Is a big ego crucial to achieving sporting greatness?

_83840084_henry_cantona_ronaldoOne evening in the mid-1990s, Manchester United players and staff attended a Batman film premiere. It was a black-tie event.

United star Eric Cantona had other ideas and arrived wearing an all-white suit finished off with bright red trainers. His team-mates laughed, while manager Sir Alex Ferguson turned a blind eye.

Cantona was a talent with an abundance of self-confidence, but had been a destructive force inside the dressing rooms of his previous clubs in France. He had been known as much for punch-ups with team-mates at Auxerre and Montpellier as his ability with a ball at his feet.

He was perceived as damaged goods in France, but in England he helped Leeds United win the league and after his arrival at Old Trafford in the autumn of 1992, he was afforded the freedom to express his eccentricities because of the example he set on the training ground.

Cantona was one of the first players under Ferguson to spend hours after a session practising the basics on his own. He was humble enough to acknowledge his flaws and, as captain, help the younger players rid themselves of theirs.

But he always maintained a swagger that saw him hold his nerve under pressure to produce moments of match-winning brilliance when his team needed it most, such as the winning goal in the 1996 FA Cup final against Liverpool.

His is a story that prompts an interesting question. While physical gifts and world-class skill are key to the success of sport’s finest athletes, is a big ego – defined in this case as a supreme level of self-confidence – the secret ingredient that elevates good to great?

Mike Forde is a firm believer in the power of ego. He spent eight years as performance director at Bolton Wanderers between 1999 and 2007 and a further six as director of football operations for Chelsea.

His jobs involved travelling the world liaising with sports teams – from the All Blacks to NFL and NBA franchises. His quest was to identify innovations in areas such as psychology, IT, scouting and people management.

The definition of ego
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the ego is defined as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”. The term derives from Latin, literally ‘I’.

Forde told BBC Sport: “If you’re Didier Drogba taking a penalty in the 2012 Champions League final, with 160 million people watching around the world and 60,000 stood in the stadium, you need a high level of confidence and self-belief to perform. That is what we characterise as ego.”

Sports psychologist Bill Beswick, who has worked for Manchester United and England, adds: “Ego is very powerful and can be the driving force behind performance. Ex-Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane had intense self-belief. He maximised his ego to make the absolute best of himself.”

But how do we know the greatest athletes possess this trait? We’ve seen ego manifest itself in Cantona’s upturned collar, while Thierry Henry would often raise his finger to his lips when he scored.  Both were theatrical displays of inner confidence, but in others the same levels of ego are masked.

Confidence coach Martin Perry – whose clients include Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey and golfer Colin Montgomerie – cites the difference between Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Ronaldo is very outwardly confident, whereas Messi comes across as quiet and humble, but both have egos. We know that because of the individual manner in which they play,” he says. “They don’t see risks; they have a bulletproof certainty they’ll produce and when an athlete has that supreme level of confidence, magic can happen.”

West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster often tells a story to youngsters at the club about one of his first training sessions after he joined Manchester United in 2005 that illustrates how ego can dictate success or failure.  Foster moved to Old Trafford from Stoke at 21 and was tipped to become a future England number one.

But as he looked around the dressing room and saw the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney tying up their laces, he was overcome by a lack of self-belief and thought the club might have made a mistake in signing him.

Foster left United five years later having failed to make his mark and has since used a sports psychologist to learn techniques to erase self-doubt.

It’s a story that resonates with Perry: “Ordinary levels of confidence don’t allow you to do extraordinary things; greatness can’t be achieved without it.

“Most magical moments in sport come from a place of supreme self-confidence – these are the moments which last forever and create legacy and legend.”

Ego must be harnessed correctly to ensure an athlete steers clear of controversy and continues to develop.

“We often find in team sports that an athlete doesn’t appreciate the affect he is having on the rest of his team by acting in a certain way, which can cause arguments,” adds Beswick. “Under pressure, athletes can change from ‘we’ to ‘me’. That happens a lot.”

Only four England internationals have scored more Test runs than Kevin Pietersen, but he may never get the chance to write the final chapter of his story now he is in the international wilderness following disputes with members of England’s cricket team.

Prince Naseem Hamed was the world’s best featherweight boxer between 1997 and 2000. But one wonders how much more he could have achieved had he not become lost in the fog of his own hype and cut corners in training, resulting in the only defeat of his career to Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001 and subsequent retirement, aged just 28, in 2002.

