It is never to early to start demonstrating leadership


Consider for a moment the role models that our children, the next generation, have in the leaders of today? Perhaps the teachers at school, their parents and relatives or a friendship with a mentor. Or if they can’t find an example in real life they might reach out to movie heroes, characters in books or imaginative twists on these.

Two examples

Well today at a kids AFL competition I saw two examples of leadership – one working and one not. I am thankful that my son got the end of the good leadership. I will leave the negative out of this post since I do not wish to reinforce its message. However lets just say there were a few parents from other teams setting examples heavy on the stick approach – or I should say hand and language – to get action and response.

On a positive front

My son played in a tournament as a representative for his region. The team was like a mini state of origin side – a few players from each of the teams in the region.

Leading up to today the team practiced three times together. Originally only familiar with each other as competitors they were suddenly thrown together under the same banner.

The kids also had a new leader – I mean coach. (The coach that guides my son through each week of his football already makes an excellent contribution to his development.)

A lesson in everyday leadership

Today though I watched and listened to an example of inspirational leadership with some lessons for parents watching.

Now after many years specialising in leadership development I am used to going to the books for answers, referring to competency frameworks etc. I seem to draw less on these resources and today definitely I threw all that out the window and just simply observed the actions and results. (Plus I wasn’t working.)

What I noticed varied from the simple to complex….

The coach…

Really knew each player

Took time up front before the team even got together to learn about each player.

Sourced information about the players from many perspectives – eg observation at live games, talking to the coaches, getting parents to answer questions about their kids and then getting to know them at the practice.

Knew each player’s name, strengths and challenges.

Focused on playing the game not the outcome

Focused the team on having fun and playing great footy irrespective of whether they won or not.

Reminded the team that they were there to play their best.

Treated the players with respect

Spoke using language of equality and support, and did not talk down or patronise the kids because of their age gap or lesser experience.

Balanced between individual contribution and team effort.

Provided both positive encouragement and constructive feedback where helpful.

Reviewed progress regularly

Reviewed team performance at each interval possible.

Regrouped the team after each of the four games.

Communicated with confident, decisive plans based on consultation with the other assistant coaches and manager.

Adjusted plans and techniques in the moment

Tapped into experienced adult resources for extra coaching on the side after each game adjusting his plan to allow for this change.

Tried different techniques to motivate the team. For example after the second game he had the representatives from each club sing their song.

Set an example

Showed the team that if he could handle the elements making play difficult that they could. As an example he even got on the ground rolled around and showed the boys that the wet cold weather was not going to stop them playing.


It is also worth noting that the coach operated as a volunteer with his time. He did this from his own love of the sport and commitment to coaching future leaders. His reward was his own personal satisfaction and achievement of team as a whole.

The result

The kids all had a great time. Learned a lot. Had their turn on the field and came away winners for playing together. Oh and for those of you who have to know, they won 3 of 4 games and ended up overall winners of the competition.

Real life coach wisdom

The parting words of the coach were a great testament to the potential future of our leadership. He said “next week when you are playing against each other again just remember you shared the field together today.” He added something else that went along the lines of you made friends over the past four weeks. You know them by first name not as those players from the other team. With this basis you can enjoy your footy on another level.

For me it just demonstrated how we can make the most of competitive situations. Rather than being about us versus them it can be simply to bring out the best in us with the support of our colleagues.

The leader in you

So what kind of leader are you – on or off the field whether at work, personal life etc.?

Irrespective of whether you have kids how would a person younger than you or of another generation see you as a leader? Would they listen to you? Learn from you? Even pay attention?

I would say if any of the answers are no then you might need to go back to the game board for a new plan.