Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Lewis Hamilton: Leadership and Talent Management In Action

Well done to Lewis Hamilton for winning the F1 World Championship. It is a great achievement for anyone but particularly for Lewis who is only 23.

For me the Lewis Hamilton story is one that has many interesting links and examples to the world of learning and development. In particular there are two areas to highlight:

Talent Management

  • Lewis’ talent was identified by McLaren at a very young age as they saw some specific qualities that they knew could be nurtured. You could say that Lewis was identified as a high potential’ very early on in his career.
  • McLaren carefully developed Lewis over a period of time. They gave him increasingly challenging roles and assignments as he progressed through the various racing formats. These were meticulously planned with the goal of helping Lewis achieve his potential.
  • Lewis was taken under the wing of a hugely experienced mentor – Ron Dennis. Not only did Ron provide feedback and advice to Lewis, he also fought his corner for him when required. F1 is a fiercely competitive business and there are hundreds of eager drivers just waiting to step up. Ron had the belief in Lewis and put his own neck on the line.

Leadership Qualities

  • Listening to Lewis speak after his championship winning race in Brazil he continuously referred to his success in a collective way. For example “as I approached the last lap I knew that we still had a chance and that we just had to keep going”. Like all great leaders Lewis always wants to make sure that the praise and recognition is centred on the team and not himself.
  • Last year Lewis missed out on the title by a single point and this was largely due to a couple of mistakes he make. However Lewis made it very clear that he took responsibility for them and that he would learn from them and come through a stronger person. It is a great example of how people only really develop by making mistakes on the job and then using the learning to really grow as a person.
  • There are many factors that can influence a successful outcome in Formula 1. However if you look at the ability of the drivers there is very little to separate them – they are all extremely talented and capable. The one thing that does differentiate them though is mindset and attitude. Lewis has bags of belief in himself, but in a quietly confident way. Whilst those around him are getting emotional (and even attacking him personally) Lewis has always remained calm and confident. At no point was this more obvious than when he overtook the Toyota on the final lap in Brazil to win the title – nerves of steel and resolute belief.

As a learning and development professional I think it’s important to find good examples of real world examples that help to illustrate development issues and approaches. Building your own catalogue of these over time can often help your influence with the people that matter.

3 comments:

john castledine said...

Not only has McLaren's Talent management strategy yielded significant success but it is also interesting to see Lewis stating his commitment to stay with the team ... while this is easy to say given he has one of the best cars I'd suspect he will stick it out should McLaren fall away from being competitive. Time will tell

Michael said...

Surely, Lewis Hamilton seems to have some of the aspects of a good leader as well as a great team member
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