Sport psychologist Steven Sylvester, who has worked with England cricketer Moeen Ali, two world champion snooker players and a major-winning golfer, among numerous other athletes, cites the problems caused when a sportsman or sportswoman adopts a selfish approach.

“That mindset is a catastrophe for me,” said Sylvester. “We want athletes to make the right decisions on the pitch under pressure and think how they might benefit their team-mates rather than just themselves. “

As the example of Cantona shows, life experience can manipulate ego over time and provide the catalyst to fuel genius rather than conflict.

Forde adds: “I’ve seen players who were very egotistical or arrogant and then they’d get married or have a baby and you’d see a change in their personality.

“You have to look at an individual sometimes and say ‘we’re going to sign this guy for three years, we know there’s a certain level of risk, but he’s reaching a point in his life where the penny might drop. So are we prepared to take that risk or not?’”

It’s a dilemma Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers faced before opting to sign Mario Balotelli from AC Milan last August following his well-documented problems, although he is still waiting for his investment to pay dividends.

At Bolton and Chelsea, Forde helped to develop an ethos that saw both clubs pursue what he calls “big ego talent”.

The likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard arrived at Stamford Bridge during his tenure, while Nigeria legend Jay-Jay Okocha, Spain’s fourth highest-ever goalscorer Fernando Hierro and France World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff were signed by the Trotters.

His policy at Bolton was one that went against conventional wisdom. Okocha, Hierro and Djorkaeff were all in their thirties and past their physical peak, with no sell-on value, but crucially they all had one thing in common.

“The key isn’t to dispose of big egos. The real question is: is that ego manageable? Is it coachable? Are they humble enough to continue to learn?” explained Forde.

“I remember having dinner with Fernando Hierro. He was 35 at the time, had played 90 times for Spain and won the Champions League twice. I asked him ‘what’s been the highlight of your career?’ He put his knife and fork down and looked at me and said ‘I haven’t had it yet’.”

When talent and ego are in perfect symmetry, a player can make the leap from good to great.  Forde uses a formula – (ego + coachability) x learning culture – with high-performing teams and individuals to help them maximise their talent.

“The equation shows that ego is the foundation of greatness but only if it is still open to being coached and criticised and there’s a structure in place to help them grow,” he said.

It is an equation that explains the success and longevity of some top sports stars.

“I look at Frank Lampard, that’s why he’s playing at the age of 37, then you go into North America, a LeBron James of the NBA or a Tom Brady at the New England Patriots or a Derek Jeter at the New York Yankees.

“The ego is in place to give them the confidence to perform on the biggest stage and then there’s coachability and this intrinsic DNA that gives them the desire to be the best version of themselves.

“If that’s in place, greatness can appear.”

Great article written by Alec Fenn – Football Writer from BBC Sport.

Thanks Alec








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The Power of Pain

What happens when a cricketer gets injured in the midst of a match? They become very dangerous, says Nick Campion writing for All Out Cricket Magazine.

Ian Botham crouched down, spat out a mouthful of teeth and blood. The blood continued to flow, and no wonder. Botham had just been hit in the face by an Andy Roberts bouncer. It was June 1974, and an unknown 18-year-old was playing for Somerset against Hampshire in the quarter-finals of the Benson & Hedges Cup.

Hampshire had been bowled out for 182 and Somerset were struggling at 131-8 in reply. Botham had come out to bat at No.9 but thanks to the impromptu dental work, the game seemed to be up. But the young allrounder refused to go off. Continuing to spit out blood, he faced up to Roberts again, took three off a yorker next ball and went on to shepherd the tail through to a famous one-wicket win. Botham was Man of the Match. “As I look back on it,” he recalled later, “hitting me in the mouth was the worst thing Andy could have done. It seemed to relax me. It made me all the keener.”

Botham BatsCricket is littered with incidents where an injury to a player transforms a performance and even a match. There was Denis Compton in 1947 against Australia, top-edging a Ray Lindwall bouncer into his head, resuming his innings a short while later with England in trouble and going on to get a ton.

There was the 1977 Centenary Test in Melbourne, where Australian opener Rick McCosker had his jaw broken by a Bob Willis bouncer in the first innings. On release from hospital two days later, face wired up and bandaged, he came out helmetless at No.10 for the second innings. He made 25, putting on 54 for the ninth wicket with Rod Marsh. Australia won by 45 runs.

