threat away but continue to make it a challenge to overcome. Often the leader’s job is on the line, yet they still need to lead in a way that does not impact the team in a negative way.

Communication skills are vital, keep looking forward, take your team with you. How do you make doubters into believers? Motivation from a leader’s actions and speaking from the heart can help ease the minds of the players to be at their best. The leader taking any flack can also take the pressure off teams. Being special and feeling proud whilst being in a safe environment are good stepping stones.

Sport is normally an entertainment business. How does a leader balance style with results? Challenge based rather than a threat. How does a team complement each other and enjoy the team bond and subsequent success.

So how do the attributes of being a successful leader in sport apply to leaders in business? I believe most of the messages above apply in one form or another. The values of the organisation and everybody walking the talk. Looking to improve at every stage. Giving absolutely everything. Keep refreshing. Keep challenging yourself as a leader. Being professional and at the same time enjoying each other’s company and having some fun. You can’t keep people happy all of the time. Deal with friction and air any difficult topics.

Different leaders have different ways of building successful teams, and I would strongly advise you to watch Secrets of Success, a very worthwhile 2 hours spent. Good leadership is a combination of coaching, leadership and team building, If you want a mentor to support you becoming a great leader, get in touch with

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