The Australian Open Tennis Tournament was unique in many ways this year, not least for the many leadership and character lessons it offered.
No one would have wanted Tournament Director, Craig Tilley’s job this year, that’s for sure. The quarantining of players, coaches, support staff and officials were challenging enough. But add COVID safe crowd attendance, ongoing player safety management, the outbreak of cases in Victoria, a 5 day lockdown, no crowds at the tournament and then back to COVID safe crowd attendance, what a roller coaster.
Among these many challenges were some incredible leadership lessons from two of the world’s top female tennis players Naomi Osaka, the eventual winner of the tournament, and Ash Barty (current world No.1).
Naomi Osaka said her performance went to another level during the current Covid-19 pandemic when she stopped playing as much and reflected on herself and what really mattered to her and got engaged in those things off the court. The issue that really mattered to Osaka was the Black Lives Matter movement where she championed the movement and expressed her reasons for doing so. The Australian Open 2021 winner’s experience is supported by evidence that is well documented; self-reflection leading to self-awareness can have huge benefits (to us and those around us) if we have the courage to act in alignment with our true values. Osaka acted in alignment with her true values and remained committed, even in the face of some negative feedback.
Another great Leadership Lesson came from current world No.1, Ash Barty who (unexpectedly) lost her quarter-final to Karolina Muchova.
In reflecting on the loss Barty said “We learn, we move on we don’t ruin what has been a really successful tournament. You’re either winning or you’re learning. Today has been a massive learning curve for me.” In her comments Barty demonstrated what Stanford Professor, Carol Dweck terms a Growth (as opposed to a Fixed) Mindset.
Dweck’s research on Mindset demonstrates that people who focus on learning and the process of getting better tend to be more successful in sports, business and relationships. Further, Dweck’s research suggests it’s because they focus on getting better that they are willing to work hard, persevere, take risks and seek feedback from people that those with a Growth Mindset are more likely to succeed.
Both Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty demonstrate that you can be a great role model on and off the court, a great athlete and a great leader all at once.
These two great Leadership Lessons, one from the eventual Australian Open winner and the other from a galant quarter-finalist are both powerful lessons.
This looks and sounds like the future of tennis to me.