Performance – Leadership – Sports

Franz Beckenbauer sadly passed away this week. One of football’s greatest.
Even if you are not into football – and bear with me if you are not – he is widely remembered for two things: Uniquely wining the World Cup as a player and a manager and leading Germany’s venture to host the World Cup 2006.
“Why is this relevant?” you might ask. It is a great case study for leadership, knowing what you are good at, and to remember that things don’t always go to plan when life starts throwing stuff at you.

Reputation matters. Dialling back time into the 1950s in Germany. Munich. Rather than joining what was then the leading and most established club in town – 1860 Munich – Beckenbauer joined the underdogs – Bayern Munich. It was a personal decision because someone from 1860 had treated him badly. A big step for someone who had admired 1860 for many years and had dreamed of playing for them from a young age.
My lesson: treat people well because they might otherwise not join you when you need them, even if you are the best. Even more relevant for VC backed companies and others who rely on a small number of people to make them great.

Risk and fear of failure. Beckenbauer was twice parachuted into a tricky situation when Bayern Munich did not perform to its high standards. Almost overnight he took control and in the first instance he won the Bundesliga and the second stint ended with the win of the UEFA Cup. Again, uniquely, he did this without any formal coaching license which is usually a regulatory requirement for a Bundesliga head coach.
My lesson: He knew what he was good at and what impact he could have – as a player, a coach and a leader.

I was privileged to interview him as a journalist when he had successfully completed his mission to make Germany the host of the 2006 World Cup. Despite it being a very stressful day, he dedicated himself 100% to my questions for those few minutes, he was calm, collected and carried an aura that only demonstrated balance, confidence and success. Whether he was liked or not – he was true to himself. Based on knowing his expertise at each stage in his life he found the appropriate role to impact the world around him.

Performance can come at a price. You can say what you want about Beckenbauer; for example mention his three marriages and the bribery claims surrounding the World Cup hosting. What you can’t take away from him is that he did not join the best but those who were best for him, he was not afraid of risk and adversity. The results and performance make him unforgotten.
My lesson: There is always an option to improve and show impactful performance. Chose your impact and be aware of the price.

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