Leadership Lessons from the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
Few things bring people together the way that sports do. Whether you’re a player on the field or a fan cheering in the stands or watching on TV or online, sports foster a sense of belonging, comradery, and healthy competition. Team sports at their best underscore the importance of setting a collective goal, working together to leverage each individuals’ strengths and celebrating victory or loss as a group.
Professional athletes have long been at the heart of many great leadership examples, and this past weekend, the world bore witness to a new story for the ages—when the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) won their 4th consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup. While the team’s victory on the pitch was incredible, I—like so many others—am most inspired with their efforts off the pitch to support one another and collectively fight for equal pay. While there are varied perspectives on whether the USWNT is paid fairly or not, I commend the team’s efforts to bring this issue to the forefront and applaud their determination to achieve what they believe they deserve.
As I watched the epic match between the U.S. and the Netherlands on Sunday, I was struck by the valuable lessons we can all learn from Team USA and apply in the workplace.
Some of the most compelling takeaways for me include:
Know your worth
Despite USWNT’s dominance in their sport, they are paid significantly less than their male counterparts, and they have come together as a team to consistently declare that they deserve equal pay from their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation. The World Cup presented them with the opportunity to demonstrate their value, and they delivered with superior performance. The world has taken notice and rallied behind them, chanting “USA” and “equal pay” in the stadium after their big win. While your workplace is not on the world stage, you can follow their example to advance in your career by recognizing your self-worth, declaring your value to your manager to gain support, and being persistent in asking for what you deserve from your employer.
Embrace your competitive nature
To boost your career, a dose of healthy competition can be beneficial. When there’s an element of competition within your teams, it can light a fire within you—and your colleagues—to bring your “A” game to work every single day. High-performing teams, like USWNT, consist of individuals that want to stand out and have a positive impact, while collectively working towards the same goal.
Support your team members
Going into the World Cup competition, there was a lot of noise in the media surrounding some individual USWNT players. Sports can be a very ego-driven environment, but the USWNT embraced each individual’s differences and continuously lifted one another up, rather than tear each other down. In the workplace, you will have colleagues that have different views and styles of working, but you all have something to bring to the table. It’s essential to embrace what makes us all unique as individuals and use that to propel our collective success.
Rise to the occasion, despite the doubters
Doubt will always creep in throughout your career journey. Some of it will come from yourself, and some will come from others. That doubt can be deafening and get in your way if you let it. The best thing you can do to combat any self-doubt and quiet nay-sayers is to harness all your energy and focus on rising to every challenge with grit, determination and striving for excellence with every task. When you rise to the occasion, you will silence any doubt.
Celebrate your success, unapologetically
Celebrating a career milestone, landing a new client, or a project well-executed should be amplified and never minimized. After their opening match at the World Cup, USWNT were scrutinized for celebrating their record-breaking 13-0 win over Thailand, “too much.” In my opinion, they earned every bit of that celebration due to their hard work, and I was so impressed that they did not apologize for their superior performance and excellent execution. Confidence, when balanced with humility, is critical in the workplace, and you should always find a way to acknowledge your personal success and that of your team members, when a big goal is accomplished, individually or collectively.
The chant for “equal pay” that continues reinforces why I am incredibly proud to celebrate Adobe’s achievement of global pay parity for our employees. I’m excited to expand Adobe’s efforts this year and focus on our next Diversity and Inclusion challenge, opportunity parity.
Congratulations to USWNT on their stellar performance at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. You are an inspiration to all of us, and I support you while you’re on your journey towards equal pay!