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From World Cup Soccer to World Class Leadership—Part Two


Tue Jul 21 2015

From World Cup Soccer to World Class Leadership—Part Two

In my book, The Collaborator—Discover Soccer as a Metaphor for Global Business Leadership, I describe 11 operating principles that serve as the framework for applying skills learned in soccer to the global business model. All 11 principles must be in play at the same time on the business field to achieve the expected synergies needed to compete.

“Focus on team—not position” is the first principle in the framework. This principle deals with focusing on results produced when all positions effectively interact on the global business field. Each position or player is part of a highly interdependent team, with collaboration being the expected operating behavior.


The U.S. men’s World Cup soccer team is a great example of this principle in action. In qualifying last year for the “knock-out” or elimination round, it demonstrated the ability to focus on team—not position (or individual). With weather, travel, time, and injuries working against it, the team was able to overcome these obstacles and produce results.

Additionally, it’s important to understand that the 11 operating principles carry equal weight, and that their application is highly dynamic. If you keep this thought in mind, then you can easily apply the framework to business as well as soccer. Take a look at the principles below and ask yourself if they apply to you or your organization:

  • Focus on team—not position.

  • Understand that everyone can play.

  • Embrace diversity.

  • Rely on each other.

  • Promote both individual and team values.

  • Seek skillful, adaptable players.

  • Charge the team to perform the work.

  • Empower players to win.

  • Coach teams to respond to changing conditions on their own.

  • Develop partners on the field.

  • Achieve cross-cultural agility.

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