And so it goes on – Robin Smith’s jaw, Gordon Greenidge’s back, Anil Kumble’s jaw, Malcolm Marshall’s arm… but why is it that so many famously defiant and brilliant performances even happened? These people were injured, were physically disadvantaged. Surely their effectiveness should have been nullified by the injury?

This is to ignore the most important part of the body – 
the bit between the ears. Steve Sylvester is a chartered psychologist, former first-class cricketer, Level 3 coach and founder of the ‘withoutEGO’ philosophy. He has worked with scores of elite sportsmen, including many cricketers. He says it’s all down to the change in mindset that an injury forces on a player.

3rd Test Match - England v West Indies“Professional sportspeople have to be totally self-absorbed. For a cricketer, playing cricket is their livelihood, they are paid to perform so that is what they must do every single day. They are being watched all the time, assessed, judged and expected to perform. But all these pressures can actually kill performance. What an injury does is influence a player in a way that is beyond their control and consequently frees them from their self-absorption. With the pressure of expectation taken off them, the player starts to think, ‘What could I still manage to do for my team?’ He moves from selfish to selfless in a moment. The pressure is off and he is able to express himself.

“It becomes one of those rare opportunities for a professional cricketer to play for the reason he started playing in the first place – for pleasure. Everything becomes simpler, slowed down. The player starts to look around, take it all in, enjoy it. The elite player still has his skills and his knowledge, and this calm state of mind allows him to make the very best of the ability he has.

“Getting sportspeople to this state of mind – but without the injury – is the very essence of my mission. When you are happy, you are free. When you’re free, you will play without the burdens of expectation and pressure.”

Here’s what Steve Waugh said in 2001 when he famously scored a remarkable hundred at the Oval with a torn calf: “Sometimes you play your best cricket when you have a niggle or something’s not quite right. When I got to 20 or 30 I thought I’d better play some shots because I wasn’t much value running between the wickets and it was good fun – it was like being 19 or 20 years old again.”

The injury is the trigger to think differently. It reshapes
 the way a player sees the game. It becomes uncomplicated, liberating and fun. “I’ve worked with 10 world champions over the last 15 years,” Sylvester says. “They enter a zone that few people can reach. They actually let go of thinking about winning altogether.”

The injured player also has an effect on his teammates. Sylvester believes the galvanising effect of injuries can be felt every day in county cricket: “It tends to be the bowlers who go the extra mile, constantly bowling with niggles and pains. Their teammates see the effort it takes to get on the field of play and to bowl through the pain, and it raises their morale.”

It’s not just the bowlers. In the fourth Test of the 1932/33 Bodyline tour of Australia, England’s Eddie Paynter 
was taken to hospital in Brisbane with tonsillitis and a temperature of over 102°F. With England struggling in their first innings at 216-6 he climbed from his hospital bed, returned to the ground in his pyjamas, changed into his whites, refused a runner and batted, sweated and trembled in the Brisbane heat for 90 minutes. Not out at the close, he went back to his hospital bed. Returning to the crease next morning, he batted for four hours to make 83. In a series marked by its hostility, he was clapped off by fielders and spectators alike. He even fielded for a couple of hours before returning to hospital. England were able to manufacture a 16-run lead on first innings and it was Paynter himself who hit the winning six in the second innings to finish the game. Who could argue against this courage being anything but an inspiration to his teammates?

So don’t panic next time Joe Root takes a blow to the elbow, Jimmy Anderson gets the flu or Jos Buttler starts stretching a dodgy hammy. The best could yet be to come.

Read Nick Campion’s article on-line here at

Follow Nick Campion here @NickScribbler

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The reasons behind Chris Froome’s success

‘Hunger, ability & collective excellence’ The reasons behind Chris Froome’s success

Chris Froome became the first Briton to win the Tour de France twice when he safely reached the finish line in Paris at the end of the three-week race. This historic achievement by the 30-year-old Team Sky rider has not come without its physical, mental and emotional stresses. This year’s race proved particularly difficult as Froome faced abuse from spectators and accusations of doping.

Tour-de-France-Final-StageSo what enabled Froome to put this aside and remain entirely focused on achieving this tremendous feat?

We asked Chartered Psychologist Steven Sylvester and author of ‘Detox Your Ego’.

