How Sir Ben Ainslie helps me get the kid’s to school on time

It appears that Ben Ainslie is raising funds for a serious ‘British’ America’s Cup bid.  After his stunning success with the American Oracle team in 2013 I wouldn’t bet against him firstly raising the estimated £65 million and secondly having a really good crack at the race sometime in the future.

To recap the Americans were being well beaten by New Zealand and as a last throw of the dice Ben Ainsley was drafted in as team strategist.  This is a key position in the boat, but the turnaround was truly epic.  After two more defeats the revitalised crew then won 10 straight victories to steal the cup from the Kiwi’s grasp.

Undoubtedly Ainslie is a superb tactician- his Olympic career amply demonstrates his sailing skills.  But let us not forget that he was one man in a total team of over 200.   I suspect his impact was not limited to tactics alone.

No doubt many words will be written by members of the crew on precisely what happened, but to those of us on the outside this remarkable turnaround seems tied to Ainslie’s Leadership.  He seems to have had a plan as to how each race could be won and with that he convinced his dispirited team that they could win each race.  He then let them race the boat to the best of their considerable abilities.  He didn’t crumble on losing his first two races but used the insight’s to improve the boat’s overall performance and show the team how close they were to success.  And finally on becoming a hero he gave all the credit to the team.

He obviously has a potent blend of skills that we can admire.  But can we all learn anything from this or are these skills an innate trait that you either have or you don’t?

I believe that just like any other skill Leadership can be taught.  It will come more naturally to some than to others but we can all become better leaders.   There are library’s full of books on how to be a better leader but the essence of what Ben did is simple and we can all copy the process:

  • Have and communicate  a clear and compelling ‘purpose’ or vision
  • Break the task into manageable chunks
  • Demonstrate your belief in the team’s ability to achieve the goal
  • Enable, allow and encourage your team to do their jobs while you do yours
  • Take personal ownership of problems, whilst remaining humble in victory

Thinking about it this process seems to work for most things from the very small and seemingly trivial to the very grand.  So let’s start small and begin mastering Leadership in our daily lives.  Before you know it we’ll be naturally better Leaders in all situations and that can only be a positive thing.

I’m off to Lead the kid’s into getting out of the house in time for the school bus, if they fail it’s my problem and if they succeed (as they clearly can) it will all be down to their efforts and skill and I will thank them profusely.