Leaders Are Cheerleaders

Gerwig 2016-08-19

Are you a fan of something or someone? Maybe you’re a fan of the Rolling Stones or Adele? Or perhaps you’re a fan of J.K. Rowling or Tom Clancy. Or maybe you’re a fan of Hamilton or Phantom of the Opera. Is it possible you’re a Golden State Warrior or New York Yankee fan? Me? I’m a Clemson Tiger and Manchester United fan. I also pull for the Tennessee Volunteers and the Auburn Tigers. But in truth, I probably follow Clemson’s football team and Manchester United’s football club more closely than any other team or individual entertainer.

Clemson is my alma mater and I’ve watched some great games in Death Valley, home of the Tigers. While in college, I lived a few hundred meters away from the stadium and we could “tailgate” in the front yard of my old apartment building and walk less than 5 minutes to the stadium. It was great fun on a Saturday afternoon. Attending a football game in the southeastern US, is quite the spectacle. Yes, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) rules but some of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) schools such as Clemson and Florida State aren’t far behind in fan support, tailgating, and all-around game day atmosphere. My wife, sister, brother-in-law (and occasionally parents) would tailgate at my place, then walk to the game to watch the Tigers put it to some other team. Did I say it was great fun? Dogs, burgers, blue-skies, white fluffy clouds, and the colors of Fall! In the Southeast, college football is almost a religion. If this doesn’t resonate, then you clearly haven’t spent much time there. It’s like rugby to the Kiwi’s, cricket to those from India and Pakistan, boxing to the Pinoys and basketball to those in the state of Kentucky. It’s big!

But for me, an even more enjoyable sport to watch is soccer, football, futbol. I was introduced to the game as a 2nd grader living in North Carolina by an exchange student from Brazil. I’d never heard of soccer, much less played it before meeting Philippe. Soon afterward, we moved to Guam and a local priest, Father Tony, continued teaching me to play and encouraged my participation on a team that informally trained at my school. Each day, during back-to-back lunch and recess periods, we took off our white oxford shirts (part of our school uniform) and played soccer for 90 minutes using coconuts (still in the husks) for goals.

While in high school, I remember getting up at “o’dark thirty” to watch my favorite team, West Germany, lose to Italy 3-1. Ugh! And in 1994, though we really couldn’t afford it, my wife and I purchased tickets and attended a World Cup match in Tampa (Ireland vs. the Netherlands). I loved it!

For nearly 40 years, I’ve been a fan of soccer, both as a player and spectator. And while my favorite national team is Germany (though I also pull for the US), my club team is Manchester United. Now if you’re a big soccer fan, some of you probably aren’t reading anymore. You see, Manchester United is somewhat like the NY Yankees and LA Lakers. You either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. I hope you’re still reading. And you should know that I have one son who pulls for Manchester City and another who pulls for Arsenal. Yes, I know – where did I go wrong!!!

I’ve been a Man U fan for about 15 years, but it’s only been about 7 years that I’ve been a FAN, if you know what I mean! I get up at all hours to watch them play. I keep up with their trades in the offseason. I re-watch matches. I put on my customized jersey and watch the matches with family friends. We started watching the matches together in the Philippines and continue watching together now that we’ve both moved to Connecticut.

We pull for our team. We yell. We “high five.” We hug. We basically act stupid. It’s a sport after all, right? Of course not! It’s English Premier League football. And Manchester United is a legendary club! Though the players can’t hear us, we’re sorta like cheerleaders. We encourage. We exhort. We scream. We clap. We support. We show passion. We do backflips and headstands. Okay, not really. But we are cheerleaders of sorts. And while they may not hear us while playing an ocean away, we’re fans. We support the club. We buy their merchandise. We watch the matches. We don’t give up on the team when they’re having a bad season. We’re cheerleaders.

Great leaders are cheerleaders. They support their teams. They encourage individuals as well as teams. They provide recognition and support. Great leaders stick with their teams through “thick and thin.”

Are you a great cheerleader? Do you have a team or individual for whom you root? Your spouse? Your kids? Your parents? Your co-workers? Your direct reports? Your company? Your school? Your country?

Perhaps, like me, you’ve been watching the Olympics. Are you pulling for your country? For individual athletes? If so, consider pulling for those with whom you work. Consider cheering on those who call you “boss.” Consider encouraging those whom you mentor or disciple.

Great leaders are cheerleaders. If you’re not one, start today. You don’t have to be an extrovert to provide encouragement, support, recognition and inspiration. Do it your way, do it authentically, but become a great cheerleader. You’ll be amazed at the results and long-lasting benefits.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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