“It’s Chris’s hunger, passion and dedication to the sport that led him to his success on Sunday” Sylvester replied. “Winning the Tour de France in the first place is an extremely unbelievable achievement but to do it twice is unprecedented for a British rider. His profound dedication and commitment to representing the yellow jersey in the right way is truly remarkable,” he continued. It is clear that Froome is undoubtedly an extraordinarily talented sportsman, but is this the sole factor for his victory? “No” replied the psychologist. “Froome has a complete alignment between his physical ability, mind-set and the utmost support from Team Sky.” Sylvester believes it is this unique blend that fuels his ability to cope with the abuse from spectators and alleged doping accusations. Amongst being spat on and verbally abused during the later stages of the race, Froome was forced to repeatedly protest his innocence after doping accusations from one French Physiologist.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Froome spoke out on the topic: “The yellow jersey is very special. I will always respect it and never dishonour it.” Froome and Team Sky responded to the accusations by not only releasing the requested numbers but Froome also announced that he wants to become an ambassador for ‘clean cycling’. “To me this represents the cyclists deeper purpose,” Steven puts forward. “Froome is not riding for his own gain but to represent a new ‘clean’ face of the sport on a global platform.” Indeed, after the case of Lance Armstrong, the world of cycling has been shrouded in controversy and Sylvester believes Froome’s strive to amend cycling’s reputation only adds to his determination to perform at his best. “Froome wants to use his position to help restore the image of the sport worldwide,” he concluded.

To add to this, Sylvester deems the ‘collective excellence’ of Team Sky as a pivotal factor in their well-deserved victory in France. Under Sir David Brailsford, Team Sky has produced the most effective line-up in their five-year history. In an interview with Sky Sports, Brailsford said, “It is the best team I’ve ever worked with.” Yet Sylvester distinguishes that this is not the most significant statement, rather Brailsford’s reference to the “willingness of the world-class Team members to sacrifice everything in order to help Chris win.”

Steven says, “This represents a phenomenal shared mind-set that this team have embraced. By prioritising selfless performance, individual riders were able to operate completely without ego. They ‘get out of the way of themselves’ and subsequently put Team Sky’s interest first.” A role that Chris himself has played, coming second after Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Tour de France, he understands the importance of sacrificing for his teammates.

However his victory this year has not provoked any selfishness: In TV interviews after the race he admitted being saddened by the fact that it was only he who could stand on the podium. Chris believes all the members of Team Sky are equally deserving of recognition for his achievement. “This is testament to Sir Dave’s realignment of the team after their less successful race last year” Steven says. “His skill in understanding how to create constructive tension with his senior management team is a critical factor in enabling the team to reduce self interest. It is clear that his leadership ability to transform ego has been key to their success.



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I’ve launched the book cover for my first book ‘Detox your EGO’.

image001 (1)I’m looking forward to sharing with you the journey of writing my book, Detox your EGO.

What stops you winning and performing at your best?    Your Ego.

Your ego ensures you get in the way of yourself when you’re doing something important: whether you’re preparing for school exams, taking your driving test, playing sport, speaking in public or making a business presentation. Whatever you do, your ego is sure to interfere with your performance.

We all have Egos: it’s our natural defence system which is triggered when we experience strong emotions such as anxiety and fear. It focuses on a brand new approach to winning. I believe the pursuit of winning for oneself, like smoking, should come with a Government Health Warning – it can seriously damage your health.

This is a journey of self-discovery, a process that enables you to build self-esteem and have a higher degree of freedom when performing. In DETOX YOUR EGO, I share for the very first time the seven easy steps to be freer, happier and more successful in your life.

I’ll aim to update you via this blog and my twitter feed @detoxyourego as to how the process is going from now until the launch date of the book which is published by Headline on 7th January 2016.

You can pre-order your copy today by clicking on Amazon here:

All the best


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How do business leaders grow their next generation of leaders in this new economic reality?

Over the last ten years, starting with Enron in 2002 through to Barclays and News Corp in 2012, many organisations both large and small have faltered. Corporate culture as a direct result of poor leadership is often highlighted as the key contributory factor. Yet what causes this and how can it be prevented?

Add to this the deepest and most prolonged economic downturn in a generation and the reality is, that the business landscape has changed forever. Your competitors, customers, suppliers are all affected by these new market conditions and are having to find innovative ways to lower their costs whilst growing their market share. As a result, it has become increasingly vital for corporations to select and develop key leaders that:

  • are seen as more effective and satisfying to work for.
  • develop people to higher levels of individual and group performance.
  • have a strong, positive impact on individual, team and company performance

Using the withoutEGO® philosophy for Business Leaders, some other important questions you’d be invited to answer are:

How are you addressing your leadership impact across different teams, depts. and divisions within your organisation?

