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What can referees teach us about leadership and communication?

3rd Weekend media festival, placed in Rovinj, Croatia, brought a new topic to this relatively new festival in the Adriatic region. Therefore, I expected there would be more sports marketers and sponsorships managers from all the region, but there still mostly prevailed marketing, media and PR managers. Sport finally became part of the biggest media festival in the Adriatic region. It started with two very interesting speakers: creative director of CBS Sports Pete Radovich and former referee Pierluigi Collina.

Pierluigi Collina with his rough English accent totally exceeded all my expectations. He didn’t speak as a referee or a public person sponsored by MasterCard either as an economist. I must admit that I expected much more MasterCard placement during his lecture, but I didn’t see anything instead of a few logos (but eventually its sponsorship works because we all know that Collina and MasterCard cooperate in the field of referee education all over the world). He spoke as a human who really learned a lot from his mistakes but also from his achievements. There isn’t a lot of people who learn from their achievements, mostly we learn from our mistakes.

All referees are human as everyone else, but everyone else thinks that they have the most influential job in the world. Yes, they have to decide in less than a second if there was a foul or not. Not just that: many times this decision is about victory or defeat. He said: “You can not program success but you can prepare for it.” Every successful leader must believe in his or her success but there are no map or instructions on how to get it or achieve it. And last of all: what is a success anyway? What determines success? We have to decide on each occasion what we consider as a success. Referees know that every decision can be accepted as a success if it was communicated properly.

He never said that but, in my opinion, a successful leader can have different qualities such as handling a crisis, inspiring others, making big decisions, taking responsibilities, producing results etc. However, she/he has to have a unique personality which fits just to the role she or he is taking on in her or his life.

Pierluigi Collina is not just a successful leader, he is a unique leader. If you just listen to him when he talks about a daily life you can learn a lot about how to make your strengths more powerful and how your weaknesses will help you become a better human. If I explain with his words: “I admit that I made a lot of mistakes in my life, I am not stupid.”

About Pierluigi Collina:

Pierluigi Collina became a referee at an early age, and in 1995 he was was appointed a FIFA referee. Since then he has refereed some of the most memorable matches, including the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final and the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final. He retired in 2005, but is still involved in football as a consultant to the Italian Football Referees Association and is a member of the UEFA Referees Committee.

His innovative and thorough preparation for games can be easily applied to business. The understanding of the latter is supported by his degree in economics, which Collina obtained at the University of Bologna.

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