Thoughts on Leadership: Serving for Success

By Gino Blefari

The packed crowd at London’s Wimbledon Stadium erupted into thunderous applause on Saturday as Serena Williams defeated Garbiñe Muguruza to win her sixth Wimbledon title (and 21st major championship). Serena’s game was slightly shaky, her serves at times meandering just outside the line, her groundstrokes less than certain. But Williams is a master at mastering adversity, and delivered enough winners and aces to claim the coveted Venus Rosewater Dish, Wimbledon’s time-honored trophy. Her resilience is admirable, and a quality any inspired business leader must strive to achieve. What else can we glean from Serena’s success? In a recent article, famed speaker and motivator Tony Robbins outlined four lessons to be learned from the tennis superstar:

  1. Develop the mindset of a champion. As Tony described, “A champion studies the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, then develops a game plan that leverages his or her own skills and expertise to bring about the desired outcomes.” In a May conversation with Sports Illustrated, Serena said the game of tennis is “70% mental.” Adopt the mindset of a winner and you’ll find yourself winning.
  2. Execute, adapt and routinely optimize your results. No matter who you are or what you do, there is always room for improvement, for optimization of your processes and systems that will lead to greater efficiency and success. Serena Williams doesn’t stop practicing after a major win; she continues to build on her strengths and improve on her weaknesses to become even better, stronger and tougher for her next match. Tony explained the worth of this approach: “Understanding and measuring your company’s current processes and results … anticipating the biggest areas of challenge and then mobilizing your team with a clear plan so you can target specific improvements will have the most impact in the long term.”
  3. Use the post-game analysis to your advantage. This concept is nothing new: You have to have well-established lead measures in order to properly determine the outcome of your goals. (How do you know if you’ve succeeded if you don’t first define success?) In 2012, Serena found a new coach in French tennis mastermind Patrick Mouratoglou. Just as it seemed like her career was winding down, Mouratoglou analyzed her game, identifying the weak spots that needed improvement; within months, she ruled the court once again. Serena famously said, “I can’t become satisfied because if I get satisfied, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’ve won Wimbledon. I’ve won the U.S. Open. Now I can relax.’ But now people are really going to be fighting to beat me.” In other words, stay hungry, even in the face of certain victory. After you’ve achieved a pre-determined goal, remain critical and ask yourself: What can I do better next time?
  4. Foster a favorable culture for high performers. “As a business leader, you know that high-performance organizations foster successful innovators, thanks to the alignment of several vital forces,” wrote Tony. “Constant innovation, efficient business processes, powerful performance systems and team competency and behavior all work in harmony inside the world’s top companies.” To build a team of top-performers, you must first create an environment conducive to their success. No one can achieve in a negative, culturally defunct atmosphere. Champions like Serena—or your own business team—must be coached, encouraged and motivated in order to get the “W.”

So, what’s the message? Practice the leadership lessons embraced by Serena Williams and you’ll find yourself just as Serena did last week at Wimbledon, an undeniable winner.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on Facebook and Twitter.

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