Leadership in the Workplace – Drawing a parallel to AFL

I’m a Melbournian and have grown up with VFL/AFL and really love it. As a business owner, recruiter and leadership mentor, I enjoy seeing how AFL clubs manage their business, coach their teams and how this drives their success or failure. One of the great things about AFL for the observer is that it plays out in the public view so there is little room to hide. As observers we can see so much more than we could if we were trying to review the leadership of a Private or Publicly Listed Company, for example.

This week Ian Robson, the CEO from Essendon FC, resigned. For those that have followed his path, Ian is widely acknowledged as being a key player in Hawthorn’s turnaround and success as well as Essendon’s.

While most of the commentary will focus on the scandal relating to the ASADA inquiry, as an objective observer I see Ian’s conduct as something special. In terms of leadership I can see 3 clear examples of his craft and strength that really stood out to me.

    1. Ian stuck by when the scandal hit, he steered the ship and allowed those to focus on what they needed to do to maintain their output/success in uncertain times. This is clearly evidenced by the on field success this year to date.
    1. Ian took accountability for any failings, perceived or otherwise, in the organisation of which he was in charge and accepts that accountability, both good and bad.
  1. Ian has stuck by his values and stood strong through the whole process. His confidence and strength was clearly visible during his exit press interview.

Hats off to you Ian Robson, hope that one of the struggling clubs is smart enough to pick you up as their CEO as soon as they can. I’ll be watching your next appointment with great interest.