3 Leadership Lessons from the Women’s World Cup 2019 Champions

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team proved their title as best in the world (and breaking records along the way) when they won their second consecutive World Cup.

One record that was shattered came a day after their victory. As the viewers of the final game were calculated, Fox Sports recorded 14.3 million viewers, which leapt over the Men’s 2018 World Cup final by 22%. Not only did the USWNT cinch their victory, but they also brought in the audience with their performance of excellent teamwork and leadership.

So how can corporate leaders transfer the USWNT’s winning culture from the field to the office? With these key lessons:

1. A Cohesive Culture Is Key

It wasn’t a surprise that the U.S. would come out guns blazing. However, it’s a unique skill that they were able to keep the winning pace during each match. They kicked off the first game against Thailand by conquering the records of “most goals in a single Women’s World Cup match” and “highest margin of victory in one soccer match (men and women)” with their 13-0 victory.

The U.S. continued with their momentum by shutting out Chile and Sweden, and then beating Spain, France, England, and finally the Netherlands.

Keeping this successful speed can be attributed to the engagement of each player. This engagement comes when players have high levels of ownership for their role on the field and what they contribute to the final score of the game.

Feeling engaged and empowered at work derives from a sense of ownership over the tasks at hand, as well as a sense of involvement in the big-picture goals. Organizations that encourage employees to take such ownership in everything they complete and accomplish can retain top performers by maintaining higher levels of engagement, productivity, and satisfaction.

2. Leadership That Doesn’t Lose

Establishing strong leadership that empowers others to deliver results is essential to gaining a winning culture. The USWNT has mastered this step with their coach, Jill Ellis. Not only has Ellis led her team to victory twice, but she also claimed the title of the first women’s coach ever to win two World Cup titles in soccer history.

So what about Ellis’ leadership style is so impactful? She isn’t afraid to take risks. After the USWNT’s crushing loss against Sweden in the 2016 Olympics, Ellis knew changes must be made to the roster–in disagreement with both popular veteran players and team sponsors. She brought in new talent and switched players into different positions, creating a more diverse team.

Risk-taking can be a daunting prospect — failure can endanger your professional aspirations and your organization at large. But studies show that when assessing risk, we tend to overestimate the probability of something going wrong. While it might seem wise to err on the side of caution, this conservative approach stymies our ability to innovate, think outside the box, and learn from our mistakes.

If enacted with full transparency, risk-taking can increase engagement and accountability, propelling your entire business towards its Key Results.

3. Accountability Inspires Action

When watching the USWNT play, there is one aspect of their teamwork that each player contributes more than the excellent saves, finessed free kicks, and mastered foot work–accountability.

Each player on the field holds themselves accountable for what they have to attribute to winning each game. Alex Morgan owns her shots on goal, Megan Rapinoe trusts her penalty kicks, and Alyssa Naeher exhausts her energy to keep the U.S. goal safe from goals against. Every woman owns her position on the field and supports each other when needed.

Accountability should be the hallmark of a successful business, uniting employees and employers around a common, clear vision and elevating them through a sense of partnership.

The authors of the new bestselling business leadership book, Propeller: Accelerating Results by Getting Accountability Right, explain it best, “Why do some teams generate a powerful sense of unity and purpose in their work while other teams limp along divided in purpose, blaming one another for failing to deliver? The answer is accountability.”

When workplace accountability is embodied by individual employees, collective teams, and the organization as a unified whole, every member plays their part in reaching the incremental benchmarks that together equate to achievement on a large scale. Achievement is self-perpetuating in an accountable workforce–when an individual holds him or herself accountable for high personal achievement, his or her team is likely to take notice and strive to achieve on a higher level. Ultimately, achievement can generate meaningful personal and organizational growth.

Through consistent empowerment and engagement, strong risk-taking leadership, and a team inspired by self-accountability, the USMNT was able to pull through in breaking the record for “most FIFA Women’s World Cup wins.” Leaders should follow this team as they are sure to evolve and come back as an even stronger team to defend their title in the next four years.

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