This coming Sunday afternoon, at 3pm, eleven players will take to the field to represent England in the next round of the world cup. Their opponents? Their nemesis. Germany.

The burden of expectation on this England team is enormous. I almost feel sorry for them, and then I think of the huge financial wealth they enjoy, and the adulation they receive for most of the year. It could be worse.

I think Argentina will win the world cup this year. I’ve been backing them since before the tournament started. I enjoy good football mixed with a bit of whacky behaviour. They are the obvious choice for me. Skills in abundance and a crazy manager who is promising to run naked through the streets of Buenos Aires when they win. What’s not to like?

I’ve taken a lot of stick for not supporting the home team. I like football. I like crazy people. I’ve made a good choice.

One thing about the England set up which is encouraging is their Italian manager, Fabio Capello. He strikes me as a rare breed. A leader with huge responsibility, willing to make changes when things aren’t quite going to plan. Yes he’s made mistakes too, and that’s the learning privilege afforded to all great leaders who push the boundaries.

Most leaders fall foul of something Jonathan Wilson calls, The Leadership Syndrome. Don’t worry I’m not about to start blaming leaders for business or sporting failures. This syndrome is a common condition co-created by all of us. In an article first published in Training Tomorrow, Jonathan observes how it starts to work:

You were right. It was lonely, but you saw it through and now everyone sees you were right. Your position is more firmly established. You have proved your value. That’s why they made you the leader. You have earned the respect of your colleagues – and you have also changed the way they work with you and relate to you…but you won’t notice that.

The next time is subtly different. More people wait to hear your view before expressing their own. You don’t observe it, but it happens, and part of the problem is that no one will tell you that it is happening, unless you are very lucky.

Maybe John Terry’s recent pop at Capello was a piece of that good luck? Jonathan continues:

The discussion is a bit less open. Those against your idea are a bit more muted, a lot less forceful. The group actually seems less decisive to you, so you have to take the decision again. Again you are right. And now you are firmly in the grip of the Leadership Syndrome.

What usually follows is a downward spiral. The group becomes less decisive, and their growing silence is apparently more supportive. Your confidence tells them to be wary about arguing with you and no one disagrees with you, at least not in front of you. In the end you have to go. But it’s often worse than that. You don’t go, you become forgotten. You no longer have authority or credibility, and your views are taken into account at best, certainly no longer obeyed.

Don’t worry. Though I’m backing Argentina, I don’t wish this fate on the England team.

So how can we avoid the syndrome? We’ve recently looked at a few ideas, namely:



Thinking Small

And there are a couple more ideas forming in the melting pot. Active listening and timely feedback. More on these two through the month of July. For now, sit back and enjoy as much or as little of the football as you wish. Go Argentina!

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