From the outset, I have to make it absolutely clear, that I have always held the work of Sir David Brailsford and the ‘marginal gains’ approach to improvement in the highest esteem. To be quite honest, I still do, which is why I am baffled and disappointed at the current state of affairs regarding the way that the ‘package’ and TUE’s situation has been handled from such a strong and easily identifiable leader.
As I began my deeper leadership journey, I followed the progress of Team GB Cycling and Team Sky, pausing the TV during an interview with SDB (Sir David Brailsford) to take a picture of the leadership books on his shelf, ensuring that they went on my own reading list. I was mesmerised, as I am sure we all were, with the attention to detail, meticulous strategy, marginal gain approach and the embodiment of leadership perfection resulting in stunning outcomes.
I am not confused about the TUE. If it was meant to be there, then in all likelihood, understanding the meticulous attention to detail involved with how Team Sky works, SDB would have known about it. A risk was taken and it back fired. What confuses me, is that by anyone’s standard, SDB’s ability to demonstrate the true characteristics of a leader were completely missing at a time when they were needed most.
The handling of the whole situation by SDB is a lesson for us all to heed. When a leader loses credibility, doubt spreads within the team and it is almost impossible to regain. Credibility and integrity are easy words to bandy about as a leader but very easy to lose. The more publicly this happens then greater the reputational damage to the leader. Trust errodes very quickly and team allignment shifts as doubt creeps in.
It was no surprise to read that Chris Froome, despite the employment by Team Sky of a media advisor, was not prepared to openly back SDB during a press conference, casting further doubts on SDB’s credibility as a leader. Why would Froome risk his own credibility and integrity when he clearly has his own doubts around those of SDB.
How differently this could have panned out. ‘Hindsight’ is a wonderful lens to reflect through but as a leader we must be prepared to recognise our own fallibility and be willing to embrace our mistakes and be prepared to put our hands up and say ‘I got it wrong’ or ‘I could have done it better’. Had SDB done this at the start of this incident, we may well have been applauding at the way he had managed it and the smooth way he navigated his way through it.
Let this be a ‘heads up’ to leaders at all levels, be quick to recongise when and where it hasn’t gone well and take responsibility quickly. Embrace and admit the mistake and then look at how to put it right. If we do this, then there is a chance that we can limit the loss of credibility and reputational damage and ensure that our own most valued assets (team members and those we lead) do not lose faith and trust in what we do. Once they have, as we see in Froome, it becomes almost impossible to support as you are left compromising your own values and credibility.
Ashley Meriman wrote in the Washington Post of ‘How leaders are more powerful when they’re humble’ and suggested that humility is: ‘when someone has an accurate assessment of both his strengths and weaknesses, and he sees all this in the context of the larger whole. He’s a part of something far greater than he. He knows he isn’t the center of the universe. And he’s both grounded and liberated by this knowledge. Recognizing his abilities, he asks how he can contribute. Recognizing his flaws, he asks how he can grow.'
Full article can be found here:
A humble leader would have would have recognised the mistake, taken stock, sought advice and fronted it out, putting up his or her hands, taking responsibility for it. They would not have tried to fudge the issue or mislead and would be driven by their own integrity and credibility and relied on it to shine through.
Leaders are only human after all.
Miistakes are an essential part of the leadership learning process.
Credibility is gained by recognising our mistakes and learning from them, not marginally diluting them in an attempt to deceive.