At this point I should admit that I am a mad keen Netball fan, having seen what an incredible game it is, and what opportunities for personal development it affords our Australian teenage daughters. You won't see beer ads for this sport, but netball is Australia's largest participatory sport with 1.2 million people playing graded games across Australia each year. The Australian Netball Diamonds are ranked No.1 in the world and have a record unmatched in Australian sport, including winning 9 out of 12 Netball World Championships; 2 out of 3 Commonwealth Games gold medals, and an 84% win record across the history of all internationals. But I digress...
A natural athlete, Laura Geitz came to netball relatively late at 13 but she knew that she had found her metier at that first game. Within a few years she was playing for Queensland and captain of the Firebirds.
She'd grown up a tomboy on the farm so it was a big shift when she was selected to play for Australia, and had to move to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra to follow her dream. She considered quitting at this point, but persevered and went on to be selected as Captain of the Diamonds in July 2013. Even though she had a vision for the team that she thought that this could be, she found being awarded this position a daunting and confronting honour which took courage and deep personal honesty to meet.
Business people see the cross-over in achievement from sport to other fields of endeavour fairly readily, and I particularly related to Laura's account of making the transition from being highly competitive and individualistic to achieving in a team. Laura could see how internal conflict could dull a team's performance and wanted more than anything in her captaincy to empower her players to step outside their comfort zones and enjoy giving the game their very best.
And it worked. Laura immediately led the Diamonds to reclaim the Constellation Cup from the New Zealand Silver Ferns, their toughest rivals.
Laura's first hand account of leadership and sporting success aligns very much with the expert advice I heard from Allan Preiss at McArthur Talent Architects at the LGPro annual conference in Melbourne last month, and it demonstrates how a team, or an organisation, can achieve at a higher level when leaders empower and inspire each member to trust each other and take a risk together.