Roger Federer. One of the best tennis players of all time. For anyone who follows tennis, whether you like him or not, there’s no denying how good he is as a player. However, what I wanted to share today is not about his greatness. It’s about 3 leadership lessons that we can learn from the great player and incorporate those in our own lives and work. Even if you don’t follow tennis, these could be relevant to you. Right, here we go...
1. Hunger to play at the highest level-
18 grand slam singles titles, No 1 ranked player (Male Singles) for the longest duration, over 1000 matches won. Olympic medallist. Davis Cup winner. These are accolades that any tennis player would dream of having. For many, even half of these achievements would mean a stellar career. Yet, having achieved so much, at the ripe age of 35, which is generally considered past retirement age in tennis, Federer is hungry to compete. Not just to play, but to win. He admits what everyone else knows- that he is past his prime. Younger, faster and fitter players rule the roost in men’s tennis. Yet, there is no underestimating Federer. There’s no writing him off- the recent Australian Open victory after a 6 month comeback shows his desire to compete, and win, at the highest level.
Leaders are always hungry to do their best, and strive for the best results possible. Regardless of others’ perceptions, they are willing to back themselves and their team to get the job done. When the desire to do your best reduces, more often than not, mediocrity sets in. And that starts impacting how you enjoy what you do, and eventually, your results. What sets apart high achievers from the others is their appetite for success- how bad do they want it.
2. Appreciating the people who support you
Federer has been through various ups and downs in his career. Mostly ups than downs. Along his journey, he has had a team of people to cheer and support him, no matter what his results. After his recent win in Australia, he was quick to acknowledge the amount of work his team (including his wife) put in to make him ready for his comeback. Physically as well as mentally. Before fulfilling his media commitments, he asked the tournament officials if he could walk with his team for a lap of honour in front of the crowd. By doing so, he showed gratitude not only towards his team, but also the crowd who supported him passionately through the tournament.
Giving credit where it is due is an act of great leadership. It often sounds simple enough, yet not many leaders follow this approach. By appreciating their people, leaders acknowledge their efforts, which inspire them to do their best. A pat on the back, a “well done”, appreciating others publicly can do wonders to someone’s morale. And that often can make them do wonderful things, beyond a leader’s expectations.
3. Constant improvement
Federer has always been known for his destructive forehand shots. The Federer forehand is often used as an analogy worldwide to symbolise how one can leverage their strengths. His backhand shot? Well, not quite. In relation to the forehand, his backhand has often appeared as a weakness, which his opponents and critics would pick on. Make no mistake, his backhand isn’t poor at all. Having said that, it hasn’t been something that won him many matches. Until recently.
In a recent tournament that he won, what astonished many, including his opponents, was how good and lethal his backhand was. It was hard to pick which was stronger- his forehand, ever his trusted shot, or his backhand, the perceived ‘weakness’. After the tournament, Federer revealed that he has been working on improving his backhand to win him more matches. Hours of practice to hit better shots in match time paid off.
More often than not, we all realise where we can improve. What isn’t serving us well. Yet, not everyone is open to accept their areas of improvement, let alone work at it. A vital aspect of leadership is to keep everyone honest, own up to areas of improvement and strive for constant improvement. The ones who do so consistently are the ones who actually achieve growth and success.
Here’s a question for you- Do you apply these learnings consistently in your environment? If not, what would mean for you as you apply these learnings more often? Keen to hear your comments.