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August Flight Path: The power of purpose and a holistic approach to leadership 🎯

Newsletter, August 2023

August was all about Matildas mania which has taken over Australia. For me this is so amazing to see people talk about football, watch the games, appreciate the sport, and discuss the parallels to leadership and teams. My Dad took me to my first football game when I was two years old (not that I have any memory of this experience) and football has been a passion in our family and I grew up playing the beautiful game until I had too many injuries and switched to skiing, a story for another time. 

The parallels between sports (be it team or individual) and how we work and lead in organisations are almost identical. A huge part of my work is performance and mindset coaching for leaders and teams. I apply the insights from own sporting adventures and training into leadership development and coaching and this month’s flight path will dive deeper into this domain.

The power of purpose 

The research is clear that purpose-driven organisations and teams, have higher employee engagement, growth and performance. While undeniable talent and performance contribute to the Matildas’ success, their triumphs can be attributed to their unwavering sense of purpose as a team.

After the heart-stopping quarter final match with France, Tony Gustavsson (the Matildas’ coach) reveals that he tells the team “It’s not about the medal around your neck, it’s about heart beating on the back side of it”. The Matildas will leave a legacy that is bigger than 90 minutes of football and their why is bigger than football.

According to Deloitte, an organisation’s purpose is their soul and identity, providing both a platform to build upon and a mirror to reflect its existence in the world. Having a strong organisational purpose is a starting point and our role as leaders is to facilitate the alignment between organisational purpose and the individual purpose of team members to make work meaningful. For more insights, you can check out McKinsey's collection on purpose and our blog post on Living your purpose.

A holistic approach to leadership performance

If there is one quality that executives seek for themselves and their employees, it is sustained high performance amid intensifying pressure and rapid change. Yet, the origins of such performance remain as elusive as eternal youth. The pressure to perform at peak levels, sometimes working across time zones, and meeting tight deadlines can cause chronic stress, exhaustion, and even a sense of disillusionment. This can lead to cognitive impairment, decreased energy, and increased risk of physical and mental health issues.

We can, however, learn from the sporting world. Extensive sports science research validates that the capacity to mobilise energy on demand underpins cognitive performance for leaders. Researchers Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, architects of  the performance pyramid found that in training athletes, their focus never fixated on core skills like a tennis serve or a golf swing. Similarly, leaders can amplify their primary aptitudes (coaching, negotiating or financial analysis) by nurturing endurance, strength, flexibility, self-control, and focus.

While leaders can perform successfully even if they lack sufficient sleep, exercise, adequate nutrition or emotional skills, they cannot perform to their full potential without eventual repercussions - for themselves, their families, and their organisations. In essence, sustained peak performance harnesses positive energy across the performance pyramids' layers, adopting a holistic leadership approach to navigate their ever-shifting, demanding roles.

For further insights, delve into our article on why a holistic approach to leadership is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. Embracing a lifestyle that promotes physical fitness, mental clarity, and emotional balance can lead to improved decision-making, enhanced creativity, and better interpersonal relationships. 

What I am listening to 🎧

If you’re after more inspiration from the Matildas for teams and leadership, then check out these episodes from This Working Life:

Quote I'm pondering 💬

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Michael Jordan

I hope this was helpful and sparked some insights. I would love to hear your thoughts! 

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