The Football World Cup finals concluded a few days ago. Argentina rompedback to glory after decades. The victors were no doubt aided by the presence of a doyen in the field of football, namely Lionel Messi. He now ranks with Ronaldo among the legendary famous on the football field. The French captain, Hugo Lloris, covered himself with glory not only with a flair but also with the cool and balanced demeanour of a world class player and a captain. France’s loss in the finals elicits a range of emotions, no doubt influenced by the people who hold those preferences. That’s another story.
The management lessons of the game are significant. It was worth watching the game to understand not just teamwork but individual competency. The two go together through goal-directed activity.
Even to a layman, not quite conversant with the nuances of the game, a few aspects of over an hour of sheer delight are worth noticing. There is no substitute for teamwork. No one can win the game on their own. There are points in time when the individual efforts matter-like putting the ball in the opponents’ net-but that too is the outcome of a series of precursor activities. What was remarkable was how each position of the team, from right out to the centre forward, to left out to the centre half, to the person playing in the back position, the goalkeeper, has his role defined. One has to play one’s role as per their position in the team and enable others to do their job.
Be that as it may, there has to be excellence. In this case, in both the teams, each one was a powerful player in his own right.
The passing of the ball was immaculate. The shots were as powerful and as soft as the move required. It had to be done with accuracy, to the right person at the right place at the right time, and in the right split second of a decision. It was telling that there was no jostling for individual glory: both teams had outstanding players, each playing to his full competency.
These lessons are valid not only on the sports field but also in corporate houses, academic institutions, publication setups and where ever group activity is involved. Indeed, any organisation that has a group of people brought together to pursue a given objective, would do well to observe and interpret this final play. One remembers an outstanding Chairman of a major public sector organisation who designed his organisation’s Management Development Programs with some mountaineering, rafting, apple picking, and other similar activities. This helped create a culture of teamwork and efficiency. This required not only a feeling of getting to know each other better, but also creating a team when required and nurturing it with involvement and forethought.
Ultimately, the Football World cup final brought out a simple message: the game is not over till it is over, and one has to give one’s best at all stages. Even when Argentina led 2-0 until the last 10 minutes of the game, France came back to even things up at 2-2. An inner enthusiasm for one’s team identity was palpable and moving. Even those who know nothing about football found the spirit inspiring. In simple terms, the game stretched on and several milestones were passed before it was over. The organisers of such a contest obviously saw such a situation as a possibility. Accordingly, rules were devised to anticipate the issues and provide for possible resolution of the complex issues. This involved providing for extra time in the game and then penalty corners, to enable a resolution of a possible tie.
Irrespective of who won and who lost, the outstanding players stood out in their position as being leaders in their own right. The goalkeeper of Argentina was particularly outstanding and massive, and it did well to recognise him.
The message is simple: individual performance needs to be peer recognised. To be a leader is not to overshadow others worth but to nurture it through tenderness. Generously appreciating the work of others is not difficult, it helps one’s own growth.
All in all, the Football World Cup final was a visual extravaganza, a treatise on sports and team building. But one should have the eyes to see it and learn where learning gets redefined.