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Leadership Lessons from a Formula One Grand Prix Race


Singapore happened to host the very first Formula One Grand Prix evening race. Formula One, or F1, is the highest class of open wheeled auto racing defined by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), motorsport’s world governing body. Hundreds of avid fans flocked to Singapore this past weekend to watch this sport live. Though I am not an avid F1 fan, I like sports car racing and anything that has something to do with cars. But we preferred watching it from the comforts of our own living room as the sound of the F1 cars from beside the tracks is totally deafening unless you brought some noise reduction/cancellation gadgets like ear plugs. While fans watch the fancy cars and enjoyed the rush of the race, I was watching how teams work together in the pits together with the drivers. There’s a lot of leadership lessons you’ll learn from such a popular sports event. Here are a few that I’ve noted.

  1. FOCUS. If you want to achieve your goals, focus is the key. This was proven by F1 Singapore Grand Prix Champion Fernando Alonso from Team Renault. He has posted great results on the practice laps during the first night and was pretty sure he’ll make it to the top. Unfortunately, his car suffered some serious mechanical problems during the qualifying rounds on the second night, causing him to start at the 15th position during the finals. Though disappointed by the results of the qualifying rounds, that did not deter him from focusing on what he really wanted – the championship title. That focus has given him the opprtunity to bounce back during the finals, making him the first F1 Night Race Champion.
  2. TEAM-SPIRIT. While the drivers appear to be the very popular ones in this sport, every one plays a very important role – and in this sport, the term “very important” is an understatement. One mistake could cost not just the championship title but lives as well. Everyone in the team wants to be the champion – whether it’s the driver or the constructor team categories. But doing it as an individual would cause really serious damage. This is what happened when Felipe Masa of the Ferarri Team. He took pole position during the qualifying rounds but one mistake during the finals caused him the title. As he sped away during a pit stop, some of the pit crew are knocked down after they failed to get fueling hose off the car. This could have caused some fuel ignition and possible fire as the fuel hose was leaking with fuel as it was being dragged by the car and that sparks were coming out of the car every now and then. The pit crew could have lost his life in the process. A Ferrari engineer was said to be at fault for Massa’s double pit disaster. In organizations, teamwork is normally highlighted in high-profile activities but underestimated in others. Imagine how a team would perform if members, including the leader, would make everyone feel that their roles are very important in the success of the entire team as well as the organization. Most of the time, it’s th star players, the managers and the bosses who are given that mindset but does not trickle down to the subordinates. A mistake made by a Ferrari engineer has caused them the championship
  3. PRACTICE YOUR SUCCESS MOVES. An article in a local Singapore newspaper featured the McLaren-Mercedes Team practicing their pit stop maneuvers and tasks during the first few hours before the race. The team believed that what they do during their practice determines the outcome of the competition. Which is why even at the last minute, they still did those practice moves, earning them the constructor team championship in this race. This should be the same with organizations. We wanted our teams to win yet we do not practice those moves that will make us win. Take for instance a team of sales people who wanted to win that big account for the quarter. We assume that the sales people can do it without sending them for training or practicing those closing phrases. Or the IT team who is responsible for keeping the IT infrastructure up and running and making sure the most critical IT projects are successfully implemented. Managers assume that the IT guys are smart enough to pick it up on their own and not send them to training. If we really want to be successful as an individual or a team, make sure we practice those success moves and do them correctly and efficiently.

There are more leadership lessons learned on and off the F1 race track but these are the most visible ones. As managers and leaders, may we learn from the greatest sporting event on this planet to achieve that championship title we’ve always wanted. For pictures of the Singapore Grand Prix, check out the Boston Globe website or check the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix website. Enjoy the ride!