Global Leadership Network UK & Ireland

GLN UK & Ireland

A Tennis Lesson for Leaders – Mike Hill

Mike Hill GLN UK and IrelandI recently read a nice obituary in the newspaper about former tennis player Bobby Wilson, who progressed to many quarter finals in his career and achieved well as a doubles player in the Davis Cup.

Wilson was known for his deft touch on court and had a penchant for taking better players to five sets, only to just miss out.

On one occasion, in 1958, he was playing top seeded star, Ashley Cooper. The match went to five sets. Wilson, an unseeded player, lost the first two sets but pulled the next two back. In the final set, at five games all and with a breakpoint, Wilson hit what looked like a blistering winner for it to be judged just out (no “hawk-eye” back in the day!). He went on to lose the match.

Here was a strange thing in Wilson’s preparation: he didn’t believe in training.

It is suggested that his belief in his extraordinary touch on court, which led to his willingness to practise but neglect improving his physicality, was a factor that made him, in the final analysis, a noble loser. He once confessed that he enjoyed playing more than winning! A mindset that was not unknown in English culture at the time, and pretty well dominated in amateur sport.

The point is that the game itself was in transition. Physicality was in the early days of becoming a deciding factor between the good and the great. Past videos of champion Fred Perry, playing in long white trousers and gently stroking the ball over the net from the baseline, would not win much in the modern game, though it made him a Wimbledon winner then. Take a look.

The changing scenes of leadership

Like tennis back in the late fifties and early sixties, today, leadership is in transition. There are many things on a leader’s dashboard that were just not there thirty years ago. Giving attention to the well-being of employees, the psychological health of the organisation, making sure that the working environment is safe without sacrificing resilience, and diversity, inclusion and equality are dials on the horizon of needs that demand attention by today’s leaders.

Why training is important

There is still a generation of leaders who need to wise up to all this. Just continuing to lead according to the rules of the way things used to be is not going to “cut the mustard” these days. Whilst some natural ability will not hurt, the need for training is paramount. We need to grasp the idea of what T.D. Jakes at this year’s Global Leadership Summit refers to “migrative thinking.”

Preparing to lead

At GLN we believe very strongly that training leaders to be the best they can is part of our core function. Seeking to equip leaders in building a skill set that will prepare them for the current and future context is our earnest desire.

I strongly encourage you to register for the GLS. It is running through into 2021 and gives you access to some of the latest thinking around leadership for the modern era. Wherever I look out on the current terrain I see a bigger need for leaders to invest in their self-development. Make sure you invest in yours.

Mike Hill
GLN UK & Ireland

Ps. You can find out more about the GLS here.