Leadership - on and off the field

28 Aug 2018

By Shadforth Financial Group

The buzz you get when 95,000 people are screaming your name at the MCG is tough to beat. That’s something ex-AFL players Brad Wira and Mark Porter know from personal experience.

They also know that the skills they picked up on the field haven’t gone to waste, but are in fact something they continue to draw on daily in their careers as Private Client Advisers with Shadforth.

For those still in the game, like senior coach of the Sydney Swans Football Club, John Longmire, those skills continue to arm him with the tools he needs to succeed both at work, and at home, every day.

We interviewed Brad, Mark and John and here’s their insights into what makes a successful leader both on and off the field.

The importance of teamwork 
Understanding the importance of teamwork was the number one skill needed according to all three leaders, who say it’s equally important in the financial world as it is on the sporting field.

“No matter how big or small, it’s crucial that people understand their role,” says Brad. “Whether you’re an adviser or a CEO, a physio or a player, your whole team needs to be playing their part every day — every minute is paramount to your combined success.”

“We need to reward those people who do the less glamorous things, because it’s not always the superstars up front who are totally responsible for everything they’ve implemented,” adds Mark.

As a coach, this also carries over to having a ‘group feel’ — so that means identifying when the team needs to be pushed or pulled, and knowing who should do it. A critical part of this is having empathy for each player, thinking through every individual conversation you have and working out who needs an arm around them and who needs to be challenged — the tempo of the group will be influenced by this, says John.

Be true to yourself
Being true to yourself is one skill John Longmire also attributes to a successful leadership role and research has confirmed it’s a crucial component for any up and coming leader. In fact, research has shown that Australian leaders in particular thrive due to their charismatic style, understanding the importance of constant communications and by developing emotional bonds with their team by ensuring people feel valued and recognised in their role. Australian leaders also frequently display emotional honesty, another skill that Longmire has in spades.

“Having genuine principles and a strong belief in what you’re about, both at work and in life, is what I stand for,” says John. “Being self aware, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and putting the ego aside is crucial. Mastering self-awareness includes consistently asking yourself, ‘what do I need to do to get better?’ while also being open with your teammates and sharing your story in an effort to form an unbreakable bond.”

“Forming connections through story telling is a critical part of leading a group. Creating the environment where people feel safe to discuss their fears and insecurities, without the fear of being judged is crucial,” says John. “The best way to start these conversations is sharing something yourself, because people almost always respond positively when they feel connected through hearing that their leaders have insecurities, just like them.”

Seek out trusted confidants
And when the going gets tough, as it often can in such leadership roles, you’ll need someone in your corner with a willing ear. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates all had mentors – which just goes to show you’re never too successful to benefit from a mentor/mentee relationship. Done right, the partnership will encourage you to push outside of your comfort zone, teach you how to take constructive criticism and offer you a safe place to share your problems and brainstorm new ideas.

“Use trusted people to bounce things off,” says John. “Leaders often take on other people’s problems, so finding a way to push the ‘refresh’ button for yourself is vital.”

For those younger players coming up the ranks, Shadforth Financial Group has proven to be an invaluable confidant, specifically when it comes to managing their money - through the AFL Players Association (AFLPA) financial education program.

The Shadforth financial education program
Our involvement with the AFLPA began over 16 years ago through helping players understand their contracts and improve their  financial knowledge.

Today, the AFLPA’s financial education program is considered a world class financial education and literacy program for all AFL players across all stages of their career.

“Shadforth’s AFLPA education program was designed to help players manage their money,” says Mark. “If they don’t get guidance and don’t have someone in their corner who’s been there and done that, they run the risk of ending up with nothing, because in professional sport, your earning capacity is almost in reverse.”

“It’s great to see a player come in as a 17-year-old and go out at the age of 30 fully equipped from a financial perspective. We’ve watched them grow, we’ve seen them start a family, and now we’ve helped them support that family and transition into the next stage of their life. I think that’s a pretty big buzz too,” says Brad.

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