Resources and Insights

What I learnt from David Beckham and Hungry Paul

If I were to host a leadership book club, I wouldn’t include any books on leadership.

That’s because there are lessons in leadership all around us if we only keep our ears tuned in.

My first leadership book wouldn’t be a book at all, it would be the David Beckham documentary on Netflix. This is packed full of real life examples, often of football club managers getting it really rather wrong, and the real life impact of that. It’s also about the power of mentorship, about what happens when there is trust in teams. Because so many of the examples are from the 1990s and early 00s there is also a real opportunity to reflect on how much our understanding of leadership has evolved.

There’s some lovely lessons too – I loved the comments from Beckham’s Real Madrid team mates about how they noticed he was struggling, and in spite of language barriers, looked out for him, included him. You see footage of him lighting up in their company, the importance of connection writ large.

Watch it through a leadership eye and I promise – you’ll learn loads about what is important to you too.

When not watching Beckham I’ve been reading Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession. It’s a really gentle read about friendship and quietness.

The most amazing things happen when one of the characters says nothing. Not because he’s been told to, but because he isn’t moved to say anything. This really discombobulates some of the other folk around him.

There’s a part in the book that really made me feel seen: a character complains of having to fix everything and be superwoman and hungry Paul says ‘no one asked you to be that’.

Hmmm. I slightly disagree, we may not be overtly asked to be superwomen or indeed superhumans, but society demands a certain amount of superhero especially in our women and especially our working parents. The messages are all around us constantly so the invitation to step up, subliminal though it might be, can be hard to resist.

Whether we feel the pressure to be super or not, we also have a choice to take our superhero cape off every now and again. Or ask ourselves the question – what would it take for me to put this down for a bit? What would I get from that? What is the worst that would happen?

If it helps you feel better, when my superhero cape was in the metaphorical wash, I completely forgot to take my 7 year old to a birthday party recently. Me – super organised, books all the holidays, has read all the school emails, runs her own business, that me! Oops.

Capacity is always in flux isn’t it? We are not capable or not capable, but humans, with energy and brain space that goes up and down.

All these lessons in leadership reminds me how the leadership development work I do now actually looks quite different to what I was doing in, say, 2014. Today my leadership development has impact because of:

  • The trust in the room – I work very hard to build safe, informal, fun, spaces where folk feel able to contribute in service of learning without there being ‘an answer’, where colleagues feel able to share big stuff with each other.
  • We focus on skills like listening rather than an overload of models and flip chart paper.
  • There’s space to develop ideas together. What I mean is we, my coach facilitator colleagues and I, bring the structure, the participants bring the stuff they want to share.

If you’re interested in developing ideas together, in a safe and supported environment, check out how I can support your team here.

I offer:

  • Leadership Development for Teams – I create leadership development programmes suited to your team’s individual needs and budget. Read more about that here, including a recent case study example from Sheffield City Council.
  • Guest Speaker Slots – If you’re looking for a dose of inspiration at your next team event, my sessions are interactive, and include opportunities for colleagues to connect and reflect together. Read more about that here.
  • Team Away Day Facilitation – I design bespoke team away days based on your business and team’s current priorities. Read more here.


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