Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

For Armstrong and Contador, the Leadership Wheels Come Off


For most Americans, cycling's annual 15 minutes of fame has come and gone with Sunday's conclusion of this year's Tour de France. In case you missed it, this year's winner was Spain's Alberto Contador. Finishing third and making a comeback after a three and a half year retirement was the seven time winner Lance Armstrong. One thing that made the race more interesting than usual this year was that Contador and Armstrong were on the same team although you'd never have known that from the way they're sniping at each other now.

In a post race press conference, Contador said, "My relationship with Lance is zero. He is a great rider and has completed a great race, but it is another thing on a personal level, where I have never had great admiration for him and I never will."

Armstrong fired back on his Twitter account. Quoting the tweet, "Seeing these comments from AC (Alberto Contador). If I were him I'd drop this drivel and start thanking his team. Without them, he doesn't win."

Snap and double snap.

I'll acknowledge that I know next to nothing about the sport of cycling. I do, however, find the leadership aspects of the sport pretty intriguing. As you probably know, guys like Armstrong and Contador win their races with the support of teammates who provide offense and defense for them throughout the event. It's sort of amazing that Contador and Armstrong came in first and third as members of the same team. That seems like one heck of an achievement and one worth celebrating.

Instead, the post race attention is on a clash of egos and arguments about who should have been the designated leader of the team.

I think there are two broader lessons from this story that leaders in any field can apply. The first is drawn from Johan Bruyneel, the manager of their team. What should he have done to get Contador and Armstrong on the same page? From the press accounts, it sounds like the two superstars barely spoke to each other over the three weeks of the Tour. Shouldn't the job of a manager (any manager) be to facilitate communication and cooperation among the stars on the team? I think so.

The second lesson is an illustration of one of the most common causes of conflict on a team. When the roles and responsibilities of the team members aren't clear, you're setting yourself up for a clash. That's even more the case when big egos are at play. The manager's job is to make sure that the roles and responsibilities are understood and everyone knows how they fit in. Over the course of the Tour, the daily drama was who going to cede to who - Contador or Armstrong? Shouldn't they have figured this out ahead of time?

There's more to it than that obviously, but I think those are two reasonable places to start on looking for leadership lessons in this year's Tour. I'm sure that some of the Next Level readers are both serious fans of cycling and students of leadership. What's your take on the way things played out between Contador and Armstrong?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.