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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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