I write this sat in the middle of our hotel lobby in Portugal, as we have reached a little over the halfway point of the first Football for All Leadership Course in Lisbon. Over the past few days, we’ve had the privilege of hearing from some fantastic speakers at the top of their respective games, and bonding as a diverse group with much to learn from each other. Thus far, the course has provided an invaluable space to critically reflect on my current practice and continued professional development. We have learned about a vast array of things from the personal to the technical. I raised a rye smile when my animal based leadership profile came out as..an Owl!
A further striking feature of the course has been that despite our truly global background, with over 10 countries represented on the course from across the world, is the common issues that we all face. A big part of the solution comes from the shared learning of our experiences, drawing from the different contexts we have, and strategies we have used to make progress. During the course we have had a couple of visits, including to the Portuguese FA and we are heading to the home of Benfica tomorrow! Each class has raised thought provoking questions for our current work, and how we get better in the future.
On top of all these things, just one stands out – the importance of relentlessness. It is clear that such are the nature, scale and stubbornness of the issues that we face, that only the highest levels of determination to address them will result in a difference being made. Sustaining such relentlessness is of course far from easy, and requires a seemingly endless supply of energy that it won’t always be easy to find.
Such relentlessness should also not be mistaken for a blunt instrument. Moreover, part of its success will be marked by the subtlety and judiciousness of its application. Relentlessness does not mean indiscriminately shouting from the rooftops, nor tackling every cause. It means the deliberate application of effort in a co-ordinated away to tackle problems, with the goal of making a positive societal difference for all. Time and patience is also required, for the gradient of progress may be a shallow one, with a few bumps on the way. Relentlessness and resilience will go hand in hand.
The rewards are also huge (and quite possibly the stakes too!) for the progress made will help society will be a better place and contribute to solving the collective issues which will make all our lives better. I am of the view that, in times where it is arguably easier to find what sets us apart than what brings us together, it is vital that we find common ground. Locating such territory will not always be easy, and entail the negotiation of some really tough and sensitive issues. For me though, inaction is not an option.
We must also celebrate our successes and learn from where things don’t go quite so well, taking the opportunity to learn and improve wherever we can do so. As time passes, we must continue to innovate and not be afraid to be bold in our approach (a point which the course has emphasised throughout) and share our progress.
I am acutely aware that I may sound idealistic at this point. We can and will make progress though…and that is the relentlessness talking!