What can leaders learn from Sarina Wiegman?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few days, you probably heard about the Lionesses’ win over Germany in Euro 2022. So we thought we’d join the rest of the country and celebrate football coming home by shining a spotlight on Sarina Wiegman and her unique management style. How has she taken the Lionesses from part-time players with full-time jobs to history-makers on the pitch?

Women’s football is still a long way from achieving equality and equity with its male counterparts. But the women’s national team’s historic win on 31 July should go some way to balancing the scales a little. And it shows us how strong leaders like Wiegman, who’s been managing the Lionesses since September 2021, can make great things happen.

What can leaders learn from Sarina Wiegman?

Sarina’s shown us that great leaders must be able to quickly change their style of coaching to engage with their teams, and help and encourage them.

Instil values and behaviours

‘We agreed a couple of things on behaviours. They weren’t just words – we lived it.’ Sarina Wiegman

As a manager, Wiegman has proved she isn’t afraid to make daring, even controversial, personnel decisions – like removing the captaincy from Steph Houghton while she was out injured, then dropping the influential player before the tournament this summer. Decisions like this are always grounded in reason and logic though.

A key part of England’s success has been the environment and culture that Wiegman’s brought to the team – one with both clarity and shared goals (on and off the pitch). In the post-match player interviews, players frequently referred to the team, team success, team commitment and shared goals. So it was clear everyone was engaged with the shared goals. Having a clear sense of where you want to get to isn’t just useful in sport though. You can also apply it to your career to help you achieve your ambitions. Being able to communicate and agree key behaviours and expectations with a team is the glue that will hold you all together, as is holding each other to account. Because leadership isn’t just about one person – it’s about everyone in the team.

You need strong foundations

‘During our preparation for the Euros, we brought in some players who played in 1971. Those women are the trailblazers for the next generation. We should always remember the ones who went before us because they made a path for us … This team makes a path for the next generation. Never forget where you come from.’

How does this apply off the pitch? Well, when you take over as a leader of a new team, department or business, you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Learning from the experiences of those who have history with the organisation whether current or past, is important to understanding how to move forward. Never forget where you came from and who got you to this point in time.

Communication is key

Wiegman’s direct way of communicating has become a staple of her leadership approach. But it hasn’t alienated her team members. Millie Bright, England defender, spoke about Wiegman’s leadership in her Euro winning post-match interview with the BBC, saying:

‘She’s so composed – she knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it. But most importantly she knows how to get the best out of us as people, individuals on the pitch … She gives us [the] confidence to make mistakes and play our heart out, and we knew she had that experience coming into the team. She’s the loveliest person and one of the best managers, she really is brilliant.’

Millie can identify with what is expected from her and the team and this could be down to leadership communication. Communication from leaders is important to encourage and enable individuals and teams to get results. It also shows the importance of creating a safe environment for teams to make mistakes, and learn from them.

Inspire, inspire, inspire

A successful leader knows how to celebrate in the moment while still having clear goals and one eye on the future. Known for her no-nonsense and low-key demeanour, previously Wiegman let the results do the talking while staying out of the spotlight as far as possible. But she knows that England winning Euro 2022 means the pressure will truly be on at future tournaments – especially now that she’s revealed her pre-tournament tactics, something her rivals will surely be focusing on.

But every achievement paves the way for the next opportunity. And it’s vital that leaders inspire to take the team through to the next opportunity.

Our Women’s Leadership Programme

While gender shouldn’t define the qualities of a leader, we recognise that the experience of female leaders is often different to their male colleagues. And as a region, the East of England has few women in senior management and board roles. So we’ve designed our Women’s Leadership Programme to help female professionals boost their confidence, develop leadership skills and build a network while meeting other high-profile, successful women. It also helps organisations build succession plans that engage talent and overcome barriers to make sure their aspiring female talent can achieve their potential.

If Sarina has inspired you to invest in your leadership skills, then we might just be able to help.

Find out more >

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Written by

Judith Pugh

Judith joined Pure in 2017 and is responsible for marketing the business, building our marketing strategy and delivering campaigns. Judith’s worked in marketing for more than 20 years across a range of industries – from health and fitness, horticulture, GIS software, education and now recruitment.

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