Baroness Sue Campbell: A Case-Study in Leadership

The Telegraph’s article about Baroness Sue Campbell stood out for me after the work we did together to find the England Women’s Senior Head Coach at the beginning of last year.  Because in this job it is so easy to spend time discussing an idealised view of leadership as people look to find the magic formula that separates the best from the rest.  But so much harder to come across a live example of that leader – and one who displays so many of the values and behaviours we would state, both consistently in all they do, and when difficult decisions are being made against a ticking clock.

With the semi-final tonight, I can’t help but believe that three of the qualities nestled in this piece, and which we saw in Baroness Campbell, have helped the team get to today:

1. An Approach Based on Principles

Bravery and courage are often near the top of a list of leadership traits and I wouldn’t disagree.  But to hold your nerve against the media noise, particularly in the world of football, is hard.  Baroness Campbell knew there would be questions over Phil Neville’s appointment, we all did, but she also believed making it was absolutely the right thing to do and would lead the team towards their goal.  The article quotes Sue as saying, “When you want to be an agent of change you’re not always popular…but integrity is doing what is right, not what is popular.”.  We saw her ‘check in’ with herself as she states, and hold her decision-making and conscience to task at the eleventh hour.  Neville’s appointment was the result.

2. Perspective

Being able to put people at ease and relax a room to get the best out of those in it is in within the reach of many leaders.  But to be able to do that that at the moment you most need to, when the pressure is on, is an awful lot harder.  As tensions ran high, which they can during high profile recruitment processes, Baroness Campbell was the epitome of calm, absorbing the pressure so others could flourish.  She used her seniority to reassure those with less experience, bringing a down-to-earth approach and confidence to gain some healthy perspective.

3. Caring, Deeply

People talk about empathy but rarely mean the deep level of care Sue brings to her work.  Whether it was in showing true understanding towards a candidate deciding not to progress for personal reasons or the way she viewed and valued the players, her compassion generated trust.  And this trust laid the groundwork for a decision that many weren’t sure of, but that she and her players – her football family – knew right.  We see many of the best leaders in sport showing real care for their players, but it’s rarely a behaviour they are championed for.  And I don’t think I’ve ever seen it appear on the core criteria of a brief.  Yet Baroness Campbell showed me it should make this trio: and I believe it will help her achieve her three goals, and her team move from top three to just top.

Source: The Telegraph

Image credit: Getty Images as part of source article

Posted by: David Slemen
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