What can be done to nurture a supportive high performance culture in readiness to maximise renewed market opportunities?

What are the current strengths, values of your work culture that can be highlighted and improved upon?

What are the current perceived weaknesses that need to be overcome?

What are the greatest priorities – that is, where can you focus to make the most difference in the state of their work environment?

How can you achieve and sustain a greater level of high performance amongst your leaders and teams? An environment where individuals are free to perform at their best, are committed, engaged and energized.

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The ”Recruitment Simulator” that’s producing Corporate High Flyers

Steven boardroom pic2I would like to share with you a new recruitment process being used to recruit footballer managers that I’m now applying to large organisations across various industry sectors.

I’ve been working closely with a Club Chairman and a former Premier League Manager to design a new recruitment process to test Football Manager’s on-the-job skills. With strong reputations, fantastic CV’s and celebrity status, it can be difficult for Chairmen to differentiate candidates for management positions.

So what we’ve developed is a process similar to a pilot demonstrating his flying ability in a flight simulator. Here the pilot can choose the route and destination and fly anywhere in the world and select any type of weather condition to test his skills at flying. So what we did was to think along the same lines. Could we design a process that can showcase the potential candidate’s ability to do the manager’s role in modern day football?

The Findings

The result was amazing! During this two-hour process, we quickly found the tangible and intangible differences between candidates.   We also found out about candidate inconsistencies and contradictions between their attitude, behaviour, values and beliefs. It triggered some poor candidate reactions. It revealed how the best candidates responded to real life problems. Today, the selected candidate is highly successful and fulfilling the Chairman’s and the Club’s expectations.

The Conclusion

We have established three important differences between the candidates using this process:

  1. The level of candidate hunger and drive
  2. The candidate’s ability to think clearly under intense pressure, especially when they had to deal with a conflict scenario.
  3. Each candidate’s ability to build strong relationships.

Not surprisingly, the front-runners were those candidates who could blend an appealing combination of these three success factors. We were able to get the “person-environment fit” seamless ensuring alignment between Chairman, candidate and the Club. Interestingly, candidates that attempted to showcase their ability when there was a clear misalignment of person-environment fit deselected themselves from this process.

An additional benefit was that the development areas for the selected candidate were revealed right from the start. The Chairman was, therefore, able to see where potential problems or pitfalls may arise in their working relationship. This was seen as a valuable element as most of the breakdowns in a working relationship are as a result of not understanding the key weaknesses between the manager and organisation.

The Corporate Recruitment Simulator

 The “Recruitment Simulator” has now been repeated into the corporate sector where my clients are enjoying assessing candidates more thoroughly at recruitment stage. Being able to deeply see candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, exposing immediate development areas of new hires has been widely welcomed. It has resulted in Development Plans for the new recruits being implemented during their on-boarding and probationary period.

My genuine excitement that I wanted to share with you today is that the balance between the art and science of recruitment is being achieved.

The organisations using this process have improved their ability to select the “right people for the right roles”, saving time and money.

Using the “Recruitment Simulator” real high-flyers have been quickly and accurately identified.


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Become a Great Leader and learn to operate withoutEGO

without-egoHigh levels of work related stress, as a result of ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality, leads to an increase in psychological battles. We begin an inner dialog:

  • “What happens if I’m not good enough”?
  • “I’ve let down myself and my team mates with that error!”
  • “I am now worried about what’s going to happen to me?”

Great Leaders operate without ego and are absolutely purpose driven. As a result, they know how to tune into their staff’s work-related stress and provide a way of reducing the anxiety, so they can inspire and engage others to follow. So, how do they do this?

  1. Great Leaders know the importance of their actions in times of adversity. They appreciate their followers are looking to them and at them during these times. They know how to influence critical situations and events in order to transform the intensity and commitment of their followers, ensuring they deliver high levels of performance.
  2. Great Leaders make bold decisions in difficult times that bind their followers together. Great Leaders pull their followers into a strong and cohesive unit. They demonstrate empathy, generosity and a genuine care for the welfare of others.
  3. Great Leaders pay attention to the collective excellence of their group. They are prepared to sacrifice their own self-interest (ego) to help others.
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Have you tried ‘Losing the Ego?’

