Lessons from the Race Track: Leadership, Teamwork, Humility
The incident with Red Bull Racing in the Formula 1, involving Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in Azerbaijan this year has been done to death. The story of how the two bulls collided has been talked about so much, but instead of talking about the crash and pointing fingers, I want to look at the team, and how far they’ve come since.
But first, we need to do a quick recap. If you haven’t seen the crash which took out both RB drivers in Baku, you can check it out here. Again, I’m not going to dive much into who’s fault it is, as many gave their opinions and you’ve probably read most of them. The blame was pointed in all directions, and I’m going to be super diplomatic here and say: it was everyone’s fault:
- It was Ricciardo’s fault for pushing too hard and making a late move
- It was Verstappen’s fault for not realising his teammate had a better time and let him pass
- It was Christian Horner’s fault for not giving clear instructions and leading his team
- It was Ricciardo & Verstappen’s fault for not acting like a team
- It was everyone else’s fault at RB for not speaking out during the race
Before you all blast negative comments, I’m not privy to the inside conversations of the Red Bull Garage of Red Bull, so I don’t know if anyone did actually speak up, but if they did, props to you for doing so. Either way, there were a number of factors at play and anyone could have prevented the crash, just like everyone probably caused it.
What I really want to focus on here, and the reason why I’ve waited to write this article, is what happened after?
Horner stepped up and told this driver’s their behaviour was “unacceptable”. Good on you Horner for taking this step in leadership and encouraging your drivers to apologise to the rest of the team. Furthermore, Horner discussed team policies with the pair, stating “they have to ensure if they are going to go wheel to wheel they leave each other enough space.”*
This is a good step by Horner. He is taking the leadership role by ensuring the team gets what they need from the race – points and podiums – but also making sure both the drivers and the fans get what they desire – good hard, well fought racing. It seems this little pep talk has done wonders for the team and the drivers.
Let’s look at the drivers. Both Ricciardo and Verstappen are working much better together on the track. They are exhibiting good racing, whilst giving it their all for themselves, and their teams. And the standings show that. Since Azerbaijan, this is how the bulls finished:
- Spain – Verstappen (P3), Ricciardo (P5)
- Monaco – Ricciardo (P1), Verstappen (P9)
- Canada – Verstappen (P3), Ricciardo (P4)
Even compared to last year’s results, the drivers are making great strides. Here’s the same races from last year. Sure there were many other factors to consider, but it gives a sense of RB’s teamwork.
2017 results from Red Bull:
- Spain – Ricciardo (P3), Verstappen (DNF)
- Monaco – Ricciardo (P3), Verstappen (P5)
- Canada – Ricciardo (P3), Verstappen (DNF)
Again, these results aren’t the be all and end all, but there’s a pattern which I think some of it can be attributed to teamwork. If you have teamwork, the team works, or rather; teamwork makes the dream work. Yes, it’s a corny, and sometimes cringe-worthy statement, but it’s true. Additionally, if you do not have humility and accept that sometimes you can be wrong, then things won’t work either. Horner even described the pair as “selfish” in Baku, and an apology, even though it was “ordered”, goes a long way to reviving a team. It shows EVERYONE respect is highly important to running a team, and being part of a team.
In fact, teamwork is so important in many aspects of life, and we can all learn a lot from this crash. Let’s look at it from a business point of view. In business, you firstly, need to remember you’re part of a team. True, there’s a leader (the boss or the manager), but every single person on the team has their part to play. If one player isn’t doing their job, or is selfish, then the rest of the team suffers; just like Red Bull did. As Horner said:
“I am not apportioning blame one way or the other, to either of the drivers – they are both to blame in this and it is the team that unfortunately misses out.”^
This cannot be truer. As a team, if you fail, then the whole team suffers. This doesn’t mean you don’t take risks because you’re afraid to fail the team. No. It means you don’t take silly risks, and when you do make a ‘silly’ mistake, then you need to take ownership for it. Don’t point the blame at anyone else, take it on-board, apologise, and move forward with the rest of the team. There’s nothing worse than holding a grudge which impedes the whole team’s ability, including your own.
Secondly, a team is like a family. If you stick together you can achieve great things. You can take on the world in whatever you do, striving together to make a mark. It also works in reverse. If your team is fighting, then it’s the quickest way for the team to crumble. The best companies in the world haven’t been destroyed from the outside, they’ve become corrupted on the inside. Just like RB. They were unstoppable in Baku, and the only thing that snatched victory away from them was each other. So always stick with your team. Be open, communicate, and be supportive. And again, when things go wrong, apologise and move forward… together.
Then there’s leadership. This is one of the hardest things in the world – to lead a team successfully. Horner simply let Ricciardo and Verstappen fight it out during the race. I believe he should have spoken up and gave them orders, but for whatever reason he didn’t. After the race, he stepped up. He took on his leadership role, and now his drivers, and the rest of his team are better for it. Remember, a good leader isn’t necessarily the smartest person in the room. They are the one who knows how to bring out the best in others, and make the tough calls when needed.
As a side note, this also applies to single business owners, where your team is your investment and the people around you. You probably have a ‘team’ of individuals, helping you, advising you, and supporting you. This is your team! If you don’t have this, then find your team now!
Finally, bringing together a team is important. Knowing how to encourage, excite, and build up everyone around you is key. And this isn’t just the job of the Christian Horners. It’s not just up to the team owners, or the CEO. It’s everyone’s job. You have the ability to lead in whatever capacity you are in. Whether you are a manager, or a smaller team leader, or a mentor, or supporter. You can be a leader, an influencer in the capacity you find yourself in. Everyone is a leader, everyone is a follower. We all lead and we all follow. If we all work in unison, there’s nothing your team can’t achieve.
If there’s been one leader to look at in motorsport, it’s Michael Schumacher. He was able to rally the Ferrari team together in the 1990s – a team who had not won a championship since 1979. A team which was suffering in all aspects, from the pit lane, to the board room. His story is one of leadership, teamwork, and strategy. He pulled a team out of the abyss and become known as one of the best drivers in Formula 1 history.
I’ll be covering a story on his legacy and what we can learn from this courageous driver soon, so keep an eye out.
Well that’s all from me this time. I hope you take a few points about leadership, teamwork, and humility back to your offices, your boardrooms, your homes, and hobbies. Whatever team you are part of remember, you can step up, you can influence, and you can be part of the puzzle that leads your team to victory!
Also published at WinningFormula.io