How to Win Hearts and Influence People, the Croatian President Edition!
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The World Cup that went by was a truly special one for many reasons. Former champions out, underdogs in! Croatia reaching the finals was a real surprise, beating seasoned champions along their way, winning every match with sheer grit and determination.
When I sat down with my husband to watch the finals yesterday, I was torn between which team to cheer. The sheer speed & skill of the French was unparalleled and the Croatians’ raw energy to persevere was deeply endearing. The match was done, celebrations and tears followed, nations were moved by emotions and the event that united almost the whole world was over!
While the World Cup saw many star players, my super hero this time is the Croatian President, H E Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. What she did and how she showed up can give us the best lesson in leading with humility! Here's 5 things I learned from watching her this rather exciting season:
1) Get down and dirty
She traveled in the economy class, with fellow Croatians to watch the match,and sat with everyone, until she was recognized and moved to the VIP Box! As President of Croatia, she could have pulled in her full office protocol, but she won hearts instead! In today's world where Leadership by Intimidation seems to be the norm, she sets a new precedent. No matter your position, when you get down to the level of your team, their sense of ownership and belonging skyrocket and your goals become their goals.
2) Be your team's biggest fan!
Videos of her dancing after her team's victory in the semi-finals are the only lessons we need in cheerleading. She danced with gay abandon, no reservations, not attached to her position whatsoever. A great leader can make the team achieve the impossible, when they can cheer them wholeheartedly.
3) Let your heart set standards
She danced like nobody's watching, and there's another lesson in there. I have seen many Presidents and Prime Ministers at sporting events, being more Presidential/ Prime Ministerial, and less spectatorial, which is okay! But Kitarovic was more cheerleader than President of a country! Social media called her the mother of her team. She was invested in the performance of her team, and wasn't afraid to show it. No matter the norm, you can set your own standards when you lead from the heart.
4) In failure, be kind
When the team lost the finals, I saw her hugging every player from both the teams- consoling, congratulating, cheering. Most importantly, it was genuine, authentic and heartfelt. She let her team know that it was okay in spite of their failure. The mother in the lioness came to the fore when her cubs were down and needed a lift. Be kind to your team when they're down, restore their confidence and they'll never forget you for doing it.
5) It's not who you are. It's what you do.
The defining moment for me was to watch her standing tall without any fuss at all, in line with the Russian and French Presidents. Whereas a large umbrella came over Mr. Putin, she continued to stand without any demands,continuing to hug and greet her team like there was no problem. I could see her beautifully coiffed hair slowly fall flat with the heavy downpour and her sleeves dripping rain drops- she couldn't care less!
That’s how she taught the world what the true sportsman spirit is all about.