What It Takes To Win

What It Takes To Win: Establishing Collective Ownership of Success

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Our latest research paper, What It Takes To Win: A Winning Formula For Elite Teams, discusses a model that helps sports organizations find clarity and generate strategy around the factors that create competitive advantage in their context. Over the coming weeks we’ll be exploring the framework and discussing how organizations can use it to lay the foundations for sustainable success.

Click here to download the paper for free.


Research indicates that there is a deep psychological need to attribute causality to individual leaders so that we can understand – in a way that evades the true complexity of events – why things happen. This explains the high value placed on ‘unicorn’ leaders and why those who are bestowed with such status are so revered. However, as the often chaotic aftermath of the departure of a long-term head coach testifies, when an iconic leader departs it can be incredibly difficult to recreate the same organization culture with their replacement.

Collective Ownership

The What It Takes To Win (WITTW) model offers a robust challenge to the notion of ‘leader as magician’ while acknowledging the leader’s role as an enabling force in the creation of the future narrative. By ensuring that the DNA of ‘winning’ is subject to collective rather than individual ownership, WITTW ensures that organizations aren’t reliant on unicorn figures without whom nothing of substance can be achieved. Relying on or searching for a unicorn leader often results in the failure to establish the organizational discipline to capture, codify and understand winning and is a key reason why organizations of this kind can falter in the long-term.

WITTW takes the focus away from the individual and starts with the team to foster an understanding of the intellectual property of winning within the organization as a whole, not just with a charismatic head coach. It is crucial for the entire organization to understand that the WITTW process is the first step towards a top-down, culturally aligned strategy that is consistent with its overarching brand and values.

Detailed, Systematic, Collaborative

Significantly improving performance through alignment is the most compelling argument for the WITTW model, creating the potential for collaboration across the organization. Of course, frequent and appropriate communication is an instrumental – and often underestimated – success factor. Repetition of the message ensures that its significance does not wane.

The critical concept to embed throughout the organization is that continual success does not happen by chance, or through the supposed genius of one leader or group of exalted individuals who are rarely subject to scrutiny. As the WITTW model makes clear, success is the result of a detailed, systematic and collaborative process.

Image: Mitchell Luo/Unsplash

Interested in reading more about What It Takes To Win? Our research team’s latest paper, What It Takes To Win: A Winning Formula for Elite Teams, is available to download now.