Zidane and Positive Leadership

before taking the penalty kick


There’s a moment in the 2016 Champions League Finals between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid that sums up positive leadership. If you recall, the match ends in penalty kicks. While Atletico’s coach, Diego Simeone, is pacing back and forth, pulling at his hair, Cristiano Ronaldo approaches Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane and whispers in his ear that he wants to take the fifth penalty kick. Zidane puts his arm around Cristiano and gives him a big smile. Atletico misses two penalty shots. Madrid scores all five, with Cristiano’s as the winning goal.

Ever since that moment, I have wanted to write about Zidane and leadership.

As I have written before, a leader’s job “is to create the environment where each team member can thrive and have the biggest impact.”

Even beyond having the advantage of the authority and charisma from being one of the sport’s greatest legends, Zidane created that environment by:

  • Not micromanaging his players on the field
  • Celebrating his players and not himself
  • Showing poise and positivity in the face of adversity
  • Not being afraid of failure, knowing that win or lose, he was still going to be who he always way
  • Showing how much he enjoyed working with his team and seeing them succeed (something he repeated in interview after interview).

On that last point, imagine how much better you would perform if you knew that your boss loved seeing you happy and succeeding at your job?

Collage from players’ Instagram messages to Zidane. Showing joy and affection toward your team is a key to leadership.

This joy and complicity are captured in all of the photos that his team members posted on Instagram this week when Zidane announced he would not coach next year.

A lesson to all of us who strive to be better leaders.


This blog is about lawyers being better business partners after all, so I should add that a key to our success is letting our clients feel that we experience the same joy, satisfaction, and complicity you see in those images when they succeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s