Michael Voss, coach of the Brisbane Lions, shares his advice on the factors that make a winning sporting team, factors that can also assist in building a successful law firm.
My passion is leadership and high performance, whether it is on the sporting field or in the corporate sector. I have learnt that the common ingredient to achieving success in either field is always found at the top.
Leaders create high-performance cultures. They create trusting relationships, a clear vision and passion for success and structures to get the best from their people at every level. In my sporting career, I experienced firsthand the powerful impact that leadership can have on team success. The biggest difference between the Brisbane Lions of 1998, who finished last on the ladder, and the Lions of 2001-2003 who won three consecutive grand finals, was leadership - end of story.
In a law firm, the same principle underpins success. Look closely at any successful company and you will see real leadership - the type of leadership that empowers individuals and companies to develop and reach their full potential. While the relevance of sporting success can often be dismissed in the boardroom, there is now a growing body of academic research that highlights the strong correlation between the two fields. I firmly believe that elite performance-enhancing initiatives are transferable across both sporting and business pursuits and, at the end of the day, storytelling is a powerful learning tool that can illustrate how this can be done.
People are often quick to point out that sport and business are not the same. They say sport is easier because there are defined parameters, someone is always watching performance and there are scoreboards that clearly measure success. Well, real leaders have to create their own scoreboards.
They need to create an intensity and consistency of performance right across an organisation that everyone knows is being watched, measured and rewarded.
For professional services companies, such as legal firms, the focus of their leaders must be squarely on creating the right culture and behaviours to unlock individual and collective potential. Developing sustainable behavioural and organisational change comes from investment in your people, and that cannot be achieved through one single event. It must be an ongoing, comprehensive and systematic process.
At Australia Pacific Leadership Group, we promote five key leadership principles to guide the achievement of high-performance leadership: invest in relationships, foster individual and collective growth, work from the inside out, shape a winning game plan and drive innovation and change
We often talk about an "a-ha" moment when there is recognition of the impact of what is trying to be achieved when these principles are applied to programs for development.
When we are working with clients it is this realisation of what has been achieved within an organisation that we enjoy sharing with our clients. I know that's when I get a big kick out of it - an adrenalin rush just like you get on the sporting field, when you watch others develop under your leadership and know you have played a part in getting the best out of them and your team.
Michael Voss is a director of leadership and organisational development company Australia Pacific Leadership Group, which brings together a team of business, sporting and academic leaders to support organisations in building high performance through investment in people.
Michael played 289 AFL games for the Brisbane Lions, winning the Brownlow Medal in 1996 and captaining three consecutive Premiership-winning teams from 2001-2003. He will make his AFL coaching debut with the Brisbane Lions in 2009.
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