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World Cup: Can Bob Bradley lead America to greatness?

Considered the world's biggest sporting event, the World Cup is a multinational pageant of athleticism, teamwork, and, yes, leadership. With 32 competing nations and hundreds of intriguing characters and storylines, it's easy to overlook the leadership lessons and insights the event regularly showcases. With the historic 2010 World Cup now underway, here are five stories that offer rich insight into leadership:

1. Does leadership really influence wins and losses?

Although nearly impossible to prove, it's widely believed that strong teams have competent and determined leaders, while those that lack leadership suffer. Some have already predicted an early French exit due to lack of established leaders, and one critic believes that the leadership on the field and sidelines for teams like England and Holland could be enough to push them deep into the tournament. Keep your eyes on these squads to watch leadership at work, and take note of which leaders step up to push their squads to new heights.

2. Maradona as leader?

Diego Maradona is one of the most accomplished players in the history of soccer, and one of the more fascinating personalities in all of sport. A fast-talking, risk-taking showman, Maradona has come a long way since he dazzled fans with his fancy footwork and tight shorts in the 70's and 80's. Aged by two cocaine-induced heart attacks and an indulgent lifestyle, the superstar now leads the Argentina national team as its coach. While he's already been criticized for his smart mouth and excessive demands, his affection and love for the players of his team coupled with his incredible achievements as one of the all-time greats make him a leader to watch as Argentina has started its run for the championship.

3. Are leaders like wine?

Leadership is often associated with wisdom, and wisdom is often associated with age. If there's any merit to this equation, Cuauhtémoc Blanco is suited to be the most effective on-field leader in the tournament. At 37, Blanco is the oldest player at the World Cup, and with three previous Cups behind him he's drawing on his experience to lead Mexico as far as they can go. After scoring a goal against France, Blanco is proving that his veteran savvy and leadership ability may be a key to Mexico's success.

4. Can America be led to greatness?

It's no secret that soccer struggles in the United States. However, leading the US National team is a coach every leader should be aware of. The Princeton-educated Bob Bradley is a no-nonsense, straight talking throwback of a coach who's shaved head and cold stare make him seem like he'd be more at home in a Clint Eastwood Western than on the soccer sidelines. Bradley is being touted as a coach of considerable skill, as his tactics and strategies are drawing the attention of some of the games finest. Comfortable with his role as underdog, Bradley is certainly someone to watch, listen to, and learn from as the World Cup unfolds.

5. Can World Cup organizers lead through the noise?

The buzz around the World Cup is that the racket made by fans blowing the South African vuvuzela horns has to stop. Interestingly, organizers are taking a supportive stance, insisting that the horns represent a South African tradition much more precious than the ear drums of players, coaches, refs, and announcers. While the horns add an emotional hum to every match, the leadership story relates to how the World Cup administrators will continue to deal with the ongoing noise. Listen to hear if the horns advance all the way to the final match, or if tournament leaders throw tradition and the wishes of the host-nation aside to appease the larger television audience.

While these happen to be some of the leadership stories we're tracking throughout the tournament, let us know what you're watching, what we may have missed, and what you observe as teams begin advancing. We're interested in hearing your feedback, and wish your team all the best -- unless they play our team!

By Joe Frontiera  |  June 22, 2010; 12:00 PM ET  | Category:  Leadership , Pop Culture Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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As you point out in an earlier thread, many coaches in other US sports have written books and given seminars on leadership. Soccer is no different. Bradley has done an excellent job of blending players from different professional leagues into a (pun intended) goal-oriented group, in which the players believe in each other and fight for each other. We see none of the disharmony that exists in the French and English camps. When Bob Bradly write a leadership book, I will read it. On the field, Landon Donovan must lead by example.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 23, 2010 7:20 AM

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