US Open Leadership Lesson: Big Serve – Big Forehand – Big Vacation
If you are friends with me on any of my social profiles, you know I love tennis. I appreciate the game recreationally, and I set aside time to watch the tennis grand slams. The US Open is my favorite grand slam because the hard courts provide a “neutral surface” and they have night matches. Although I appreciate the greatness of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray, I still root for the US tennis players. The women’s game has some great up-n-comers to go along with the consistent excellence of Serena Williams. However, the US men continue to underwhelm, and that is the focus of this US Open Leadership Lesson.
As I watched tennis this weekend, I lamented what I’ve seen for over a decade now. The typical post-Agassi/Sampras US men’s tennis player follows the same pattern: Big Serve – Big Forehand – Big Vacation.
The US psyche likes big hits. We root for baseball’s home runs, football’s bone-crushing tackles, and tennis’ 140 mph serves. We would rather see a tennis return come back faster than the serve, for a clean winner, versus the delicate drop shot or touch lob. Our kids hit the tennis court, and they want to bang forehands harder than everybody else on the court, or they want to hit aces on their serves. I see this at the recreational level and the professional level.
But what happens if your opponent hits the ball to your backhand? What happens if they hit that awesome serve or forehand back to you? What happens if your opponent hits harder than you, or they are crafty enough to find your weaknesses?
Well, then you get a big vacation while your opponent advances in the tournament!
I watched Andy Roddick play for over 10 years, and he won a single grand slam when he caught the world by surprise with a high-speed serve and powerful forehand. Then his opponents “caught up” to his game, and he never won another grand slam. I’ve watched years of James Blake, John Isner, and Sam Querrey – and most recently Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock – pound aces and forehands for winner after winner. However, I’ve also watched their opponents weather the storm, get a few service returns in play, and then start picking on the American players’ backhands and conditioning. Their opponents developed a more well-rounded game that embraced their strengths while still improving upon their weaknesses.
Leaders can learn from this example. How often do we play to our strengths while neglecting to improve upon our weaknesses? It’s great to have strong leaders, but it is awesome to have leaders who balance that strength with a delicate touch when necessary. It’s great to have leaders “reach for the brass ring” and aggressively lead the charge to success, but it is awesome to have leaders with discernment and patience.
Tennis champions know when to be patient and construct the points. They know when to counter-punch against opponents’ strengths, and they know when to rely on their own weapons to dictate winning outcomes. They continuously seek to improve their games.
Doesn’t that sound like a great leader? As leaders, Let’s all endeavor to cultivate our strengths, reduce our weaknesses, and show the patience and savvy to beat our opponents and emerge as champions.
Who are you rooting for at the US Open? Now that Sloane Stephens is out, I am rooting for Serena Williams to win again. Now that Federer is out, I am rooting for Andy Murray to repeat as champion…or for Djokovic to notch another win.
Photo Credit: Stop Action Serve… by calonda, on Flickr