How to lead like Federer

16 julio 2012 por Douglas McEncroe · 0 Comentarios · Liderazgo

A week ago I, like millions of others, celebrated Roger Federer’s latest achievement. What is it about this tennis player that makes him so popular? He has in fact won the ATP World Tour Fan’s favourite a record nine times straight between 2003 to 2011 and I have little doubt he will win this year’s as well.

Obviously success attracts and Roger’s success is phenomenal, Rod Laver goes so far as to say that he is the greatest player that ever lived, certainly no one has ever won 17 grand slams before, but it is more than that, for he is also popular with all the other professional tennis players as evidenced by winning the Stefen Edberg Sportsmanship Award, which is voted for by the players, a record seven times between 2004 and 2011. So how does he do it and what can people who want to exercise leadership learn from him?

Fair Play

One thing that I truly like about Anglo Saxon culture is how it values fair play. Federer isn’t actually Anglo Saxon, although his mother is in fact South African, and yet he embodies this value. Roger is always fair, both on the court and off it, he plays by the rules, doesn’t have stupid arguments with judges and never does things like throw his racket down, probably more intended to unnerve the opponent than to settle one’s own nerves. He wins because he plays superbly. When he was very young he wasn’t like this, but he learnt and grew into the way he is today, something that makes me respect him even more.


Roger Federer is tenacious. When he was 25 virtually nobody could beat him but he got older and other younger players got better. But, he never gave up and at 30 he again held the Wimbledon trophy high above his head and became once more the World’s Number 1. Almost everyone else would have given up but not him, day after day he is out there practising, working on his game, working on his head and believing in himself, the result, another victory, another record.


I almost like listening to Roger’s speeches after the games as much as I enjoy watching him play. What has always struck me over the years is his tremendous generosity towards the other players, recognizing their courage and ability while playing down his own prowess. Perhaps for this he is so popular with the other players.


Without doubt Roger Federer is an incredibly talented player, he has every shot in the book. But he is a champion because he works hard to develop that talent. Other players respect this. I’ve always thought that when he is really on his game, he is unbeatable, but this invincibility is the result of day after day of hard grind. Everybody respects someone who does that.


I enjoy listening to Federer talk about his entourage, the people who surround him and help him in his work. For one thing he is creative, he tries new combinations and achieves that two trainers can work together seamlessly. But what also impresses me is that you get the feeling that the people who are with these people who work with him, husbands, wives, children, boyfriends and girlfriends are included in his team and made to feel welcome. This I am sure helps get the best performance from those who work with him directly.

For all of us who have to lead others the Federer Cocktail: fair play, tenacity, generosity, competence and inclusiveness, can be very helpful. He inspires me and helps me think about my own leadership. My hope is that Roger gets that Gold Medal at the London Olympics and can retire as, like Rod Laver says, the greatest tennis player who ever lived. My feeling is that my hope is shared by half the planet.

What do you like about Roger Federer?


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