Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > leadership lessons from Michael Schumacher

leadership lessons from Michael Schumacher

Taking a sporting theme for the second week in a row I’m going to refer to the aftermath of Michael Schumacher’s early exit from the Chinese Grand Prix after one of his wheels was not properly attached during the first round of pit stops; “I don’t have any hard feelings. I feel a bit sorry for one of my boys that I guess he feels responsible, but it’s part of the game”.

And this after he lost the chance of his best result since making his comeback and, possibly, a win on the circuit that he won his last race on. No tantrums, no ranting or raving, just a straightforward comment.

Now a lot of people don’t like the bloke; smug and arrogant are two comments that are often seen, but one thing that people often overlook about Herr Schumacher is that he has, more than once, been the key leadership element in building a winning team. Yes he is ruthless and has that killer instinct when it comes to taking an opportunity, but he builds teams of people around him that have achieved remarkable things and have done so consistently over long periods in the highly competitive world of Formula 1.

I have no idea what has, or will, be said behind closed doors, but the public face reflected in the above quote is the mark of great leadership; no blame, no recriminations, just an acknowledgement of the facts delivered courteously with a smile to the reporter. I wonder if any other sports people saw that interview and learned anything from it? We certainly can though.

Things will go wrong from time to time; if we were all perfect we’d be running things in paradise, but we are fallible humans and we don’t always perform at the highest levels, even when we are trying to. As a leader you will have this problem yourself and how you deal with your own failures will set the scene for your team’s behaviour. How you deal with their failures will define the team.

If yesterday’s failure in the pits was a technical problem they will want to understand what and why, and the same goes for a human error.  When things go wrong you want to understand the reasons and try to prevent them happening again. That needs people to feel comfortable enough to be truthful about what happened and why, and one way that you can engender that environment is through the way that you deal with people. It is a lot easier to trust someone who deals with things in the way that Michael Schumacher did yesterday and there is far more chance of them going the extra mile to make something work better than there is for someone who rants and raves.

Anyone can use fear and threats, but it is not a recipe for long term success. In that sort of environment who is going to want to stay? And who is going to want to join? This isn’t to say that you have to be soft; you don’t. But you deal with problems one on one behind closed doors, not in public.

I have no doubt that Michael is a hard taskmaster, but yesterday he showed that he can deal with a bitter disappointment with maturity and style. It would have been easy to have been critical, but he used words and demeanour that carried far more power than any rant would have done and he set an example to us all in how to lead. It was an example that we can all follow.

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  1. Elisia
    April 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Hi, do you know where i can view this interview with him? thank you.

  1. May 2, 2012 at 4:40 am
  2. May 12, 2012 at 2:11 am
  3. March 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm

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