The LMA Manager's Magazine

The LMA Manager’s Magazine

Self-interest might seem common among those with leadership or management responsibility, but it can have damaging consequences, says leading UK Chartered Psychologist Steven Sylvester.

A former professional cricketer and ex-academy footballer, Sylvester has helped leaders in business and professional sport to fulfil their potential by stimulating open and honest debate using what he calls the ‘withoutEGO philosophy’. Through his research with world champion sportsmen and women, Sylvester has found that when people are driven by self-interest or ego it can increase their levels of fear, defensiveness and self-absorption.

“Ego gets in the way of good decision making and the ability to work well with teams and prevents people from performing well under pressure,” he says. “In contrast, when people perform in a selfless way and without fear, like world champions do, it can lead to an increase in openness and an ability to express their skills freely. They tend to be more inspirational and selfless and build more innovative and collaborative teams.”

WithoutEGO is a set of attitudes, behaviours, values and beliefs that enables a person to see how their ego is negatively impacting on players and the team. Each individual or team is invited to explore and assess where they sit on a continuum with selfishness at one end and selflessness at the other end. “For football managers this is difficult as the win-at-all-costs culture pushes players and managers to avoid uncomfortable truths. I will ask them in-depth questions, collect data and assess how they operate against the philosophy, which provides an insight into the club’s level of fear, defensiveness and self-absorption,” he says. “We can also see where inconsistencies lie between their values and beliefs and their actual attitudes and behaviours.

“This is a rigorous and relentless process,” he adds, “enabling the manager to build his or her self regard by understanding their blind spots in the same way an elite athlete would when striving to be the best in the world.” Although much of his work is confidential, Alex Rae, now assistant manager to Alex McLeish at Belgian club Genk, is happy to speak of his experience.

“Even though Rae played won many trophies over his career, his obsession with winning often sent him over the edge and led to reckless challenges and physical altercations,” says Sylvester. “But his openness to pressing the pause button and reflecting over where his inner rage came from is a great strength. Once he was able to talk it through with me and became aware of the deep-seated need that drove his anger and need to win, he was in a better position to make the necessary self-correction. He has progressed from being labelled a bad boy to potentially an inspirational leader with a greater purpose beyond himself.”

Managers in football and business should stop, look and listen to how they are building their personal brands with all vested parties, says Sylvester. “They will need to carefully understand and manage their emotional world if they are going to sustain success over many years.”

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“What does today’s business environment demand from its Leaders”?

Here at withoutEGO© we are focussing on how you can learn to transform your business by paying attention to a more selfless way of working.  

Over the winter period we will be asking Steven Sylvester the founder of the withoutEGO philosophy©, a series of 5 questions across Leadership, Organisational Culture and Performance.

Leadership: Question 1

What does today’s business environment demand from its Leaders”?

“Over the last twelve years, starting with Enron in 2002 through to Barclays and News Corp in 2012 and more recently Tesco’s in 2014, many organisations have faltered. Corporate culture as a direct result of poor leadership is often highlighted as the key contributory factor. So, leaders with a strong ‘control and command’ style are coming under close scrutiny. This style of leadership may be less effective today.

Add to this the deepest and most prolonged economic downturn in a generation and the reality is, that the business landscape has changed forever. Competitors, customers, suppliers are all affected by these new market conditions and are having to find innovative ways to lower their costs whilst growing their market share.

Today, these new market conditions are requiring three leadership changes. Firstly, a leaders ego needs to be kept out of boardroom decisions so that the business can be more flexible in dealing with ‘uncomfortable truths’.

Secondly, leaders need to build greater relational depth across their organisation in order to inspire staff to follow them more wholeheartedly. Consequently, leaders will nurture a critical mass of staff that are aligned to the shared purpose of the organisation.

Finally, such leaders need to pay careful attention to their personal brand of genuine care and support for their staff. This will attract the right staff into the right roles within the organisation.   These leaders will be able to win the hearts and minds of staff and successfully embed their values and moral compass into the culture. These inspirational leaders will have the ability to shift from a selfish perspective (i.e what’s in it for me?) to a way of working that transforms the lives of others (i.e how can I build this organisation to increase its contribution to staff, society and the world around it?). This requires a willingness and commitment from the leader to examine his or her level of ego interference.

What a great invitation for leaders to embrace their personal development”.


