"Everything rises and falls on leadership." It is a well known axiom in leadership circles coined by John Maxwell. And it was proven last week during Team Canada's collapse at the gold medal game against Russia in the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Hopefully, enough time has passed and most people's memories have faded enough that I won't get lynched here for not being a true Canadian. Please know that I am a dyed in the wool Canadian hockey fan...I even attended the first game of the tournament against Russia with my son. I am a supporter. I am also glad I went to the first game and not to the last.
I'm not saying that Dave Cameron isn't a good leader. He is a premier coach in the OHL who has his Mississauga St. Michael's Majors leading the league in points. You don't get to coach Team Canada's Junior Team by not being a good leader. To take what was dubbed a 'blue collar' team to the gold medal game was an incredible feat in and of itself. The way that Team Canada handled the U.S. team in the semi-final game went beyond impressive. They totally shut down a team that was purportedly better than them, and they made it look easy by executing and sticking to their game plan.
But it only takes one leadership gaff to change everything.
At 2:46 of the third period when Russia scored it's second goal in just 11 seconds, Team Canada's players panicked and started to spiral...then under five minutes later, when Russia tied the game at 3, Dave Cameron did call a timeout. But instead of calming his team down and making the difficult leadership decision to pull his goalie and press the re-set button, to quote Shaun Smith of 'Absolute Mental Training', video images "showed coach Cameron visibly himself stressed out and yelling at his players."
No one will ever know if putting Olivier Roy in net and calming the players down would have won the game, but I believe it would have given them a better opportunity. It's like opponents can smell panic and fear. A calm leader commanding his troops and executing confident decision making could make all the difference.
Really, I never coached past minor hockey, so what do I know? But as I compare the leadership lesson to the church, I realize that the stakes are so much higher than just a game - even if it is Canadian hockey. The local church is the hope of the world. And as we lead, we need to do so decisively, with clarity and confidence, making sometimes difficult decisions when it comes to staff and people and programming. Because our opponent can smell panic and fear...but greater is He that is in us, than He that is in the world. With God's help and direction, we have a tremendous leadership advantage if we will simply step out and lead under His influence.
And "everything rises and falls on leadership."