The 2021 edition of Sport Industry NextGen kicked off last Thursday as the final 30 leaders gathered for an inspiring day of virtual training and personal challenges, taking their first steps into the prestigious leadership program.
For the first time ever, the 2021 program kicked off digitally, and the afternoon – aimed at challenging and exploring leadership – was led by Optimist Performance, a team building consultancy, leadership and inspiration founded by former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips.
The New Leaders – a group of 30 top young professionals in leadership positions at organizations including the ECB, PlayStation, Unilever, EXCEL ESPORTS, NFL and Octagon – were put through their paces on Zoom, across several sessions designed to challenge and encourage their teamwork and hone their leadership skills. The group then spent the evening getting to know each other through the now traditional Sport Industry NextGen quiz.
Throughout the afternoon, the group of ten NextGen Sports Industry Coaches led emerging leaders in focus groups, provoking their thinking and highlighting the most important talking points through a range of topics. Leaders explored a number of different leadership scenarios, learning to form habits, solve problems, and communicate effectively with their teams and peers – skills that will serve them well in the future.
A diverse group of coaches shared their expertise from across the industry landscape, with a host of different forms of leadership on display. Leaders and coaches were asked to share an object that represents their leadership skills, before exploring the term in more depth. The session stimulated discussion on the concept of leadership, challenging perceived thinking and developing ideas around personal growth as well as teamwork.
Among them were Olympic gold medalist and President of British Sport, Dame Katherine Grainger; British Athletics CEO Joanna Coates; 11-time Paralympic gold medalist and member of the House of Lords, Tanni Grey-Thompson; Sport England Board Member Chris Grant; sports consultant and filmmaker Leon Mann; Rene Carayol, CEO of Inspired Leaders Network, and Nick Keller, President of the Sports Industry Group and CEO of Benchmark, who led breakout sessions, imparting their knowledge to leaders.
Creative leadership was a central theme of the afternoon sessions with many other topics explored such as dealing with uncertainty, adaptability, trust and culture, as well as highlighting the value of listening to others and the power of realistic optimism. can take many different forms, and that creativity and innovation are important elements of the concept.
Leaders attended sessions to show how thinking outside the box can lead to better results, or the importance of identifying inefficient processes that organizations continue to follow simply because they are traditional.
Author, broadcaster and strategist Alastair Campbell was interviewed by Rene Carayol during a session on leadership in practice and the different styles that help leaders around the world perform at their best. From those who have the ability to recognize their own limitations to those who are able to separate themselves from the day-to-day and focus on the “strategic big picture”.
Understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses is a hallmark of leadership, according to Carayol, who said, “Everyone is brilliant at something, no one is brilliant at everything. The trick is to find out what your superpower is; what you do well. As soon as you discover this, your career trajectory changes.
Alex Coulson, Managing Director of Sport Industry Group, said: “Although the 2021 cohort were unable to come together physically for their initiation, it was great to see them connect digitally to assess what leadership means to them. and bond as a network that last throughout their impressive career.
“Thank you to our group of coaches for lending their valuable time and expertise to nurture the latest group of talent the sports industry has to offer, and to the Optimist Performance team for getting the program, for helping leaders develop and hone their skills.
“The remainder of the 2021 program promises an unrivaled set of learning and growth opportunities through a leadership package covering all areas of professional and personal development, including the mental and physical challenges provided by Spartan and Tough Mudder later in the year when we hope to be able to bring the leaders together in person.
Throughout the rest of 2021, NextGen sports industry leaders will engage in a host of other sessions on leadership, key skills and exploring societal issues facing sport as well as community at large. The leadership package will feature top speakers from across the industry.