A whole subset of classic business culture uses the lexicon of competitive conflict; a lot of terms derive from war and sports. These are considered classic places of leadership and the analogies and metaphors are thick. So it’s interesting to read Abby Wambach’s Wolfpack, where she takes lessons learned from the top echelons of competitive soccer to turn classic leadership rules on their heads. She draws on the well of authenticity and teamwork instead of the cutthroat angle of “conquer at all costs”. She finds humanity and hope in competitive spaces and wants to make space for more people to enter the arena.
In this very (very) short read, Abby outlines 8 “new” rules and compares them to 8 “old” rules of leadership, providing examples of these rules from her own life, most of it on the soccer field. The new rules are:
- Create your own path.
- Be grateful for what you have AND demand what you deserve.
- Lead now — from wherever you are.
- Failure means you’re finally IN the game.
- Be FOR each other.
- Believe in yourself. Demand the ball.
- Lead with humanity. Cultivate leaders.
- You’re not alone. You’ve got your Pack.
While these new rules of leadership are generally applicable for everyone in all aspects of life, this book is very specifically written for women and talks about how some of the old rules have been used to keep women in the margins. I feel her 8 rules break down into 2 main themes: 1) Demanding more from the world regardless of its "regular rules" and 2) joining with and supporting others who are in the same struggle. She wants us to fight against the systems which hold us down and join with others to build a revolution in leadership; both how it is defined and how it is enacted.
Although this book is focused on women as a group and the difficulties we can encounter in leadership, it can be applied to all under-represented minorities (URMs). It's about looking at the standard leadership "rules" that have been set up by existing power structures (read: white, cis, male) and questioning how those work to keep URMs in their subservient places. Abby speaks about being a woman (and to some degree being gay), but can’t speak directly to other URMs from a place of lived experience. Being a white lesbian leader myself, I strongly identify with her. I'd be curious to see how this book does or does not resonate with other URMs, and what we can learn from digging into the hard lessons learned by others as well.
Brené Brown considers this one of her top leadership books (listen to Brené’s podcast about the book) and I can see the appeal of a concise outline of how to reinvent leadership. It’s short, to the point, and connects with common struggles for a lot of people. But like all books in this category, a short, inspiring list for change is only as good as the actions it prompts you to take. I would challenge leaders of all sorts to ponder this list of changes and see where your leadership decisions and actions fall. Then ask yourself what one change you can make to help break down the old rules -- not just for yourself but for everyone that comes after as well.
I’d love to know your thoughts about these new rules or the book in general, if you’ve read it. You can do the social media thing (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) or shoot an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.