We all win with good leadership
Leadership is one of my favourite topics. It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why, but I have some guesses. The first is that good leadership skills are almost identical to good mental skills. A good leader should be self-aware, focused, motivated, resilient, and confident. They should be a strong communicator and supportive teammate, have a clear vision, values, and goals, and have excellent emotion control. These are all the same skills that help an individual to be mentally strong and to more consistently perform at a higher level. These are all skills that I work on with my clients. Leading is simply another performance venue within which we can apply these mental skills - and yes, everyone can lead.
The second reason I love leadership is that, to me, it is a win-win scenario, and there simply aren't enough of those these days. People who know me well often tease me for preferring cooperative games to competitive ones: modifying the rules of a card game so that we are working toward a collective goal rather than an individual goal at the expense of others. Too many things in life are win-lose. Too many people operate under a win-lose philosophy: that in order for them to win, others must lose. I don't believe this to be true - at least not all the time. And the best leaders I know don't operate this way either. Good leaders don't need to push others down to get to the top - they bring others up with them and redefine what the top is. Good leaders create collective wins where everyone contributes, everyone succeeds, and everyone feels valued. Good leaders create and foster new leaders. They don't need to be at the front; they don't need to be the one with the megaphone; they don't even need to be in charge.
You may call me soft or silly, maybe naïve, but if you've ever been around a great leader, you will know exactly what I'm talking about. And let me be clear, in no way does win-win also mean lose-lose. I think that is where most of the criticism for 'everybody wins' comes from. Some people, unfortunately, believe that if everybody wins then nobody wins. We need to find a way to feel self-worth without having to diminish someone else's. We need to define success in more inclusive terms than "beating everyone else."
It might surprise you to hear that when I work with younger athletes and teams they don't need to be taught this. Sure, they like to win, but the 'winning equals beating others' idea comes from adults - so does the 'success equals winning and nothing else' idea. We need to stop spreading these rumors because they're hurting our kids and they're hurting our society.
It doesn't matter what type of situation you're in either. I've participated in and worked with athletes from both team and individual sports, at everything from recreational to Olympic levels. Good leaders are strong competitors but they don't put much value in beating others alone. They strive for progress, not perfection and celebrate everyone's successes. I have to say I do really enjoy team sports for that shared sense of accomplishment and pride when a team goal is achieved, but some of my best memories of success come from competing in track and field with close friends and rivals where we both achieved personal bests. To be honest I don't even remember who came out on top - I just remember a shared feeling of elation when we saw our times come up. So please, take the initiative, get to know your opponents as well as your teammates and celebrate all successes. Losses are more bearable and wins are more enjoyable when shared with those who have also shared in the pursuit - whether you were pursuing it from the same side or not.
Instead of aiming for the top so that we can push others down and gloat about how high we are, let's aim for the top so that we can pull others up and share with them how we got there. Then together we can climb even higher.
That's what leadership is to me.