Geraint Thomas and Team Sky teach us four important leadership lessons
Geraint Thomas, is the name reverberating around sporting circles this year. The unlikely winner of the 2018 Tour de France burst into the limelight at the not so tender age of 32. His journey to the pinnacle of the cycling elite was long and arduous, and one that epitomises dedication, teamwork and selfless leadership.
It’s all too easy to observe the results of great teamwork, but the mental challenge for the team is to hand all the accolades to just the leader, the prima donna. ….
Thomas’s role on Team Sky was as super ‘domestique’ to four times winner and defending champion, Chris Froome. The role of domestique is to support the team leader to improve his chance of winning. This is achieved by riding ahead of the leader to deflect the energy-sapping air resistance away from him. He nestles comfortably into your slipstream to conserve energy for the pivotal sections in the race where he can be most effective.
1. Every success in life comes with a support team
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Thomas had the support of his fellow riders, the support staff, and even his team leader. It’s teamwork that put Geraint Thomas on the podium as did it Chris Froome, Lewis Hamilton, Lionel Messi. It’s what propelled companies like Apple, Amazon and Facebook to the leadership positions they hold. Each of these amazing success stories is backed by thousands of ‘domestiques’ putting in the effort and dedication to realise a common goal.
Cast your mind back to your last success, big or small. I bet you can rattle off the names of those people around you who made it possible to achieve what you did. We all rely heavily on the teams around us. ‘No man is an island’ is an apt description of how success is achieved.
2. Do what you do, but grasp the opportunities
Do what you do to the best of your ability. Through all the hours of strategising, planning and training, Thomas had no inkling that he would be the winner of the most prestigious cycling race in the world.
Thomas says that, as domestique, victory was both glorious and anonymous when making it possible for others to be victorious. He equates it to the lesser-known midfielder in football who feeds quality passes to the strikers making it possible for them to score and win games. It’s the strikers who are showered in glory.
“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” – Napolean Hill
He dedicated himself to his supporting role, which was largely devoid of glitz and glamour. Well, one could argue that riding for Team Sky in the Tour De France is already a fantastic honour, and this is most certainly true. Your name, however will never be emblazoned across all news channels or have an army of adoring fans being inspired by everything you do. He worked hard for years in this supportive role, and with the help of his support team, grasped his biggest opportunity when it presented itself.
Opportunities sometimes come in the most unexpected ways and at the oddest times. In Thomas’s case, it was during the race. Even though we may not always be the architects of the opportunities that come our way, we can certainly influence them. For the most part, they present themselves through those around us. It could be through a chance meeting, someone you’ve worked with or an old friend. Growing and actively nurturing your network will increase the frequency of the opportunities that will find you.
3. Be agile – Observe your weaknesses and play to your strengths
Fairly early on in the race, it was clear that Thomas was the strongest rider and the one who stood the best chance of winning. The team was structured to guide Froome to victory, with each rider selected to play his part in making this happen. The agility displayed by the team was phenomenal in that they were able to devise an ultimately successful strategy during the race, to support Thomas.
We all know the value of changing tact at a moment’s notice to react quickly to threats or to cease opportunities. Organisations that are capable of doing so stand the best chance of excelling in a highly competitive business landscape. A culture that supports agility in the face of a fast-changing technology-driven world is becoming more and more important to an organisation’s survival.
4. Leading without ego
“The key to leadership today is influence, not authority.” – Ken Blanchard
Empathic leadership in action. Froome was sensitive to the information around him. He saw the signs and knew that it was a recipe for success if managed properly. Yes, he recognised Thomas’s strength and drive. Armed with this knowledge, he graciously handed over the mantle of leader to Thomas and supported him in taking the team to victory.
Empathic leadership discards egos and encourages teamwork, collaboration and communication. Froome displayed all of these qualities admirably.
Success is an intoxicating elixir that must be savoured by the victor. It is important however, to acknowledge those who have played a crucial role in that success. When reaching the heights of whatever you do and finding yourself in a leadership position, do so selflessly. People who feel included and appreciated will always go above and beyond the call of duty. A valuable lesson in life is to always keep an eye out for opportunities and to act quickly and decisively when they present themselves. Opportunities are the bricks that pave your road to success.
When have you played the role of ‘domestique’ in helping others shine? How do you celebrate the success of others where you have played a key role? What factors do you put down to your team success? Who has made it possible for you to achieve your goals? How often do you spot opportunities to support others in your network or seize opportunities presented by those around you to achieve your goals?
I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts.
Dinah Tobias is a passionate Speaker, Facilitator and Consultant who believes in cultivating deeper human connection and communication in business. She facilitates team-building sessions and delivers public and bespoke workshops and masterclasses on empathic leadership, building networks/influential circles of connections and using storytelling in business and brand development. She also provides consulting and coaching in these areas to organisations and leaders.