Leadership lessons from Venus Williams
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Despite losing in the first round of this year's Australian Open, Venus Williams is successful by any measure. She has won seven Grand Slam titles — including five Wimbledon championships — and 49 total tournaments in her professional career.
Her drive, energy and skill are clear on the tennis court. Yet how does that relentless determination serve Williams as a businessperson? Here are three leadership lessons this amazing professional has learned off the court.
The rules of being all-powerful
In her cover story for the December issue of Entrepreneur, Williams notes that being "all-powerful" requires delegation. She reluctantly learned that she could not do everything, all the time, by herself.
Collaborating, letting go and delegating, while contrary to her drive to conquer everything herself, are necessary for her to successfully run her business — EleVen, an athleisure apparel company.
Similarly, many leaders are successful because of their relentless drive to achieve. Yet once they reach the top of their game, a change in approach is often necessary. Williams states that she is evolving and notes that while that drive is good, continuing to learn, develop and grow are always critical.
The flexibility of dreams
Williams spoke with Alyson Shontell, editor-in-chief of Business Insider for the December edition of "Success, How I did it" about instinct, dreams and flexibility. She noted that if your instincts are good, the best thing you can do is to follow them; if not, ask for advice.
Further, listening to your instincts and following your dreams requires flexibility. Williams said she learned that "champions adjust" from Billie Jean King, and from that realized how critical it is to be able to move where the opportunities present themselves.
In her businesses, this translates to building a great team and making definitive changes when something is not working. When you are clear on why you do things the way you do them and what you want, then it makes it easier to decide what to do and act.
"I always encourage people to ask why and then to really understand you, because that's the only way to be your most successful and your most happy," Williams told Business Insider.
Almost any article about Williams addresses her fight for equal pay for women and often her push to ensure women's matches have fair court assignments, as covered by here The New York Times. Yet, when asked, Williams notes that fighting the pay fight was not something she necessarily intended. It was an opportunity she maximized.
Like many leaders, she creatively looks for opportunities to live and work consistently with who she is. She understands herself and is clear about how she wants to live.
Williams is also keen on managing her schedule and ensuring her schedule clearly reflects her priorities. Because of that she is able to easily make big decisions and take massive actions.
It is clear to any businessperson that Williams' companies will succeed because she has the drive, resources and energy we all know are required for success. However, it is also clear Williams will continue to be happy while raising standards in a well-established arena.
To enjoy this type of leadership success is more rare and requires the reflection and collaboration Williams embraces.
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