“Generous leaders disappear behind the Purpose”


Didier Marlier

May 16, 2010

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I had an illuminating week in Brazil, first with a wonderfully courageous leadership team nearby Porto Alegre whose intuition was that they absolutely needed to “reduce the distance” between them in order to create the conditions for “Leadership as a process” to emerge.

Second, I was invited to the yearly event to which the Fundação Dom Cabral (now promoted amongst the Financial Times world’s top ten institutions for Executive Development) gathers the country’s C.E.O.s for three days to explore, reflect and generously share ideas together.

While I was showing a short clip of Brazil’s last goal in the 1970 World Cup’s final (rated as the goal of the century by many sources) in an attempt to illustrate “Leadership as a process”, a participant drew our attention on the almost invisible although fundamental role of a player nicknamed Tostão.

Tostão was one of the two forward centers of the team. However, as his captain explains (00.35’’), “he came back to help”, meaning that Tostão took a personal risk, rushing back in defense to support his partners. This was not “his job”. He could have chosen to stay in the front awaiting for the guys in the back (office?) to sort out their (Italian) problem. But as a true embodiment of generous and altruist leadership, he chose to “mind their business” and went in support of his partners. That made him the player at the very origin of the goal of the century.

Then (visible at the start of the clip 00.05’’), he is the one who waves to Pelé, warning him that a player is coming in his back and better positioned than him to score. Here again, Tostão could have taken a neutral stand (“I am well positioned, I have done my job. Now it is up to Pelé to do his best”) but he chooses to take a personal stand, going out of his way to help colleagues creating value for the team.

Nobody, until this last Friday, had ever drawn our attention on the discreet but critical role played by this humble although vital player for his team.

This is just football… But once again, it produces a powerful metaphor for us all: a true leader must disappear behind his team’s Purpose. The famous book “From Good to Great[1]”, suggests that leaders who manage to keep their organization on a sustainable performance path have in common a strong resilience (Fierce Resolve) and a profound humility. Most of them do not appear on the front page of Fortune Magazine, nor have someone writing, under their name, flashy articles for the Harvard Business Review. They consider their organization’s Purpose more important than their own glory and by so doing, build credibility, respect and trust.

I thought worthwhile sharing this last “footballistic” bit of good sense with you all…

In Zurich for what I expect to be another fascinating week of learning with a highly respectable banking institution. Have a great week all


[1] J. Collins “From good to great” Harper Business 2001



  1. Tweets that mention “Generous leaders disappear behind the Purpose” -- Topsy.com - [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gaulia. Gaulia said: Generous leaders? http://blog.enablersnetwork.com/2010/05/16/%E2%80%9Cgenerous-leaders-disappear-behind-the-purpose%E2%80%9D/ [...]

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