Leading from the Pack: A Lesson from Roller Derby



There’s no shortage of sports metaphors and analogies used to motivate and inspire in business.

“You can’t coach someone when he or she is already at the free-throw line.”

Truthfully, most fall flat with me, because I don’t follow sports. But this weekend I attended a roller derby bout, and call me a fan!

Roller derby has its share of theatrics and showmanship. The pushing, shoving, and slamming of this contact sport energize the crowd. Then there are the catchy names (SlitherLynn, Surly Trample, Crash N Carrie, Bunz Bunny), the wild uniforms, and — at least from the perspective of a newbie onlooker — mass confusion.

But underneath this appearance of chaos is thoughtful strategy. Each team has a Jammer and 4 Blockers. Only the Jammer can score, so a spectator might easily think the Jammer is in charge. In actuality, a Blocker called the Pivot is the one setting strategy, tone, and pace of the bout. Pivots are generally more experienced players, who can think quickly and make decisions as a bout is underway, and the whole team benefits from that expertise. The Jammer may get the glory, but it’s the Pivot who’s lining everyone up for success on the track.

As a THREE Strategy Director, I appreciate the way Pivots lead from the pack. Our Strategists are the face of projects, executing from start to finish with our Client Partners. Strategy Directors, meanwhile, set a foundation that allows for success. Like Pivots, our Directors specialize in knowing which leadership style and strategy will be most effective in any given situation (is it a time for Transactional Leadership or Transformational Leadership?). We know that identifying the best approach and recognizing when things needs to evolve are essential skills to put some points on the board, or if you prefer, push the ball over the goal line.

Not only does it bring me great pleasure to close this piece out with a sports metaphor (a first for me!) but I also get to use my Roller Derby alter-ego…

Jess Fracture is officially calling off this jam.

See https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_84.htm for a useful overview on the different Core Leadership Styles that you may want to employ yourself. 

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