What we can learn from the U.S. Women’s World Cup about leadership
The U.S. Women’s Soccer team has just won its fourth World Cup and cemented its position as the greatest women’s soccer team in history. As a woman who played soccer 40 years ago in the first city leagues of Portland and Seattle, I was filled with pride. However, the moment also reflects the challenges that remain for women — not only in sports, but in leadership.
The first criticism levied at the team was for their “arrogance” and excessive celebration. How does confidence to win and be the best become arrogance when it is backed by smart play, hard work and goals achieved? In comparison, men’s sports teams who dominate a weaker opponent and play their lesser players are not criticized as “indecent.” Men’s teams are known for their pre-planned celebrations. Although some may not appreciate them, they are not judged harshly.
“Women can be confident and humble about what it takes to lead a great team or organization without doubting themselves all the time. By doing this, they can inspire everyone to bring their best selves to work.”
In contrast, women in leadership have learned to restrain their expression of feelings for fear of being labeled arrogant or too strong. They are often judged more harshly than men for not being humble enough.
Thinking ahead about the next possible match is simply good leadership strategy — not an arrogant presumption that the team will win. This double standard is still too common for women leaders.
Lessons in leadership
Here’s what we can learn from this U.S. Women’s Champion Team:
- What others think of us is not nearly as important as leading with our hearts and skills.
- We can define our moments of celebration and depend on our team in ways that reflect our own cultural style.
- We can stand up for who we are and what we think without demurring to the bias of others.
Women can be confident and humble about what it takes to lead a great team or organization without doubting themselves all the time. By doing this, they can inspire everyone to bring their best selves to work.
That’s what this U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer team showed us. Let’s follow their lead!