Yesterday, along with the rest of the soccer-viewing world, I was able to witness greatness in leadership. Portugal’s captain, Christiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest players of all time, known for his chiseled good looks, record breaking scoring, and on field theatrics, is also the player many soccer fans love to hate. However, after his performance yesterday in the Eurocup Final, even his biggest critics need to take a day off. Why? Because when the moment presented itself, Ronaldo rose up.
During the 8th minute of the game, Ronaldo was injured during a tackle, landed on the ground and held back tears of pain. The world then watched as he limped his way to the 25th minute, collapsed in pain, and required a stretcher to carry him off the field, while French and Portuguese alike applauded the soccer legend. I can only image the anguish and conflict he felt at letting his team down, but also missing out on what could have been a triumph for him personally in the spot light.
What happened next is what put Ronaldo in the category of great leadership. Having suffered a knee injury that could impact the rest of his career, and being in intense physical pain, he still continued to show up for his team. After half time, a heavily bandaged Ronaldo limped up and down the sidelines, cheering, yelling directives and encouragement, and offering pats on the head. Then when his teammate scored the winning goal, Christiano Ronaldo openly cried tears of joy.
It was reported after the match that during halftime he gave a speech in the locker room, telling the team that he knew they could win, that the team was bigger than any one player, and that this was their moment for the taking. He had even told the player who ended up making the only goal of the game that he knew he could score the winning goal, allowing the player to believe in himself.
Ronaldo put his own suffering aside to be for his team. He could have sat on the sidelines feeling sorry for himself. Instead he stepped into the role of leader, characterized by sacrifice, mentorship, encouragement, and belief in the greatness of others. The glory was not for himself, but for his team as a whole. This is what a great leader does. He puts the needs of those who follow him above his own. A great leader sees the greatness in others until they see it in themselves.
If you want to have a positive impact as a leader, you must not only believe in, but also see the greatness in those you lead. Warren Bennis stated, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” See what is possible for yourself and those you lead. As a leader, you hold the highest level of standards for yourself as an example of what is possible. Hold the space for those you lead to step into their own greatness. Be committed to their success and then you too will cry tears of joy as you watch those you lead score their own winning goals.