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Inspiring your ‘maverick performer’ and ‘managing success’ – a case for pure Structural Alignment.

Following the fall out this week between KP and the ECB, please find below part two of my psychological view of ‘what lessons can be learnt for both world class sport and business’?

“The mark of a truly great organisation is its ability to sustain its position over a significant number of years. In cricket, the West Indian’s under Clive Lloyd and the Australian’s under Steve Waugh had the kind of inspirational leadership that led their Nations to become the most respected and best teams of their generation. Such leaders found ways to keep individual egos at bay. They inspired the ‘maverick performer’ to be aligned to do battle for their stated cause. They also had the kind of special ability to ride the rampant and infectious nature of success such as fame, global recognition and tremendous wealth. They prevented maverick performers from derailing by getting them ‘en pointe’ and committed to the collective excellence of sustaining success over a significant number of years. They harnessed the desire to leave a legacy of greatness beyond just themselves and their team, wanting their Nation to be respected around the world. They somehow engendered a culture of structural alignment”.  

So what can be learnt from these inspirational leaders?

  1. Inspirational leaders have to pay special attention to the ability to influence and persuade the ‘maverick performer’ to follow their specific corporate mandate. Maverick’s are different, even strange in many ways. They are as rare as a precious jewel and require a high level of maintenance. However, these are the kind of people that win you matches or business deals and deliver success at the highest levels in a heartbeat. They hold the ability to execute the most breathtaking amazing skills at the most crucial times against the best in the world. They need special attention and care. So the question is, do you have a protocol that enables you to engage with the high maintenance talented individual? Can you dig below the surface and understand this individuals extreme decision-making whether it be on-pitch or off it, in order to sustain the success of a Nation? As a leader you are expected to have high levels of selflessness in order to give such individuals the time required to keep them aligned. Firstly, a measure of this, is that the maverick performer suggests in his/her feedback that you are seen as being effective and satisfying to work for. Secondly, the maverick performer feels that you are developing him/her and the entire organisation to a higher level of performance. And finally, the maverick performer talks about your strong positive impact on individual, team and organisational morale. We have all been saddened by KP’s reflection on his time in an England shirt. He was/is arguably our best ever player. A genius, a maverick.
  1. Inspirational leaders have to pay special attention to managing their staff’s reaction to a surge in fame, global recognition and wealth. Times have changed and the modern game now requires a modern approach to managing multi-million pound human assets because what success brought in the past is a very different world to what success brings today. There is a need for modernising our thinking about how we manage wealthy and successful individuals, teams and organisations. Today sport is a multi-million pound industry that has many vested parties. For example, you’ve got huge adulation from fans, attention from all forms of media, governing bodies demanding results and creating a hectic schedule. Then in terms of the dressing room dynamic, you now have the growing rivalry between groups of players based on their financial clout. All this causes a higher level of toxic environment than in days gone by. Leaders are required to really appreciate the demands on individuals and teams in this new world order. Players and staff need protection as success triggers individualistic and a selfish perspective. Consequently leaders need to be aware that success creates victims as well as heroes. Leaders need to intervene in order to provide solutions for self-interest. Leaders systematic attention to the dangers of being world number one can help keep successful players and staff on track.
  1. Inspirational leaders have to pay special attention to the ability to structurally align all individuals, teams, departments and disciplines within their environment.  Leaders need to be visible across their entire system. They have to monitor, assess and check the strengths and weaknesses of their work culture in its ability to align individuals and groups across all levels. Leaders need to generate a supportive work culture so that mavericks can voice their opinion without the fear of being chastised. Leaders need to immediately pay attention to any negative and toxic discourse one team member has towards another. Leaders need to continuously collect data on DNA that enables them to sustain world number one status over a significant number of years. Leaders need to facilitate real team discussions and discover new ways of leading individuals and teams across their environment. Finally leaders need to ensure there’s a work culture of self-care, responsibility and accountability so that everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to team performance.

So, if we look at the big fall out in English cricket right now we can see that the above approach has not been realised. The ‘tit for tat’ of KP saying one thing and the ECB saying another, is not good for the status of the game across the world. Both parties have a complete responsibility to the development of the English game beyond their own self-interest. They need to somehow take time to show the world that they can resolve their differences together for the benefit of the next generation and the generations to come. They are key custodians of the game. My dream would be to see KP and the ECB get together and develop a joint solution and statement as to how they have resolved their differences and then present to the media as one unified and coherent team.


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